How to Build a News Brand            and Win!

02-03-2019 01:56 PM

Want to win news? Build a real brand!

News Departments rarely see changes in their relative position in a market. Oh, they may win a time period or even a book, but few stations win across the board and continue to do so for at least a year. Nevertheless, stations keep trying the same things. They may work on updating or creating a sense of urgency. Or, they may make an anchor change. At the end of the day, none of these things move ratings.

Most broadcasters fail to comprehend what successful brands in other categories have known for years. To break through you must be different than your competition and that difference must be relevant to the viewers regardless of the platform.

Rather than make improvements to the product, it helps to begin by deciding what position the news product should occupy. It must fill a void in the market. That void may not be obvious. The position should project a real sense that you do something that the competition does not and cannot do. For example, most newscasts are fronted by readers. If you are lucky enough to have anchors with honed reporting skills, get them out of the studio and have them start covering the news. Make sure they are seen by the viewers as working journalists.

Build this into a position statement, which is the instruction manual for what your station does that is unique and relevant. The position statement might read, “Channel WXXX knows and conveys the news more insightfully than anyone else because its anchors are constantly on the scene covering it.” They are eyewitnesses to events that other anchors are not. Soon, your anchors will start getting phone calls and messages from newsmakers from every level. And the depth of the information you can provide expands exponentially. This is an extremely marketable position. There are dozens of others, just waiting to be implemented.

But remember, this starts with deciding what you will be, not by randomly improving elements of an existing product.

Why don’t stations adopt this method and build a differentiated brand? Put simply, it is not the way managers think. Most newsroom leaders are driven by traditional research. For example, your research indicates that you are weak at consumer reporting. So, that’s where the focus goes. Let’s assume you successfully address the issue. All that does is get you parity. It does not move ratings ahead. No one is going to switch station loyalty because your work in the consumer area is better that the competitions’. Consumer reporting is only one of many reasons that people have selected a newscast. What is needed is an entire approach that is different and more relevant. You also need a different kind of research that explores viewers’ core emotional values to reveal that position.

Until you fully endorse this view, you will be frustrated trying the same techniques over and over again, and ending up with the same results. In the long run, building a brand is less expensive and a lot more effective.


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