Get ready for your own personal C-SPAN

Imagine that you’re a press secretary on Capitol Hill, and your job is to get your boss on the air every chance you get. Now imagine that C-SPAN comes to you and promises to broadcast every speech your boss makes — anywhere, anytime. And not only is your boss’s speech broadcast live, but constituents can ask questions during the speech using Twitter, Facebook or a chat room. Oh, and the speeches are recorded and kept in an online archive for others to view at their convenience, just in case they missed the live broadcast.

Is this a dream? Is there a catch? Is it expensive? Well, it’s not a dream, there is no catch and it costs nothing.

So what is this thing? Well, it’s not quite C-SPAN, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s called Ustream. Ustream is a Web-based video broadcasting service that allows users to broadcast live. And it’s one of the next “cool tools” of the Web 2.0 world that savvy members of Congress and others will be using to get in front of their audiences.

Ustream is a godsend for senators and representatives who end up having to stay in Washington for votes when they were committed to make an appearance in their districts, states or elsewhere. With Ustream they can keep their commitment, deliver their remarks and even take questions, all from the comfort of their offices on Capitol Hill. No need to go to an expensive studio. No need to pay for a camera crew. All you need is a digital video camera, a computer and Internet access and you’re good to go.

You don’t need to be a member of Congress to use Ustream. Anyone can take advantage of this technology for a variety of uses.

For example, last month Adfero was asked by our client Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) to help drive media traffic to a major press conference at its annual meeting in Toronto. While many journalists expressed a desire to cover the event, they told us they couldn’t attend because tough economic times forced travel budget cuts. Since we weren’t able to “take Moses to the mountain,” we decided to digitally take the mountain to Moses. We issued media advisories encouraging reporters from around the world to participate in the press conference via Ustream.

When the press conference started, there were 50 journalists and 11 TV cameras in the room, with another 70 reporters watching via Ustream. During the Q-and-A session, reporters in the room got the first shot at questions, followed by Ustream watchers who had been submitting written questions via Twitter, Facebook or the chat room simultaneously as presenters spoke. A staffer would then read the questions to the presenter, who would look into the camera and answer the Ustreamer.

Thanks in part to Ustream, SNM’s press conference drew a record number of journalists and generated unprecedented media coverage. Best of all, it cost SNM nothing. Not too long ago, it would have cost about $3,000 just to have the camera crew cover the event, plus over $100,000 to secure a live satellite link for the duration of the press conference. And even then, only TV stations with expensive technology would be able to pull the event “off the bird.” By contrast, using Ustream, anyone with access to the Internet can see the event on their computer.


Ustream is especially useful for companies that have been forced to cut business travel budgets or don’t have expensive video conferencing equipment in their offices. When a client, customer or CEO wants to see your face at an important meeting, Ustream can save the day. Just last week, a colleague of mine at Adfero “appeared” before clients thousands of miles away for a critical strategy session. While they would have loved for her to be there in person, Ustream was the next best thing. The online broadcast was a big hit — the client was happy, my colleague was happy and I was happy.

The beauty of the Web 2.0 world is that there are a number of new tools that are inexpensive and, when used skillfully and strategically, can be highly effective. YouTube is great and has its purpose, but even then it’s still only one-directional communications. With Ustream, however, you get the immediacy of C-SPAN, plus a two-way interactive component, with the after-the-fact availability of YouTube. And you have the capability of limiting who can watch your broadcast, as well as limiting or disallowing comments altogether. The Ustream setup and controls are uncomplicated and intuitive, so you don’t have to be a techno-geek to run it.

Ustream is an easy, effective and even fun way to broadcast yourself or anyone you need to make look good. So what are you waiting for? Are you ready for your close-up? Lights! Camera! Action!

Schick is a partner at Adfero Group, an avant-garde public-relations firm that uses the latest technologies to help clients achieve their public affairs objectives. He was deputy press secretary to Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) from 1981-85.


Schick is a partner at Adfero Group with more than 25 years of communications and government relations experience, providing strategic counsel to a variety of clients.