Jim Reif, the legendary TV meteorologist in Southwest Florida, died last night from a fall while riding his bicycle. In 1992, when I took the job as marketing director at WINK, the CBS affiliate in Fort Myers, I didn’t know much about marketing. It was kind of on-the-job training. And much of it was how […]
Jim Reif, the legendary TV meteorologist in Southwest Florida, died last night from a fall while riding his bicycle.
In 1992, when I took the job as marketing director at WINK, the CBS affiliate in Fort Myers, I didn’t know much about marketing. It was kind of on-the-job training. And much of it was how important a local TV station’s weather team is to your marketing if you want your station to be No. 1. It’s hard to be No. 1 in the ratings if you’re not No. 1 in weather. Luckily for me, at WINK, I had Jim Reif.
I arrived at WINK just two weeks after Hurricane Andrew had swept through southern Florida. Coming from working at a station in New Orleans, I knew that the word “hurricane” was a hot button for residents living near the coast. But I had no idea how hot that word was to residents of Southwest Florida. While Andrew didn’t cause the kind of devastation in the Fort Myers area as it did in the Miami area, WINK dropped normal programming and stayed on the air for hours of continuous coverage.
The station received quite a few letters about that (this was way before email) and I turned a few into testimonials. When I showed the news director, Mel Martin, I was afraid he might find the spots too corny, or slow. He said simply, “that’s the best news promo I’ve ever seen.”
It wasn’t any genius on my part; it was the result of stellar performances by Reif, Jim Farrell and Glenn Schwartz. (Farrell is the current chief meteorologist at WINK and Glenn is now known as “Hurricane” Schwartz and works at WCAU, the NBC station in Philadelphia.)
Soon, I began to hear about Jim Reif conducting hurricane seminars at schools, trailer parks, hotels, and municipal offices in the three-county area around Fort Myers. He would do them in conjunction with other community agencies involved in hurricane preparedness. He was plugging them in his weathercasts. So every year, I created a donut that we could change to promote each seminar, some 60-70 of them every year.
Someone at the station asked me why I was promoting a seminar where only 50 people might show up. I said that while only 50 people may come to one of his seminars, thousands will see the promo and know that he’s an expert on hurricanes and is involved in the community.
Until I sat down to write this tribute to Jim, I didn’t realize how much he taught me about marketing. It’s not promises, but performances that matter most. Over my five years at WINK, I did quite a few weather promos for Jim and the team. Here are a couple of my favorites.
I hope there is a heaven. And I’ll bet that all the TV meteorologists and news anchors there lined up to salute Jim when he walked by.