“So you thought digital changed the marketing rules? I’d like to introduce you to March 2020,” wrote Tina Veon, creative services director at KDKA, the CBS O&O in Pittsburgh. “Not only did our world change, so did how we effectively market our television stations. And, what’s even more fun, we got to reinvent our marketing plans … weekly.”
“So you thought digital changed the marketing rules? I’d like to introduce you to March 2020,” wrote Tina Veon, creative services director at KDKA, the CBS O&O in Pittsburgh.
“Not only did our world change, so did how we effectively market our television stations. And, what’s even more fun, we got to reinvent our marketing plans …weekly.”
Veon, like many other local TV marketers, was responding to how the coronavirus crisis and the call for racial equality have changed the way TV stations market themselves. In a phone call discussing the changes, Veon said suddenly news events this year have changed conventional station marketing. What was the norm for decades is being replaced with messages intended to comfort, unite and encourage viewers. In times like these, local TV news operations are more alike than different. It’s not about us, it’s about them.
It’s The New Us, folks, and here’s how it played out at KDKA. Take it away, Tina.
“I suppose there are two ways to go about it,” wrote Veon. “Pretend our world hasn’t changed and keep doing what we’ve been doing, OR … take the pulse of our viewers DAILY and figure out how to give them what they need and want. They need information. They want to know that “it” is going to be OK.”
Since March, local TV marketers, like Veon and her staff, have been readjusting their marketing, “monthly, sometimes weekly” said Veon.
In March, Veon said her staff didn’t have “24 hours to absorb the fact that we would not be returning to our building. We needed to act fast.”
With kudos to engineering and IT, Veon said the staff was set up quickly to work from home, and it was time to get to work.
“We needed to convince our talent that they can shoot their own promo with their phone (horizontally please). We started with the ‘In This Together’ and ‘Thank the Frontline Workers’ spots that everyone else did. HOWEVER, instead of handing our talent a script, I wanted each of them to just turn on the camera and talk about what was going on — how they were feeling. The reality of what was happening in March was raw and I wanted to capture that real emotion in promos. They had to be authentic.”
By April, it was apparent that more people were turning to local TV news, viewership was spiking.
“This is our time to prove why we are the news leader in our market and why they can Expect More from KDKA-TV,” said Veon.
Then she got an idea. “Let’s get the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers players, along with our sports guys, to do a PSA — TOGETHER. That’s never been done before! Players are never available — always “too busy,” so this is the perfect time to ask them to get involved. But, will they be willing to shoot their own spot, with their phone (horizontally please). I wrote a script, enlisted everyone who had a good contact to get the message out. We’ll see how it goes.”
No live sports? No problem.
“We came up with the idea of producing, via Zoom, a little show called Living Room Sports. But don’t think X’s and O’s. We want to know how these sports folks are spending quarantine. We interviewed Terry Bradshaw, Joe Manganiello and dozens more. As a matter of fact, this show was so successful, we extended it … twice! Here’s a promo with special guest, Pat McAfee.”
No live sports? No problem.
“We’ve come up with the idea to create a fan-focused show. We’re calling it Fan N’ATion. If you are wondering why it’s spelled like that, google “N’at” or ask anyone you know from Pittsburgh. In a nutshell, this show is all about Pittsburgh sports culture. We are touring fan caves, driving in fan cars, eating fan tailgate food, seeing fan sports tattoos, featuring celebrity Pittsburgh sports fans, testing Pittsburgh sports trivia and more! It is going to be unlike any Pittsburgh sports show ever done. Premieres Sept. 12.”
Protests over police abuse and for racial equality were seen in many cities beginning in June and continuing today.
“This is a year of change. I can’t help but wonder how people will look back on this year. This is serious. We need to make a difference. CBSN Pittsburgh — our streaming news network — was a great tool to give viewers what they needed. We streamed press conferences (as we did with coronavirus) and showed live video of protests. Viewers were intrigued. Also, during this time, we really took a close look at everything we were airing — on TV and digital — we deleted any promo that may have be interpreted as insensitive.”
“It’s a trying and challenging time,” Veon added. “We’ve all had to maneuver our way around obstacles that a quarantine presents. However, this is also a time to innovate, think outside the box, and that’s exciting. I think what’s most important is to be open to roll with the changes, understand what viewers are feeling and act quickly. Here’s hoping we’re all able to do a We Got Through it Together spot soon.”
WDAF, Nexstar’s Fox affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri (DMA 32) needs a creative services director. The Creative Services Director is responsible for developing and leading the overall marketing strategy of the station, and for designing the promotions that will achieve the objectives of that strategy. Click here for more specifics and how to apply.