As the world continues to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, TV station marketers are leaning into their audiences now more than ever.
“A crisis is what local news is made for, and the way our teams have quickly rallied has been nothing short of miraculous and impressive,” Meredith Conte, vice president, consumer and ad sales marketing, Tegna said during Promax’s live webinar, “How TV Station Marketers are Tackling the Challenges of Coronavirus,” on Tuesday.
The live webinar, presented by Stephen Arnold Music, brought three broadcast industry leaders together to discuss how local teams have rallied together to adapt their strategies during the current stage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although messaging during the early stages of the pandemic had a “we’re all in this together” mentality, Dan Zimmerman, executive director, promotion and marketing at Sinclair Broadcast Group, said station marketers are far beyond that. Instead, they’re applying a local angle to the global coronavirus story to keep their communities safe.
“We take our cues from our content and the market. What is the market telling us?” said John Kukla, vice president, creative services at Fox-owned KDFW/KDFI Dallas-Fort Worth.
Instead of promo marketing, Tegna has focused on content marketing by being adaptable, gauging their audience’s needs, and providing health, mindfulness or mini-workout tips during breaks.
“The teams have been really creative about how to make sure the breaks just aren’t about pushing messages, but more about how am I giving consumers short-form content that has value to what they need right now,” Conte said.
“We’re balancing the COVID-19 stories and how to work through it [while] getting back into the regular news game. We have a number of [ongoing], investigative pieces to give people a break from non-stop COVID coverage while still covering it,” Zimmerman added.
Kukla said the approaches at KDFW/KDFI Dallas-Fort Worth are similar; however, they’ve gradually snuck sports back into their programming by interviewing star athletes about their pandemic experiences.
“At some point, you need a little bit of a palette cleanser,” Kukla said.
Kukla, Conte and Zimmerman all agreed that each market is facing different circumstances, so adaptability is key to a successful marketing strategy. While some states want to return to normal in a robust fashion, others are more cautious. Therefore, it’s important for local teams to stay connected to their state officials and politicians to plan ahead.
“Once you build that relationship, if something’s happening, you’re the first person they’re going to talk to. Keep those relationships year-round,” Kukla said.
“It’s better in this situation to over-prepare and not use material than [be] underprepared. Listen and plan, but then be nimble to change the plan as things evolve,” Conte said.
As lockdowns begin to lift as soon as next month in some states, there’s no telling what the future will hold, they said. But adaptability, increased communication within their teams, and stripped-down productions will likely linger after the pandemic.
“This really does resonate with viewers right now—being genuine, real and not needing to have a million lights everywhere. A cell phone is just as good as a camera nowadays and people are okay with it,” Zimmerman said.
Although all three panelists agreed that there’s no definitive next step when the pandemic is over, Conte advises all stations to reflect on what did and didn’t work for them to ensure success if future crisis surfaces.
“Companies that [are] doing really well are companies that really know who they are, what they stand for, and how to deliver that to the market… You should evaluate, ‘Do we have the right foundational approach to our brand?’” Conte said.
“Keep listening to your market. Your market will tell you where to go next. If you are responsive and acknowledge what goes on in your market and newscast, you will be fine,” Kukla concluded.
During Promax’s next live webinar on Thursday, “#AlltheFeels,” two members of ViacomCBS’s Velocity Cultural Intelligence team will present their latest study into the “truth-telling, meme-finding, emotion-sharing minds of today’s young people and how it relates to culture and brands.” Registration is now open.
Check out Tuesday’s full session below, which was made possible by the support of Stephen Arnold Music: