PR Lessons from Fall Television in the Age of Streaming

19 May 2020 14:20

A new media launch is a PR masterclass. No matter the field you promote in, you can draw inspiration and information from observing how movies, television shows and online media offerings present themselves. With the recent launch of fall TV shows in the U.S., there are plenty of great examples to choose from, each teaching a slightly different lesson.

In fact, this may be the most interesting crop of fall television shows since the beginning of the medium because of the changing nature of television. With the rise of dedicated streaming platforms that can launch their own shows at any time, what does it mean to promote a TV program? How are programmers pursuing coverage and buzz, and how can their methods apply to your day-to-day operations?

Lesson 1: Look for unconventional promotional channels
As a savvy promoter in your chosen industry, you likely know the news sources that are expected to pick up on your company or client's products and promote them. But what if this laser focus is limiting your reach?

The fall TV season brought a reminder that media outlets are willing to periodically expand their coverage and intentionally highlight items that normally fall outside their purview. In a prime example, sports and entertainment site The Ringer spent a week spotlighting shows that don't get much attention from the types of reviewers who make up the crop of cultural critics, calling the series "Airing In Plain Sight." Now, network stalwarts "Survivor" and "Grey's Anatomy" are prominently displayed on a site that normally focuses on new or cutting-edge TV.

PR professionals should take the lesson to heart and ensure their media monitoring can cover a huge variety of media sources, even outside of the ones that normally cover the industry in question. Great opportunities for outreach could crop up in new and unexpected places.

Lesson 2: Check back in

You're always ready to launch a heavy push for a new product or campaign, but how are you at keeping up momentum for something that's already going?

Television seasons are important sources of renewal. When new episodes of existing series start airing, it's a chance to get new viewers on board, especially in this age of the binge catch-up. All people need is an exciting hook and the essential knowledge of what they've missed. So when you're scrolling through TV Guide's recaps of 50(!) returning programs, ask yourself what you can do to re-engage your own audience. When attention has faded, the time is ripe to reintroduce the world to a product, coupled with an irresistible hook.

Lesson 3: Stay calm in crises

One of the hottest TV news stories this fall comes from a show that won't air until next year, and isn't part of the U.S. network lineup. That said, the deafening media coverage means it earns a mention: That show is The Great British Bake Off.

The hit competition has jumped ship from U.K. state broadcaster the BBC to commercial network Channel 4, and the story has held twists, turns and an important PR lesson. The whole story could have been a PR disaster for the BBC, with the high-rated show leaving. However, the national network weathered a few days of doubt and, according to The Guardian, the channel has retained 3 of 4 main presenters from the show and may launch a new program with them - before the Bake Off name gets off the ground at Channel 4.

The BBC has taken control of the narrative, with sources speaking with The Guardian to confirm that it is possible that the channel will keep the beloved hosts within its own lineup, and to reassure the audience at home that it can launch its own program.

Now, with the news source reporting that some fans are angry at Paul Hollywood, the one host who did not remain with the BBC, and Channel 4 up for questioning by Parliament over its programming practices, it appears the BBC is not the channel in crisis. Staying the course and offering reassuring comments to media can defuse tricky situations.

Learn from showbiz

Television is more than a source of entertainment, it's also great for inspiration. Organizations that run their PR departments with the flair of a network's flagship program rollout stand to gain immensely from the coverage they reap, no matter the industry.

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