WVEC in Hampton Roads, Va., saw increased viewership when the station used tune-in promos for special reports that aired in targeted newscasts.
Targeted Special Reports, known as TSRs, are a tool used by local TV news, usually during ratings periods, to increase tune-in on select days in specific newscasts.
They’re not breaking news, but long-form stories and investigations researched by reporters and producers to bring awareness and possible solutions to problems in the community. The subject matter is diverse, as wide-ranging as the social issues they address.
The special reports are usually written, edited and packaged in advance, so the news department can target the day and the newscast on which they will air.
It is the job of the stations’ marketing and creative services departments to create tune-in promos for those TSRs on TV and other assorted creative for other media outlets where the station might be advertising.
Does the strategy work? How do stations perform in the ratings on days when they promote TSRs in their newscasts?
In November 2023, WVEC, Tegna’s NBC affiliate in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, saw an increase in ratings of 11.3% in its morning news program, Daybreak, and a 2.3% boost in its 6 p.m. newscast when the station promoted a TSR on those days.
“Our ratings on average are higher than the days we don’t promote,” says Jason Ruel, WVEC’s creative manager. Ruel uses adults 25-54 impressions from Comscore to measure.
How does he know that?
Ruel wanted to show his marketing staff — and station leadership — that the work makes a difference. So, he researched the news ratings for the specific newscasts on those days when the station aired promos for the TSRs.
“In marketing, it is really tough to actually have somebody visibly and tangibly show you how you have made a difference,” Ruel says.
Ruel says he created promos for 10 special reports that aired during the station’s 6 p.m. newscasts, and eight promos for the special reports in the morning newscasts.
To reach an effective reach and frequency threshold on his own air, that may be too many. Typically, stations create two TSRs a week so the promos for them can reach an effective level of reach and frequency.
And due to political ads in the beginning of the month, he had less inventory than normal, further handicapping his efforts.
But Ruel was able to juggle his on-air schedule so that each promo for the 6 p.m. and the morning news TSR didn’t compete for time.
Ruel says the station had some outside media to bolster WVEC’s own air.
In general, the station created 15-second spots to promote the TSRs. But Ruel tells his producers, “If the TSR warrants 30-seconds, we will do 30 seconds.”
After the November ratings period, WVEC staff gathered for a post-mortem meeting to dig into the ratings results.
Ruel says everybody was in the meeting — his marketing team, the general manager, news director, assistant news director, digital manager and news photographers.
The team looked at every promo done for the TSRs and asked themselves: Was the promise that was made in the promo fulfilled in the story?
In general, the ratings results show that “we are better on the days that we promote,” Ruel says. “To be honest there’s a little fear in me that the numbers won’t bear it out,” Ruel says. “I’m happy to show them that viewers notice.”
NOTE: There have been times when we’ve all had to create news promos for TSRs that, for a variety of reasons, do not include any video from the actual story. One reason be that the TSR has yet to be written, shot or edited. Another might be that, especially years ago, the lead time to get the promo to a cable buy requires it. Or you have an idea, a concept, that you think will work better, even though you might have to shoot some video to make that happen.
If you have any TSR promos that fit that description, let me know and we’ll share them.
Here are some that I, along with help from producers, photographers and free talent we’ve recruited, made from scratch:
We shot this promo in a New Orleans jail. The prisoner in his cell is the warden, as all the prisoners were moved. The little boy was the son of a neighbor.
We shot this at a local high school. The students helped us with the issues they mentioned.
All we had to work with was some shots of alligators at a local alligator farm.
We recruited a production person to be the stand-in for this promo.
We used a driving simulator game to drive home the message in this promo.
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