MARKET SHARE BY PAUL GREELEY

Promotion’s Delicate Balance During Tragedy

I know from experience in times of crisis at a TV station's promotion department that little thought is given to any competitive situations; all energies are devoted to providing viewers the best news coverage each station can possibly generate. So I wasn’t surprised to hear that the marketing and creative services departments at Boston's stations also recognized how the gravity of the Boston Marathon bombings changed their roles. So what did they do?

Much has been written about the local TV news coverage in Boston during the recent tragic events. And deservedly so. I echo the sentiments of others in saying that it is at times like these that local TV stations serve their communities with honor and distinction.

Even President Obama watched the streaming coverage of the local TV stations to stay abreast of developments. I know from experience in times like these that little thought is given to any competitive situations; all energies are devoted to providing viewers the best news coverage each station can possibly generate.

“I think we’ll look back on this as an occasion when Boston stations all pulled together to help keep our viewers informed and safe,” says Russ Nelligan, creative services director for Hearst-owned WCVB Boston (ABC).

So I wasn’t surprised to hear that the marketing and creative services departments at those Boston stations also recognized how the gravity of the situation changed their roles. There’s little point to crafting any messages about their respective stations news coverage. Not only did they all realize that it would be inappropriate, but during the extended periods of continuous live coverage that each station was airing, there would have been no breaks in which to place them.

So what did they do?

I spoke to each of the creative services directors at the major affiliate stations in Boston to hear and see what they did to help their city and its residents cope with the tragedy.

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CBS O&O “WBZ was the official station of the marathon,” says Peter Masucci, WBZ’s creative services director, “so WBZ was live during the marathon and had staff reporting live along the route from 8:30 in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon.”

The bombs went off at approximately 2:50, after WBZ had finished its live coverage of the race.

“Disbelief was our first emotion,” Masucci says. Masucci and his staff immediately went to the newsroom to help with the live coverage.

“We knew our function and responsibility was not about tune in, but how we could support the feelings of the community. With so many twists and turns during those 3-4 days, viewers’ emotions were changing quickly and dramatically.

Here are just a few of the messages Masucci and his staff created during that time.

WBZ Boston (CBS)

 

 

Russ Nelligan, creative services director at WCVB says: “During the heat of the coverage, my department kept busy keeping Twitter and Facebook posts up to date. When the heat of coverage ended, we created promos to elevate spirits, acknowledge and thank first responders and raise money for the victims of the attack. There was never a thought for us to pat our newsroom on the back for their hard work. I don’t know how anyone could look at the pictures of the murdered and wounded victims and think like that. Our beloved city, all of us, had just endured a body blow. We needed to be uplifted.”

WCVB Boston (ABC)

Lowell Briggs, creative services director at Fox O&O WFXT said his staff’s immediate priority was “helping news provide facts.”

As to any messages, Briggs said, “we knew it wasn’t ‘look at our coverage’. We had to be responsive to the needs and wants of our viewers and that the messages had to be respectful, supportive and sensitive.”

WFXT Boston (Fox)

Karen Levy, the creative services director at WHDH, Sunbeam Television’s NBC affil in Boston, syas that during her station’s live continuous coverage, “my staff gathered the material for the right message at the right time. We were very careful about the tone they would take.”

She said that WHDH is usually “a station that’s big on POPs (proof of performance spots) but that during this tragic event, we have a responsibility to viewers.”

So instead, she focused on spots that had a more “emotional, heart-felt, uplifting, thank you feel. This was not about competition, not about the station, but about the city and its people”

WHDH Boston (NBC)

Market Share by Paul Greeley is all about marketing and promotion at TV stations and appears every Monday. Read other Market Share columns here. If you have some ideas or stories you want to share, please let me know. You can reach Paul Greeley at [email protected] or at 817-578-6324.


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