When you cut through all of the broadcasting jargon and technology,
all you really have left is one person talking
to another. If that person
-- your audience -- perceives you as just another vendor of entertainment
and information, you will be received in
just that way -- as a vendor.
If however, you are seen as somebody working hard to make people's downtown
safe, protect their kid from drugs and alcohol and lead their
to invest more in itself arid its improvements, they will treat you not
as a vendor but as a friend and ally.
Pretty basic stuff. And the television stations that have historically
taken on this basic role of friend and ally -- the WCVB's, WBZ's,
KING's -- have found that this approach pays dividends in very potent ways.
They can count on audience loyalties when the network
goes through its
periodic slump or the prize anchorman is lured away by the competition:
they have discovered that their audience stays
with the station that cares.
Willis Dun of Audience Research and Development in Dallas reached a similar
conclusion concerning viewer motivation for watching local
TV news "In
researching hundreds of reasons that viewers use to select a focal newscast
as their favorite, we have found that the
station which is perceived to
be most involved in contributing to and caring for its community is almost
always number one in news
ratings or on the way to that position.
In helping create and mount public affairs campaigns we have found that
in addition to gaining viewer loyalty, this approach also provides:
- Intense, highly dramatic, relevant programming.
- Promotional and programming strategies that can affect station ratings.
- Long-term positioning of the station as community leader and friend.
- A strong vehicle for positive local and national publicity.
- Merchandising tools for station clients.
- Creation of ongoing working partnerships with government, civic groups
- A positive management opportunity to promote in-station teamwork and
morale. Local and national awards.
- Additional assurance of maintaining integrity of station license by
directly contributing to FCC public service commitment.
- Most important. . .the delivery of meaningful measurable services on
behalf of station audiences
Oh-it feels good, too.
So why doesn't everybody do it? Well, interestingly enough, most stations
are doing it. With broadcast deregulation,
it has become much less cumbersome
to give project underwriters on-air exposure.
The reason, however, that even more stations don't get involved is that
the process looks much too foreboding.
And indeed, in a way, it can be.
The best projects deal with major social issues. If you are really trying
to intervene in these issues in a measurable way (as we think is vital),
you can't just find a problem and "go for it."
You have to do
your homework and actually get involved in the fabric of the issue.
The approach we recommend is that the station first isolate a critical
ongoing community issue. Something serious and
substantive -- as opposed
to fluffy and feel good -- like prejudice reduction, infant mortality or
The bigger the problem, the bigger the impact. Then research
it. Figure out if there is some way to intervene in it.
Remember that you
can't expect in create a final solution; instead, you chip away at the
problem. It's like shaving:
You get points for just staying even.
If you can't measure what you did when it's all through, then you probably
created a promotion. There's nothing
wrong with promotions, but good deeds
should write their own press releases. All our projects have serious outside
evaluations attached to them so we know when all is said and done what
worked and what didn't. The accolades come from
The hardest part is designing an effective intervention -- a way to really
reduce the problem rather than just
talk about it. The creating of this
"magic bullet" takes research creativity and persistence.
Once the intervention is crafted, the next challenge is to put together
the pieces. One method is similar to a
three-legged stool. The first leg
of the stool, the broadcaster, is where all the magic resides. It is a
that doesn't intuitively see the value of harnessing normally
low-productive PSA and community time to assist his
or her audience and
position the station. Over and above PSA time, we suggest to a station
that it is in its best
interest to consider involving its news, programming,
community affairs and promotion departments heavily in the
essence, the broadcaster becomes the "marketing arm" for the
But who does the heavy lifting? Who provides that measurable and ongoing
intervention? This is the second leg
of the stool. Usually it is a major
nonprofit institution such as the Anti-Defamation League or the United
all of the credibility and experience necessary to get the job
done. It is also its mission to deal with the particular
problem, and it
would all but "kill" to get the kind of air time that the broadcaster
is now willing to
voluntarily provide. The nonprofit essentially- becomes the "manufacturing arm" of
Who pays for the project? Usually not the broadcaster; he has given the
air time and packaging. Nor the nonprofit.
It usually lacks the dollars
to begin with. That brings you to the third leg of the stool. Depending
on the issue,
sometimes it is a foundation, sometimes government, more
often than not, a major business in a community The business
can gain guaranteed
institutional exposure from the broadcast partner and help its community
at the same time.
It is completely a win-win situation for all.
Ultimately, it's the public
who benefits the most. It wins because it gets a free measurable service
improve its lives and communities.
What differentiates this approach from the way broadcasters normally do
business is that when all is said and done,
they are seen, and correctly
so, as people helping people. When you take out all the GRP's. C-P-M's
and downlinks, that's really all you have left, and when it
comes to gaining continued viewer loyalty, it's really
all you need.