Evaluating the Effectiveness of Ratings Special Reports
by Graeme Newell
-Many stations tend to abandon their brand position when trying to spike a tune-in number.
-At least half of all ratings special reports should have a direct tie to the brand position.
-News reporters should help write special report promos, and marketing producers should help write special report stories.
A lot of stations are doing rating period postmortems right now. Smart stations will gather all the ratings special reports and promotion, then compare the two. Did the promo exaggerate what the story actually delivered? Did the station brand come through clearly in both the story and the promotion?
Far too many stations simply abandon their brand position during rating periods. We see stations with “breaking news” brands doing mountains of special reports that have nothing to do with their station position. Their big fancy image promos sell an exciting, adventuresome team that covers fast-breaking spot news. Meanwhile, their special report promos sell completely contradictory content. They do sweeps reports that sell things like “the best cosmetics” and “behind-the-scenes of favorite shows.” Every heavily promoted, off-brand promo chips away at the station’s branding position.
Special reports are like crack cocaine.
These high-profile, sexy, special reports can spike a great number on any specific night. They deliver a mind-blowing, one-night, ratings high, but these off-brand stories ultimately erode the station’s branding position. In the long run the station ends up strung out and directionless, headed for an image intervention and branding rehab.
Stations do ratings special report stories so they can be promoted. These high-end stories get more GRPs than any other on the air. That means all these stories must serve a dual purpose. First, they drive viewers to watch a specific newscast, but equally as important, they stamp a newscast with dynamic reports that build brand. They give viewers a specific taste of the kind of news the station covers.
How many special reports should be on brand?
So does this mean that ALL station special reports must directly reinforce the branding position? In a perfect world, that would be the case. Few stations can pull this off. It is just not realistic to think that EVERY special report can directly reinforce the brand. Test your station by examining all the special report promos for a rating period. Taken as a whole, do these promos demonstrate your station’s brand position, or are they just a random collection of unrelated topics. Strong stations will have a score of more than 50%.
Marketing & News should produce all the content together.
It is important that the promo team play a significant role in both the creation and the promotion of special report stories. Often times, the promo staffers find out about the special report before the reporter. When assigning special reports, designate both a promotion and news staffer to work on the project. The promo staffer should be intimately involved in the creation of the story, and the news staffer should be intimately involved in the creation of the promo and other marketing components. The promo producer should not wait for the reporter to lead the way.
If the reporter and promo producer have a shared vision on the report, both the content and marketing will have more focus and purpose. The brand will shine through. When it comes time for air, the reporter will have final say on the story and the promo producer will have final say on the promo. The important thing is that they work as a team in the creation process.