“Everybody Needs Answers”
New Orleans stations earn Promax honors for extraordinary public interest
By Joel Brown -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/18/2006 8:00:00 PM
They stand out. Every year, Promax/BDA, working in conjunction with Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News, honors a handful of promotions and marketing executives, or their organizations, for creating campaigns that viewers notice and care about. On the pages that follow are their stories. We also salute this year's Century Award winners—CNN's Larry King, CBS' Mike Wallace and Lifetime's Betty Cohen—who are being celebrated for their contributions to the television business. Our congratulations to all.
Sometimes, brand building has little to do with cutting the right spots or hitting the right demo and everything to do with the highest definition of what it means to be a broadcaster.
That's why Promax is giving Brand Builder awards this year to five of New Orleans' television stations, which, like the city itself, found themselves transformed by Hurricane Katrina. Staffers struggled through wind and water to report the story, even as they lost studios or transmitters and, in many cases, their own homes.
“It has humbled everybody,” says Larry Delia, VP/general manager of Tribune's ABC affiliate WGNO and WB station WNOL. “This is not any kind of fluffy news situation. This is certainly the country's worst natural disaster, and this crisis will remain for years to come.”
WGNO and WNOL were knocked off the air but resumed broadcasting after relocating to ABC affiliate WBRZ Baton Rouge, La. When the storm waters receded, the stations returned home and set up shop in two double-wide trailers.
“We all got in a room with producers and news directors and many of our management, and we said, 'What can we be right now to the viewer in New Orleans?'” Delia says. “And we boiled it down to 'everybody needs answers.' Every homeowner needs answers, and they need a ton of them. So we actually moved our branding and our slogan to 'Getting Answers.' We felt that it was very appropriate and tells everybody what we're trying to do.”
They weren't the only ones taking a new direction. Hearst-owned NBC affiliate WDSU has “rebuilt our brand from the ground up,” says Creative Services Director Joseph Schiltz.
“Before the storm, we were a high-story-count, high-energy, breaking-news television station,” he says. “When we came back, we really kind of relaunched this television station as an advocate, with a new slogan, 'On Your Side,' and we created this sense of purpose, this mandate for our reporters, photographers, account executives, everyone.” That has meant adding a half-hour after the late news, called 6 On Your Side Live, which lets viewers call in or e-mail questions to authorities.
The stations are also trying to help viewers in more-concrete ways—in some cases, literally. At Belo-owned CBS affiliate WWL, Creative Services Director Kelly Donnell points to a benefit concert featuring veteran New Orleans musician George Porter that helped raise $25,000 for Habitat for Humanity efforts to build new homes for storm victims in the area.
WWL also launched a campaign to restore City Park in New Orleans, which lost more than 1,000 trees to Katrina. (On the Promax schedule this week is a fundraiser that will allow attendees to contribute to the campaign.) Donnell says the station thought that it was important for New Orleans to have “a safe, green, peaceful place for families to go.”
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