Chris Franklin, the marketing director for ABC affiliate WATN in Memphis, checks in with his thoughts on what qualities he looks for in good marketers and his system to encourage growth and teamwork.
Welcome to another episode of Checking In, a Market Share feature in which we survey local TV marketing and creative services directors to find out who they are, their challenges, their successes and their visions for the future.
Today we visit with Chris Franklin, the marketing director for Tegna’s ABC affiliate in Memphis, WATN. Franklin has been at WATN for two years after a 14-year hiatus from the industry during which he worked for a large Presbyterian church in Memphis.
He says what drew him back to local television was “to make sure what we do is a service for Memphis, everything from [reporting on] crime to holding the powerful accountable to being partners with nonprofits.”
Franklin says through The Tegna Foundation, WATN is able to partner with nonprofits in the Memphis community like a local blood bank, which was very low in blood donations.
“Our television station is more than just what’s on air,” Franklin say. “It’s being integrated in people’s lives day to day.”
Since he’s been at WATN, the station launched a new brand, ABC24 Memphis. Since then, “we have had exponential growth both digitally and linearly,” Franklin says. “It’s up like 600% with digital.”
In addition, the station got its first creative services Emmy award.
“It was quite a big deal for us,” Franklin says.
Winning an Emmy can go a long way to motivating a marketing staff, but in addition, Franklin started a system to help his staff grow and learn by pairing them with someone in the department who has experience in that skillset.
“They work with their team members to develop skills that they want to learn,” he says. “That natural learning and growing as teams begin to develop authentic relationships.”
Franklin says an example of that teamwork is Sydney Neely, who spent extra time learning how to work with Instagram.
“Since she has started in my department, she has tripled our Instagram followers,” Franklin says.
Franklin believes that when hiring local news marketers, he looks for people who would make a great fit, “an inspirational person, a motivator or they have a passion for marketing news, those people that are gifted in ways that can help and they may not be the traditional marketers,” he says.
Franklin says his promotion manager, Kevin Barbee, had never worked in promotions before. He was an on-air sports reporter and photographer who cares about doing a good job.
“That is what helps him become an exceptional promotions manager,” Franklin says. “We are just looking for great people.”
On balancing the demands put on his department to market traditional linear news as well as digital and social media, “I have to be hyper focused when it is a station initiative to get things done,” Franklin says.
And sometimes that might mean he has to say no.
“I have conversations with either sales or news, the content team or even engineering as to why we can’t,” Franklin says. “You have to have very clear conversations as to why and tell them to understand sustained excellence is a priority.”
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