When four news-producing TV stations in Richmond, Va., joined together in a promotional campaign pledging solidarity to the people of their city during this coronavirus crisis, little did they know that they would end up influencing “journalism on the other side of the globe.”
When Erik Candiani, the marketing director for Gray’s WWBT, Richmond’s NBC affiliate, posted news about the launch of a new promotional campaign on Facebook a few weeks ago, he had no idea it would quickly begin a chain of events that would ripple half way around the world.
WWBT is one of the four stations in Richmond (DMA 54) — along with Scripps’ WTVR (CBS), Nexstar’s WRIC (ABC) and Sinclair’s WRLH (Fox) — that collaborated for the “Together” campaign, the subject of a Market Share column earlier this month.
It’s remarkable that four stations in the same market would put aside their competitive differences and sit down together to create a promotional campaign pledging solidarity to the people of Richmond during this coronavirus crisis.
It’s also remarkable that the campaign would feature the frontline news anchors from each station in every promo airing on all the stations — with different owners, different network affiliations, different brands with different marketing strategies, all with the same message: That no matter which station you watch, we’re all in this together, because we all live in the same community, we all have the same goal, we want you and your families to be safe.
And as remarkable as that story is, since then, an even more incredible development has taken it around the world to Georgia — not the U.S. state, but the country bordering Russia and Turkey, a country at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia.
You’re forgiven if you have to Google it. Georgia is about the size of South Carolina with a population of almost 4 million people. Its capital and largest city is Tbilisi.
Candiani’s Facebook post of the “Together” campaign was seen in Tbilisi by Maya Mateshvili, program director of the Georgian Media Partnership Program, which fosters relationships and cultural ties between Georgian and American media outlets via two-way professional exchanges.
“I was blown away by the idea and the execution and immediately knew that Erik must have been the mastermind behind it, so I reached out to him directly,” Mateshvili said.
She knew Candiani because he was invited to Georgia last year to consult on news marketing there as part of the Georgian Media Partnership Program.
“They contacted me and asked for a copy, along with the script,” said Candiani.
A week later, Candiani got a link to their spot. It featured 15 different local or regional TV stations across the entire country of Georgia, all pledging a message of unity.
Candiani said TV news in Georgia is very different than here in the United States, with little news about lifestyle or features, little to no traffic or weather, but heavy into politics as tensions exists between Georgia and Russia.
“That’s why this type of message means so much there,” said Candiani, “to see competitors there joined in a message of solidarity.”
Perhaps that’s why the effort made front page news on the U.S. Embassy website in Georgia: “Inspired by American broadcasters, Georgian regional media comes together with a message of solidarity.”
According to Mateshvili, of the 15 TV stations featured in the promo, some are located in the same town, while others are in various towns and regions, with the 15 stations representing eight of the 11 regions in Georgia. And each is independent, and family-owned.
“It’s an unprecedented gesture of media presenting a united front and setting aside competition and other differences and coming together in a time of need by sending a joint message of solidarity to the people, the viewers, the audience,” said Mateshvili.
In a message to Candiani, Mateshvili wrote, “How cool is it that you get to influence journalism on the other side of the globe?”
“So awesome to see our message of unity break the boundaries of borders and culture,” Candiani said.
NOTE: Here’s a Zoom interview with the Candiani, Mateshvili, and Natia Kuprashvili, of the Alliance of Regional Broadcasters, who helped facilitate the project.
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