It’s important, so why don’t the networks cover it?

Oct 25

In Social Marketing, everything we do is important. We are changing the world after all, so why aren’t network producers clamoring to do stories on our programs?  

Unfortunately, the networks have criteria that go beyond “important” when deciding what stories they will commit precious resources to cover. Knowing that criteria – which many of our programs can meet – will help us grab a producer’s attention and get valuable exposure to our good work.

During the October 15 broadcast of the NBC Nightly News, Robert Bazell, science correspondent for NBC, did a story on an Avon Foundation-funded program at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center which provides navigation and support services to low income breast cancer patients. 

The program is important, of course, but the story actually offers three essential elements that make the story network quality: good soundbites, compelling audio and visuals, and new information. Pitching it during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, made it a slam dunk.

Good Soundbites

Both the cancer patient and the “navigator” at the hospital were interesting people that gave compelling quotes that would interest the average viewer.  The patient is an actress who talked about the irony of losing her health insurance coverage just when she needed it. She also talks about “feeling like a number” in a big hospital and asks the question, “why can’t everybody have an advocate” like the navigator this program provides.

Compelling Audio and Visuals

My cinema professor in collage told me the opening shot in a film is the most important. This is true of TV as well. The first thing we see in this story is our patient singing in a nightclub – not your typical opening to a medical story. Throughout the piece we see her in several different scenes rehearsing, singing and working with other musicians and performers.

We see the navigator and her staff working with several different patients both inside and outside of the hospital.  We hear one of them calling a patient to remind her of a doctor’s appointment. We even see her helping a patient try on wigs.  Now that’s a picture that’s worth a thousand words.  

New Information

While this program is not new, Bazell uses a new tidbit of information to give the story a news hook.  In his “stand-up” – the part where you see and hear the reporter on camera – he refers to a statistic that makes his report timely: public hospitals have seen a 20% increase in cancer patients since the recession but not a rise in staff or facilities to handle them.  

These three elements – good soundbites, compelling audio and visuals, and new information – made this program not only “important” but interesting and engaging for both network producers and the public at large. These are the elements that we should be looking for to make our “important” stories ready for prime time.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 25th, 2010 at 12:23 pm and is filed under Media, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “It’s important, so why don’t the networks cover it?”

  1. John says:

    >> In Social Marketing, everything we do is important. We are changing the world after all, so why aren’t network producers clamoring to do stories on our programs?

    Please tell me you’re being facetious. It sounds like you actually believe the hype.

  2. Sarah Temple says:

    We don’t serve our clients well if we don’t assess what is of vital national importance vs. what is relevant to the affected population. Mason’s post does a good job of describing how to assess (and build) the newsworthiness of a story while poking fun at those of us who have thought our issue was worthy of national news coverage. Answering “why should they care?” is a vital first step in crafting communications programs that get results through the best strategy — be it national news coverage or community action.