Oct 15, 2011
When is "good TV" inappropriate and "bad TV" appropriate in an effective settlement video?
When should we choose scenes that will cause our audience discomfort? Does an audience have to suffer to begin to feel the suffering of others? What really constitutes an emotional effectiveness? When we are attempting to make an indelible impression of pain and suffering. “Good” television will not always garner the largest settlements where suffering and loss are the subjects. Making an indelible memory, making an impression, cutting through to emotions, making an audience feel, whether they want to or not is the objective for the media producer. Our toolkit offers some interesting approaches that can help an audience feel in some small way a bit of what a plaintiff has experienced.

Simple examples of "bad television" used to increase the settlement are repetition to hammer home a point that is important and could have been missed, volume that is too soft and forces them to listen more carefully, loud volume of noises that are unpleasant, such as the scraping of metal pins as they are withdrawn from an injury. The sustained crying of a witness, the repetition of a dead child’s portrait are other examples. A more complex form of “bad television" persuasion is ambiguity, where images that we cannot make out are shown until the audience begins to focus with a greater attention, trying to understand what they are seeing. At that point of heightened attention we could present a very clear and powerful image that the case may hinge upon. An example of this would be a super close up of a pink object that we cannot make out. As the camera slowly zooms out it dawns on the audience that the object they have been staring at is the dead child’s toy lying at the accident site. The image of the toy will remain working far longer in the mind of the audience in this way than it would if presented i a more obvious manner.

Remember when viewing rough and fine approval cuts of settlement and Day in the Life programs, the techniques that could be considered “bad” television can be effective tools to foment a more generous settlement.

Sept. 12, 2011
Media production on a contingency basis.
The decision to bring media experts in whether for settlement videos, day in the life, mock news or trial support is usually made on a cost basis as well as the need or impact. The cases that could benefit the most from media are often the biggest challenges to present. Spending up front money for a large media effort can be a tough decision to make.

The plaintiff client may be willing to enter into a contingency contract with a media provider, who will take their case believing the case is a good one, just as an attorney does. Finding seasoned and effective media producers who will work on a contingency basis with the plaintiff is not easy, but the rewards are multi-fold. Media experts who do accept a contingency fee basis, such as a percentage of the award, are more committed to your case, will work harder, and believe in the merits of the case and their own abilities to bring about a large settlement. The difference this makes is very important to the effectiveness of the work product. Explore the ways that a contingency fee agreement can be a win-win situation for all parties concerned, and produce some of the most effective presentations around.

The following example was a win-win situation for the plaintiff family, the attorney and his firm, as well as VisualWorks. In a case against a large publicly traded company, that involved the death of a child, VisualWorks agreed to a contingency fee that would be paid only if there was an acceptable settlement. Once involved, VisualWorks determined that three separate programs should be produced for the meeting – a mock news program that highlighted the big firm’s potential public exposure, a 911 recording re-enactment that covered the facts and timeline of events, and a basic settlement program that told the story of the child's life and the parent's loss that ended up bringing tears to the eyes of the lawyers who represented the firm. In addition, VisualWorks designed a negative media campaign that would begin if the settlement were not successfully negotiated. The outcome was that the opening offer of $80,000 to settle ended in a multi-million dollar settlement without even filing suit. The attorney felt that the media work was key to producing the positive outcome for the plaintiffs.

August 5, 2011
Consider private interviews whenever possible for settlement programs.
The choice to use private interviews versus depositions can make a big difference within the media product you present at a settlement. When producing settlement media, quite often you may be pre-suit or you may chose to conduct certain interviews before depositions are taken. While those interviews may become admissible, they may have recorded a quality of interview that surpasses what a deposition can yield in regards to storytelling and emotional content. The rigid atmosphere of a deposition does not allow the interviewee an opportunity to fines a witness into an emotional or full account of what happened, or an expert into a more damning and impassioned statement of fact that most settlement media will benefit from. The relative comfort offered the subject in a private interview allows the interviewee to behave differently; he or she may answer questions entirely different. The decision to record private interviews first should be made whenever possible and whenever greater depth and emotionality is desired for media programs. If a witness show little emotion or passion, viewers will themselves experience little in the way of emotion or passion themselves. An audience will tend to mirror the emotions displayed by the speaker. If you want your audience to feel passionately about a fact or cause or loss, having witnesses who display passion is the quickest way to get them there.

July 1, 2011
Taking advantage when public image is at stake.
In cases where a corporate defendant’s public image is at stake, we can consider the value of the threat of a "negative media campaign". Instead of filing suit and losing the threat of public exposure, we can keep the lawsuit quiet while working with the defendant to reach a settlement. While often the promise of keeping quiet about the case would be welcomed by the defendant company as you negotiate, the threat of a negative media campaign orchestrated by a media agency like VisualWorks is an even powerful negotiating tool. When dealing with companies that work hard to maintain a public image, the threat to file suit and mount a negative media campaign can be wielded to provide a greater settlement than if suit had been already filed.

Many companies would more readily pay to save their image from harm than pay to keep them out of court once harm has already been done to their image. In fact they may be hell bent once their image is damaged to go to court, sparing no expense to prove their innocence and salvage their damaged reputation. This decision to file or not to file suit should be made with the company’s image interests in mind. If you and your client determine that a company's valuable image is at risk if the truth came out, and make the decision to defer filing to use it as a threat, you must prepare to share information with defendants about a substantial and organized media campaign. That campaign will consist of an extended period of consecutive press releases accompanied by supportive media such as video and stills that will be delivered to a cross section of news media from broadcast to the internet in order to get company representatives to come to a settlement with checkbook in hand.

June 14, 2011
The Mock News element
Companies that could be damaged by negative public or industry opinions are prime candidates for the threat of negative news and a negative media campaign. Preparing a "mock news" program can help your adversaries experience first hand just what the initial stories will be like and how the media will treat the company when news gets out. Mock news pieces can be used at settlement or before, to soften companies up, or to get their attention and get a discussion going. The use of professional media persons both behind and in front of the camera is a must, and can create some extremely powerful tools of persuasion. See an example of a mock news story on this site.

May 10, 2001
Making the most of mediation with media
There are many reasons to prepare the most powerful presentation possible for this required meeting.
• Effective media preparation increases the possibility of reaching a settlement without trial as your opponents see, hear and begin to appreciate all the forces you will marshal against them. Most often your opponents have not immersed themselves as you have in your clients story. In the less confrontational atmosphere of mediation you can use media to best advantage, to easily educate opponents as to how your clients will present to a jury, what your their grievances are, as well as presenting the impact that the facts and witnesses will make if the case goes to trial.
• You can save valuable time and money for yourself and your client. With an effective media presentation, you will more readily persuade your opponent to settle, with the end result being an award that will not be appealed. Your client can go on with their life sooner and you can more effectively deal with caseload.
• The act of preparing an effective media presentation with a top-notch media producer will enhance your own vision of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. The decisions, interviews and research involved in preparation of media will help you further define as well as refine your understanding of the case, clarifying what is better said, and what is better shown. Working you’re your media producer to structure your media strategy is an excellent exercise in clarity, and an invaluable preparation for trial.
• Preparing an effective settlement presentation can be “piggybacked” onto your effort to prepare effective media for trial such as a “Day in the Life” video of your client. Much of the same work executed to create a powerful settlement tool can be re-purposed if necessary as you go to trial. Example - a non-admissible settlement video can be stripped down to an admissible "Day in the Life".
• The settlement video - should settlement programs be good television or is making viewers feel uncomfortable okay? We all know good television programs are entertaining, engaging, and inform us, but they also usually keep us comfortable. We all know that “bad” television can be slow moving, repetitious, and may make us feel uncomfortable, challenging us to the point that we want to change the channel. Examples are a cancer telethon or a documentary on child or pet abuse. Many inexperienced media producers and legal firms endeavor to make settlement programs feel like “good TV”, smooth and unchallenging to the viewer, never letting the amount of emotion and drama challenge the viewer. Yet our audience cannot change the channel and our purposes in crafting an effective settlement video are different from broadcast television’s purposes. Rightfully, we don't want to anger or frustrate an audience that we must negotiate with in a few minutes. Yet, the use of extremely emotional content, uncomfortable imagery and the durations they appear for, as well as repetition, are all tools to be considered.