PR Technique Satellite Media Tours: Doing the satellite media tour from the road - The popularity of SMTs has made it difficult to stand out from the crowd with them. One way is to shoot on location. Sherri Deatherage Green tells you how

Viewers tuning into nightly news programs anywhere in the nation could draw a common conclusion about TV reporters - they don’t like being cooped up in studios.

Viewers tuning into nightly news programs anywhere in the nation could draw a common conclusion about TV reporters - they don’t like being cooped up in studios.

Viewers tuning into nightly news programs anywhere in the nation

could draw a common conclusion about TV reporters - they don’t like

being cooped up in studios.

Breathless journalists jump into remote trucks and race each other to

disaster scenes. Weathermen set up on freeway ramps to show commuters

the icy streets. Sometimes, it seems being there is more important than

what’s happening.

Beaming live video from afar via remote satellite media tours (SMTs) can

score PR pros big points with TV producers. But just as a stand-up from

a generic street corner might leave viewers wondering why the reporter

won’t get in out of the cold, moving an SMT into the field simply for

the sake of ’being there’ can be expensive and futile.

Transmitting your SMT from a remote location can double the expense.

Purchasing time on the Ku-band used for remote shots costs more than the

C-band used in studios, and you may need to hard wire extra phone lines

or string cable from satellite trucks.

Predicting cost can be difficult since each location presents its own

challenges. Gary Miller, VP of marketing at Medialink, New York, says a

typical remote can be about dollars 20,000. But Brian Unger, marketing

director of Target Video News, New York, adds that ’the cost variables

can just go any direction.’

Choosing a location far removed from major cities can escalate costs,

since crews and equipment must travel further. Conversely, Mike Hill of

News Broadcast Network recalls that parking regulations in NYC ran up

the price of one SMT his company produced for Sprint in a bank


The remote truck had to park a block-and-a-half from the site and string

cable into the bank.

Assuming your client doesn’t balk at the price tag, take a hard look at

your goals before booking Ku time. Sometimes, a story just can’t be told

effectively without going on location, or a celebrity spokesperson can’t

come to you. If no particular site enhances your message, or if the

story or spokesperson is compelling enough to draw interest without a

pretty backdrop, consider staying in a studio.

PRWeek asked more than a dozen vendors and PR pros for tips on insuring

a successful remote SMT:

1 Location, location, location. Choose an interesting backdrop that

doesn’t distract from the message. Make sure the setting tells viewers

where you are. If product references are necessary, keep them subtle and


’Putting a corporate logo behind your spokesperson will guarantee that

your SMT doesn’t get picked up,’ says Matt Coleman of Cohn & Wolfe


Meg Higgins of Chicago’s Orbis Broadcast Group suggests going remote

from special events or conferences. During a meeting of medical experts

in New Orleans, Orbis went live from a Bourbon Street balcony for a

story on sexual dysfunction.

2 And ... action! Remote SMTs lend themselves to demonstrations, says

Kevin Foley of KEF Media Associates in Atlanta. ’Talking heads don’t

work anymore. They want a circus.’ Activity in the shot gives anchors

something to talk about and can loosen up conversation, adds Jon Reiner

of Ovation Studios. Stations won’t need as much B-roll if you keep

things moving.

3 Get the lay of the land. Site surveys are essential to scout the best

satellite positions and determine communication and lighting needs. Send

crews out as far in advance as possible.

4 Keep it legal. Special permits may be needed to use public facilities

or to temporarily close streets. Union requirements vary and can affect

cost. Make sure your vendor reads the fine print.

5 Take five. You want to make the most of your expensive satellite time,

but plan breaks between interviews to keep the talent fresh. And ’having

down time between interviews is essential if a tour should get behind

schedule for any reason,’ says Kevin Barry, VP of satellite services for

National Satellite/Production Media Services, Los Angeles. If your break

lasts 15 minutes or more, you can save money by temporarily going off

satellite, adds Linda Oken of National Video Center, New York. Use this

tactic in moderation as problems can arise when trying to re-establish

the link.

6 Prepare for the worst. Anything can happen in the field, so take along

backup equipment and reserve an alternate location in case Mother Nature

doesn’t cooperate. When News Broadcast Network went live from the

courthouse steps in Beeville, TX for Honey Nut Cheerios, it rented a

truck to keep the crew dry in case of rain, Hill says. Dan Johnson,

president of New Jersey’s DWJ Television, suggests keeping placement

staff on site to line up substitutes for interviews that fall


7 The early bird gets the uplink. Set up can take six to eight hours, so

arrive early. While the crew plugs widgets into sockets, coach your

spokesperson and get them acclimatized.

8 Why build a set? The point of going on location is to give your SMT a

real-life feel, Reiner says. ’If you are going on location and building

something that doesn’t exist, then you are duplicating effort.’

9 While we’re here ... Take advantage of location shoots to tape

background footage for future use.

10 Is anybody watching? Ask your vendor to electronically encode the

footage you transmit so monitoring services can accurately track how

much was used and by what stations.

Remote SMTs with legitimate news value can be pennies from heaven for

producers who can’t afford to send crews halfway across the country. But

make sure you have a good reason for leaving the studio before planning

your safari, says Melody Kimmell, F-H’s associate director of

media/presentation training. ’People become very enamored of

television,’ she warns. ’If it doesn’t reach the audience, you’re just

spending money.’


You may never push a button or speak into a mic when you take your

client on the road for a remote SMT, but a basic understanding of the

native tongue can come in handy when conversing with techies. Here are a

few terms you need to know:

Downlink: the transmission television stations receive from the


IFB (interruptible foldback): the device your spokesperson wears to hear

the news anchor’s questions or the producer’s directions

Roll-in: taped shots played during the interview to illustrate the

speaker’s points

TD (technical director): the person responsible for maintaining video

and audio uplinks

Uplink: the feed you send to a satellite

Window: a block of satellite time, often priced in 10- or 15-minutes


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