Belo’s indy powerhouse in Phoenix has built its brand around strong community service, which included raising $5 million for good causes last year, and it doesn’t intend to change the strategy in the face of hard times that have only made its efforts that much more necessary. It’s how the station “stays relevent.”
Tired of all those stories about layoffs, budget cuts and station group bankruptcies? Yeah, us too. So imagine our relief at TVNewsCheck when we spotted a press release from Phoenix bearing this upbeat headline: KTVK AND VIEWERS RAISED MORE THAN $5 MILLION FOR CHARITY IN 2008
Yes, Phoenix. The same town so beaten up by the crashing housing market that last week President Obama used it as a backdrop to promote his stimulus plan. So how did Belo’s KTVK there persuade its viewers to donate upwards of $5 million?
For one thing, the powerhouse indy and its sister CW affiliate KASW are building on a long tradition.
“We’re really seen as the community’s television station,” says President and General Manager Nick Nicholson, “KTVK has worked hard over many years to become an integral part of what goes on here and we’re branded as such.”
Known on air as 3TV, the community branding is literal in the name the station’s Web site, azfamily.com, which attracts some more than half a million unique visitors each month.
Independent since 1994 when Scripps’ KNXV captured its ABC affiliation, KTVK outperforms most indies with Oprah and Dr. Phil in primetime and lots of news.
“KTVK hasn’t been run like a traditional independent. We’ve committed to eight hours of news a day,” says Nicholson. “In mornings and early evenings, we’re in a three-way race with the NBC and Fox affiliates (KPNX and KSAZ, respectively.) On any given day, we’re separated by one-tenth of a rating point.”
“Our news department is really committed to our causes, says Community and Public Relations Manager Blanca Esparza-Pap. “It makes my job so much easier because I know they’re genuinely interested in the stories.”
So how exactly how does KTVK arrive at $5 million?
The two largest contributors to the total were the two big annual events: Arizona’s Family Christmas Angel, which collected more than 136,000 toys valued at $2.2 million for distribution by the Salvation Army, and the local telecast of The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, which generated $1.5 million.
But there were a host of other projects. Among them:
- The one-day Big Guy Turkey Drive collected more than 1,637 Thanksgiving turkeys plus $69,000 in cash.
- Just as northern stations collect warm winter coats, 3TV’s annual CapWater Drive gathered over 135,000 bottles of water, nearly 3,000 hats and almost $15,000 to shield Arizona’s homeless from the desert heat.
- Responding to year-end shortages at local food banks, the Arizona’s Family Food Drive teamed with Fry’s Food & Drug Stores to raise over $118,000 and 69,690 pounds of food for more than 1,200 agencies.
Only the cash elements of these and other programs are counted toward the station’s $5 million public service.
But money is only part of the station outreach.
Are You My Family? is KTVK’s ongoing effort to promote the adoption of special needs children through on-air profiles linked to a microsite on azfamily.com. Since 2006 over half of the children profiled have found homes.
In addition, KTVK and KASW aired an estimated $1.2 million worth of PSAs in 2008. You can watch many of their PSAs by clicking here.
While the stations often enlist clients to sponsor community campaigns and related airtime, any boost to sales is considered a fringe benefit. The real value added to KTVK’s bottom line is the inside track to community concerns.
“We have an aggressive ascertainment process,” says Nicholson. “It’s important to find out what issues are facing the community and its leaders. That information shapes our marketing plans and our newscasts.”
That’s especially important in Phoenix, which in recent years has seen tremendous growth. “With so many new viewers, we can’t just rely on tradition,” says Nicholson. “We’ve got to freshen each charity drive and promotion.”
And then there’s that pesky economy, which for most stations would dampen prospects to match, much less exceed 2008’s record donations.
“The need has definitely increased,” says Esparza-Pap. “But at the same time local nonprofits have been forced to scale back or cancel fundraising events. We’re working together to find new ways to be impactful.”
One new method is courting contributions over mobile devices. Text message donations already outpace online fundraising, a welcome discovery, says Esparza-Pap. “As unemployment rises and businesses watch every penny, it will be tough to match last year’s donations. The exposure we provide will be even more important.”
“At the end of the day we have a finite amount of resources,” says Nicholson. “And whether it’s for news or for PSAs, you’ve got to keep track of how you’re impacting your community. It’s how we differentiate ourselves and how we stay relevant.”
Market Share by Arthur Greenwald is your weekly stimulus package. Every Monday we showcase station efforts aimed at boosting sales or otherwise improving business. What’s going on in your market that others want to know about? Write to Arthur at [email protected].