I wanted to know how a TV station’s creative services/marketing department could function when each member of its staff had to work from home. I know this is how things work now, but I couldn’t imagine how it is accomplished. So I reached out to a couple of station marketing directors to hear how they were managing working from home. In addition, I asked each if they would allow their staff to pen a few lines about their experiences working from home.
I wanted to know how a TV station’s creative services/marketing department could function when each member of its staff had to work from home. I know this is how things are being done now, but I couldn’t imagine how it is accomplished.
So I reached out to Kris Ellison-Baete, the marketing director at WAVE, Gray’s NBC affiliate in Louisville, Ky., and to Phil Wrobel, creative services director at WXYZ, the Scripps ABC affiliate in Detroit.
But in addition, I asked each if they would allow their staff to pen a few lines about their experiences working from home.
No fancy writing here, folks, I’m just going to get out of the way, and let them speak for themselves, and I’ll sprinkle some examples of the work they’ve managed to craft while at home.
NOTE: This is a long form Thank You message that WAVE plays at the end of its evening newscasts to honor those on the front lines of this pandemic. The station put a call out on social media for its audience to submit their healthcare heroes, and used those submissions to populate this spot:
I’ll start with Kris Ellison-Baete and his people in Louisville.
Ellison-Baete: Remarkably, we were able to make that transition fully within a matter of days.
We use Microsoft Teams to communicate. We check in on each other every morning. I send out a daily brief on what we are working on and what to expect, and we have a file database in Teams with all of our promotion elements. We have been able to turn out dozens of Images and PSA’s remotely. We have also been able to produce content for social media with lightning speed.
We set up an Instagram Story Highlights section for COVID-19 and have produced almost 200 hundred stories so far for the platform. While so many are struggling and facing challenges right now, we want to remind them that we are one, and we are in this together. We hope our campaigns on-air and content on social media support that mission.
Here’s Scott Isaacs, WAVE’s marketing coordinator.
Isaacs: I work remotely fairly often already, but having tools like TeamViewer and Splashtop makes that easier. We also used my Google drive account to create a place where we could easily share and retrieve files for those of us who had trouble accessing the VPN.
In spots I’ve produced, I have been careful not to rely on stock video to get the job done, there are so many local stories being told right now that, even though the quality might not be as crisp and beautiful as what we can shoot, it sends the message that needs to be sent that we are the local news that people can trust.
Next up, Gary Pyles, WAVE’s creative services director.
Pyles: Moving our commercial edit systems and servers home, and training our clients in iPhone use, allowed us to continue helping them adapt their content for social distancing.
David Cooke, WAVE’s creative services producer: Being a first-time worker from home as I begin my fourth decade in the industry, I was skeptical and concerned. Yes, there have been some challenges, especially during initial set up. However, thanks to great advances in technology plus gifted and talented engineer/IT departments, our marketing team has been able edit/share ideas, and projects while communicating more than seemed possible.
Rhonda Harshfield, WAVE’s art director: It wasn’t a heavy lift for me. As an art director/digital designer, I also have my own work setup in place at home because I freelance. Any work I create can be transferred digitally. Communication with my team has been through Teams and email so conversations can be grouped and maintained.
Roman Lane, WAVE’s marketing coordinator: It was definitely a shift for me seeing as I mainly capture a lot of our promo content in the field with our talent and the public. Any efforts to film now are very intentional, and done carefully. It’s made me focus on how other local and national news sources have created campaigns and figuring out how to repurpose those messages into our brand language. Especially since we are now consuming more news than ever, there’s an abundance of content and inspiration available.
Now to Detroit, here’s Phil Wrobel, creative services director at WXYZ, Scripps ABC affiliate.
Wrobel: Unfortunately, the coronavirus has hit Michigan pretty hard with most cases in the Detroit area. From a marketing perspective we wanted to be very careful with the tone of our messages. Our goal from the beginning was to create messages and promos that offer a sense of community during a time when our viewers may feel isolated. We wanted to build and connect with emotional messages instead of copy points and slogans and I’m happy with the promos we’ve been able to produce.
First, it’s important to recognize how diligently the leadership team at Scripps worked to ensure the safety of the employees. They took timely actions to make sure most of the employees were able to work from home and that the ones in the building could safely practice social distancing. Those actions truly gave my team peace of mind and I believe even helped motivate them.
If someone told me before all this started that my team would all be working entirely from home for weeks, without ever setting foot in the building, I wouldn’t believe it.
But it’s happening and I’m proud of the creative we’ve been able to produce, especially under these circumstances. I’m seeing my team step up on every level. Perhaps the change of scenery has helped inspire new ideas and forced us to think differently about how we’re connecting to our viewers.
With the help of Zoom meetings and a lot of conference calls, we’re collaborating more than ever and it’s really great to see.
Working from home does have a few challenges. Things take a little longer than usual.
As a manager, that can be slightly unsettling but something I understand is part of this new reality. Also, this isn’t the time to be perfectionists. Not everything is going to look perfect. What’s important is that the tone and messaging are on brand and feel authentic. Speaking with my team, we’re all on the same page.
While I’m optimistic that we come out of this stronger than ever, I’m confident that my team will hold on to what’s inspiring them and build on it when we all get back together at the station.
From WXYZ producer Karam Rassam, lead producer for the Stay With Us campaign: Working from home has made me learn to rely on self-motivation, self-discipline, focus, and concentration. I feel as if I am more productive and spend far less time commuting to work. There is also less interruption of workflow.
Here’s Tim Hawkins, WXYZ promotions producer and photographer as he deals with a very busy home life during uncertain times.
Hawkins: Juggling getting my work done, concerns for my pregnant wife who could give birth at any moment at 39 weeks, and helping her out taking care of our 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old daughter. Surprisingly it hasn’t hampered me getting my work done so far. Other than slow download and upload speeds nothing really has changed in my workflow.
From WXYZ social media producer, Marina Cracchiolo: Working from home has been a unique experience. It’s been rewarding and challenging. The team has been incredibly united and thinking outside of the box. But now when I have a creative idea, it’s easier to run it by my 1-year-old and husband before pitching to the group in a Zoom conference call. It’s where all great ideas are born!
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