Friday, 8 March 2013

Why backdrops are important

Yesterday Guido Fawkes blogged about the similarities of the backdrops used by Ed Miliband and then David Cameron for their respective economy speeches delivered in the last two weeks.

See the Labour leader:

Now the Prime Minister:

Clearly there are striking similarities in that they both spoke with a background of light industry and both speeches were about the economy. There are shared failures too. 

I blogged for the PR Moment website about Miliband's speech saying his messages were mixed and the images used to communicate the speech confusing. The top line briefed heavily by Labour was their commitment to reintroduce the 10p tax rate to help low-income workers but his backdrop was an empty workshop. Few watching on TV would have made the connection because there wasn't one.

For the Prime Minister he dismissed calls for tax cuts and insisted that the government would not change direction on the economy. So, like Miliband, Cameron's backdrop didn't fit his message about tax but could arguably be doing the job when it comes to the broader economy point. However, an empty workshop hardly says "we're getting the economy back on track" does it?

Fundamentally neither backdrop was particularly inspiring but at least some thought seems to have been put into them instead of the usual BBC potted plant in their Millbank studios or Ed Miliband's usual bookcase which communicates nothing:

Broadcasters have tried for a long-time to use backdrops to help tell a story - not always for their guests benefit. I was handling the launch of an environmental report a few years ago which included proposals to increase parking charges. An interview had been arranged with a nice green backdrop of a large pond, wildlife and trees to help communicate that this was an environmental report. On arrival the news reporter suggested that the interview be moved to a car park nearby as "they couldn't get a satellite link this far away from the van". This was utter rubbish; what they actually wanted was a backdrop of a car park to illustrate the story they wanted to tell rather than the one I had arranged. 

As the speed of news delivery increases the capacity to deliver a killer soundbite in a 15 second clip will grow. I would love to see these produced in-house on a daily basis by political parties and distributed via social media as well as using the traditional broadcast media channel. What this means is the need to use a good backdrop will increase so expect more 'backdrop wars' in years to come.  


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