May TV co-workers, old and new, avoid certain PR tactics

Hi. Remember me? Long story short, 2017 was quite a busy one. Much of my free time was spent seeking new work and, ultimately, changing TV jobs. You can see the basic details at DougMorris.net if you’d like. The rest of the story is best saved for another blog entry or, perhaps better yet, my memoir that comes out in another two decades or so.

One thing I can go in-depth without much fear of retribution is this. Near the end of one year and/or the start of another, when I was a TV newscast producer, I would get showered with e-mails from certain representatives of certain products that would be on display at a certain Consumer Electronics Show in a certain Nevada city. Certainly, I’ve used “certain” more times that necessary.

These e-mails would invite stations (read: beg and plead) to book satellite interviews from Las Vegas as their products would be on display for stations’ viewers to see. If you’re a local newscast producer and you’ve already booked an SMT along these lines, bail out ASAP.

Broader picture: If you ever get a satellite interview request and the phrase “SMT sponsored by (insert company’s name here),” or something to that effect, is included therein, forward the e-mail to your news director and sales manager immediately. That company is looking to avoid buying up commercial time on your station and is taking a supposedly cheaper route (read: PR companies and representatives of products of company’s labors).

If the SMT request doesn’t have obvious commercialism, discuss the matter with your news director – who’s probably going to say no anyway. If the SMT is health-related, odds are good your boss will recommend a reporter speak with a doctor on the proposed matter at the local level.

Now — back to the Consumer Electronics Show. At my previous TV job, I had access from the feed services of two broadcast networks and CNN. History has shown correspondents from those feed services would be sent to Vegas to cover the CES – without endorsing specific products. I’m reasonably certain (there’s that word again) the 2018 CES will be no different in terms of news coverage.

As for said previous responsibility, my interest in satellite interviews was at an all-time low. The number of times I actually signed up for an SMT over a two-decade-plus-span I can count on one hand. About a year after I started producing a morning newscast, I would hear from several people on the phone wanting to book satellite interviews. Those calls would evolve into e-mail messages that would clog up my inbox.

I usually would respond with something to this effect: “Unless you’re offering an interview with strong Mississippi ties or a strong connection to a program that airs on our station, and it has *zero* business involvement, no dice.” In one of those rare moments of interest, I still remember actually booking an interview with Jillian Michaels, one of the original trainers on “The Biggest Loser”.

Michaels had written a book full of tips on exercise, weight loss, nutrition, etc. As I saw it, it was a golden opportunity to promote a then-popular show. Worries of product placement were minimal at best.

Days before the interview, I had to cancel. Change of heart and/or head? No. Mandate from the bosses? No. Technical issues? No. I still remember writing the companies that set this up that it was with major regret we had to cancel the arrangements in late August of 2005. We had to bail out because Hurricane Katrina was on the way.

The organizers were totally understanding. As consolation, they sent a DVD of generic clips from Michaels on her book. We ran a few of them months after the new normal settled in after the storm.

Bottom line: Thanks to evolving technology and evolving resources at the local level, TV newscast producers really don’t need satellite interviews. Local experts, feed services and content from sister stations should adequately pick up where SMTs leave off. Best to leave those SMT organizers – dare I say it – hurtin’ for certain.

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