Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Media Skills Must Adapt to the Medium

Over the past few months we've seen Republican presidential candidates, with mind-numbing frequency, in debates and TV interviews. And, we've witnessed their popularity rise and fall in ratings depending on a good or bad debate night.

Some, such as Rick Santorum, are getting better at crafting their message, debating and endless TV interviews. Others, including Newt Gingrich, appear to be suffering from perhaps overexposure and what I call the "pure visual effect."

From my vantage point, the rigors of campaigning are showing, as Newt is looking older, puffier and heavier. Youth and fitness he doesn’t have, and unfortunately every campaign appearance can’t be a sparkling debate where he can demonstrate his formidable oratorical skills.

So that brings me to my first point: the importance of the visual, or how you look and communicate your message on camera. It's generally accepted that we get our first impression of someone within the first 10 to 20 seconds. And it's well documented that our visual memory is stronger and longer lasting than our auditory recall.

Rick Santorum, whether in or out of his not-so-cool sweater vest (I know Scarlett Johansson thinks they're old-fashioned.), conveys a crispness and energy that is invigorating and downright likeable. Whether or not you agree with his positions on the issues, the likeability factor is huge in winning votes.

In contrast, Newt—now sometimes referred to in the press as an "old war horse"—appears for TV interviews and is photographed in rumpled and ill-fitting, too-tight suits.

Unlike the typical debate forum, which Newt enjoys and where he's very successful when talking to a large audience, he hasn’t mastered the TV interview: an intimate and personal conversation to generally two to three persons watching from their living room. In this setting he falls short on connecting.
Too often he comes across as hostile and defensive, with a good dose of self-pity.

Unless you live in a caucus state, you'll probably never see or meet any of the candidates in person; you'll get your visual exposure to them over the Internet or TV.

Visual effect changes depending on the medium and should be studied, practiced and mastered for each audience.

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