• Mix Hope with your Doom and Gloom

    February 17th, 2009

    The economy is awful.  I get it!  That's what I am being told by informal focus groups of local TV news viewers as I criss-cross the country.

    And those viewers – from cab drivers to hotel clerks to the lady who cuts my hair to my neighbors – all say the same thing.  They are watching less local TV news because of the daily overdose of bad news about the economy.  Now, I know I have been pressing for months for local TV news to make the economy a priority in your daily content – but there is a caveat.

    Your viewers want you to mix in some HOPE with the daily litany of economic doom and gloom.  Don't just show them the economic car wreck every day – but also give them the alternate route to keep it from happening to them.

    It is still all about the economy – BUT – balance it with some helpful stories that show your viewers how to survive and move forward.  Offer them advice, tips, and bring on experts to give them a roadmap to survive 2009.  Make it simple and practical advice.  Tell them what local companies are hiring.  Tell them where the Job Fairs are etc.

    One of my clients runs a local economic segment every day in the second half of their 6 p.m. newscast with practical tips and ideas.  Their metered ratings for the second quarter hour increase each day.

    If you don't provide economic balance in your newscasts – your viewers may just opt for Andy Griffith re-runs instead of watching your doom and gloom news.




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  • A lesson from Denny's

    February 5th, 2009

    I'm sure you saw the great promotional idea by Denny's restuarants this week.  But did you see a lesson for your newscasts in their success story?

    There is an excellent parallel between Denny's free meals and getting people to sample your newscasts.  It is all about knowing when your product is ready to be tasted by a couple million people.

    For years I have espoused the idea that you cannot promote what you “aspire to be.”  Too many of my clients want to roll out a big campaign to promote their new and better news product – when it is not yet at that level.   The result of this misguided approach is great spots get viewers to sample the newscast but they leave disappointed because it has the same problems that kept them away in the first place.  It takes them a long time to come back for another look.

    Well, Denny's CEO Nelson Marchioli gets it.  He told USA Today that when he took over the restuarant chain in 2001 the chain's “image was a mess, the service was unpredictable and the food was forgettable.”  Marchioli said, “I knew it would take a long time to fix it.”  Much like many local newscasts customers had written Denny's off their list.

    So, after eight years of upgrading the food and service at Denny's, Marchioli decided it was time to invite heavy sampling of their product.  They offered free Grand Slam meals and over two million people took them up on the offer.

    The results are in and the CEO is smiling.  The campaign cost them about five million dollars – including the expensive Super Bowl ad.  Marchioli figures they received over fifty million dollars in free publicity – thanks to many of you covering the story in your markets.

    And the feedback from customers was terrific.  Not only were they thankful for a free meal in this difficult economy, but Denny's product was ready for sampling.  Many of the free eaters said the food was great and they would definately be back.

    So, the lesson is clear.  Be sure your product is ready for tasting before you launch a big campaign for viewers to sample it.  You can't give away free meals, but you can offer a sample of your improved product that is relavent to your viewers'  lives.


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