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Local TV news in the new normal: Which COVID-spurred changes will remain after the pandemic?

by | Aug 2, 2021 | Public Relations

Amid the many changes ushered in during the COVID crisis, one big change in the media world was the virtual disappearance of on-the-ground footage. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, you might see a journalist in a war zone or remote area on the air via Skype. That changed—it’s become commonplace to see interviews with brand and non-profit spokespeople via Zoom or other proprietary system. But how widespread was that change—and will these changes stick after the pandemic ends?

Local TV news in the new normal: Which COVID-spurred changes will remain after the pandemic?Now we have the answers. In a survey of local TV news producers from satellite media tour and virtual event production firm D S Simon Media, 85 percent of journalists said they plan to continue using Zoom to conduct interviews even after the pandemic ends.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in local TV news producers’ willingness to interview spokespeople who work directly for a brand or non-profit,” said Doug Simon, CEO & founder of D S Simon Media, in a news release. “What this report tells us is stations have adapted to the increased access new technologies have given them to provide information for their viewers and it will continue. It’s a huge opportunity for brands to get their message out.”

Local TV news in the new normal: Which COVID-spurred changes will remain after the pandemic?

The survey also found that 93 percent of stations were open to conducting interviews with brand or non-profit spokespeople in their homes, offices or on location; 52 percent were open to conducting the interview in a client-provided studio location and 37 percent were open to having the spokesperson come to the station for the interview. These are the highest numbers we’ve ever seen, Simon indicated.

The gap in station preference between remote production on location and other forms of interviews widened considerably when they were asked to share their preference. When asked if they preferred to conduct interviews from someone’s home, office or on location compared to the person either be in a studio or at the station, 83 percent of them preferred the location option.

Local TV news in the new normal: Which COVID-spurred changes will remain after the pandemic?“One of the things we’ve always said is that it’s far more authentic to be interviewed from a location than from inside a studio,” added Simon.

When given the option, only 9 percent of the producers preferred the interview to be set in a studio provided by the client and an even smaller number (7 percent) wanted the brand or non-profit spokesperson to come into their studio.

“While it used to add a significant cost to have a satellite truck on location, improvements in technology and stations’ preference for this type of transmission have made it more affordable and in turn, led to increased bookings.” This has led to an increase in average bookings for a satellite media tour to over 30 per tour during 2021, reports Simon.

Not only is this approach better for stations, the TV producers felt it was a better way for the spokesperson to deliver their message effectively. Eighty-five percent felt this interview format was more authentic—an important factor for consumers when making buying decisions according to research conducted by Stackla, a user generated content platform used by marketers. They found 86 percent of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support.

Local TV news in the new normal: Which COVID-spurred changes will remain after the pandemic?

The survey dug deeper to help communicators better understand their opportunities to get their spokespeople interviewed on television stations across the country.

A key factor was having the ability to deliver the signal to stations in multiple ways if you are launching a campaign: 82 percent of stations are conducting interviews via Zoom, 42 percent take the interview via satellite and 36 percent have the spokesperson’s team send them a video file of the interview they conduct. Others wanted the spokespeople to connect via proprietary systems. “Brands need to be able to set-up quickly to be able to conduct interviews with broadcasters and their senior leadership when opportunities arise,” said Simon. “If they are planning a media campaign such as a satellite media tour, they need to be able to deliver the signal in multiple ways or they will miss out on interview opportunities.”

D S Simon Media sent emails with links to the survey to local TV reporters and producers across the country. Fifty-five television producers from local TV news stations across the country responded anonymously. The results were tabulated by Survey Monkey and the survey was completed during the second quarter of 2021.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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