June 19th, 2011
Are your newscasts stuck in a rut? Do you plod along from one day to the next with the same old tired crime and courts low-hanging fruit content? Are you relevant to your customers’ daily lives?
I would venture to say most of you – if you are honest – would answer a firm YES to the first two questions – and a resounding NO to the third. It is certainly what your viewers say about local newscasts. Well – I have a solution for you to break out of those summer doldrums. It is time to give your newscasts a 10-Point summer tune-up so you are ready to zoom forward this fall.
- BRANDED CONTENT. To break out of the pack in your market you must offer relevant, uniquely-branded content that is valued by your customers. It starts the day before in pre-planning, gets a jump start in the morning editorial meeting and then must power its way through the day. How do you take the important stories today and brand them as yours? What enterprise stories will you offer viewers? How do you make them care about the stories you are presenting? Are you just covering the news in a superficial, unconnected manner – or do you offer content that your customers find valuable in their daily lives?
- NEWSCAST COPY. Are you “reporting” to your viewers in news-speak – or are you “talking” to your viewers in a conversational, meaningful way? Do you tell them why they should care about a story? Do you tell them why it is important to them? Do you break it down for them in easy digestible bites? Do you let them know what you did for them today (“I checked this out for you and…”)? Do you showcase your anchor’s knowledge and tenure in the market – by having them add perspective to stories when appropriate?
- ANCHORS. It is probably time to tune up your anchors too. Are they the “Chief Journalists” in the newsroom – or do they stroll in late in the day, read a little copy, disappear for a long dinner break, and then come back and read for a few more minutes? Your anchors should be the newsroom leaders – bringing in story ideas from their sources and from what they hear on the street. They should be fully engaged in the editorial meetings – offering suggestions for anchor breakouts, and graphics that will help them showcase the information for the viewers. Do they write original content – or do they just re-write what others have already written – many times taking away the branding words in the process?
- REPORTERS. Are your reporters simply robots who walk in every day and take whatever the assignment desk hands to them? Or – do you require them to develop sources and to submit story ideas – every day – than can be turned that day – and are relevant to your customers? Are they creative in their story-telling – or do they simply fall into the formula trap (copy, soundbite, copy, soundbite, standup – DONE!)? Do your reporters include graphics in their packages that aid viewer understanding? Do they plan out – and execute – creative live shots and stand-ups – or do they just simply stand there?
- PRODUCERS. Are they simply “show stackers” – filling the time between the commercial breaks? Do they “own” the lead story in their newscast – and work hard to use graphics, anchor breakouts and other elements that grab the viewers’ attention? Or – do your newscasts start like so many others with a quick 2-shot “hello” from the anchors who disappear after a few seconds as they hand off to the reporter? Do the producers tell viewers what’s – NEW AND NOW – or just simply write the same story with no updating – just as it played in the earlier newscasts?
- NEWSCAST TEASES. Are they the last thing the producers do on their way to the control room for their newscast – or – do they carefully craft these important “sells” designed to keep your customers interested through the commercial break? Do they make the teases relevant to your customers – explaining what they will get in return for their 3-minute investment of time waiting through the commercial break? Do you tease one story as “NEXT” and deliver on that promise – or do you come out of the break with some other story – angering your customers who are tired of being strung along through newscasts?
- WEATHERCASTS. Are your weathercasts “Forecast-Focused” – or are they chock full of irrelevant stats, maps and graphics? Do your meteorologists clearly tell your customers what to expect from the weather – and when? Do they waste your customers time with Almanacs, currents, national weather and other maps that are irrelevant to their lives? Are your weathercasts “elastic?” In other words, if it is going to be “severe clear” for the next five days – do you still give them 3 minutes or so to say that – or do you shorten the weathercast and gain time for other news? Conversely, if there is severe weather do your producers allow enough time for the meteorologists to accurately explain this potentially life-saving information?
- SOCIAL MEDIA. Do your anchors, reporters and other news staffers engage in a two-way conversation with your customers using social media? Or is it a one-way street where you send out some information without listening to what your customers are saying in the social media world? You must engage your customers early – and often – every day – to use social media in a meaningful manner.
- PRIMETIME TOPICALS. Are these a priority – or simply another task for the marketing folks or producers to check off their “to do” list each day? Do you target these topicals based on your research – or do you just throw out 2-to-3 stories that have already been re-hashed all day and expect your informed customers to make an appointment for your late newscast? When is the last time the news director and person who writes these important topicals actually sat down and reviewed them together?
- STEP BACK – REVIEW – DISCUSS – SET GOALS. To achieve a winning tune-up the news director must lead an effort to do these four things. First off, get everyone to step back and put themselves in the mind-set of your customers? What do they care about? What are their issues? What are their fears? What type of content do they care about? Once you’ve set that baseline it is time to review your newscasts – and to discuss – whether they are relevant to your customers. The final step – is to set goals moving forward. Pick 3-to-5 goals that deal with content, presentation, news writing, graphics – and most importantly – HOW YOU WILL MAKE YOUR NEWSCASTS RELEVANT TO YOUR CUSTOMERS?