E.W. Scripps

Synergy can work if you work at it

Bonnie Barclay, president, The Branding Iron; Sheila Obermeyer, director of marketing, WCPO Cincinnati

Depending on the circumstance, synergy is either a horrible waste of time or the smartest use of a company's varied assets. E.W. Scripps Television Group prefers the latter.

To accomplish that, Scripps employs Bonnie Barclay, a marketing veteran and president of her own Atlanta-based company, The Branding Iron, which coordinates promotion between Scripps' broadcasting outlets and its high-flying cable networks, particularly HGTV, The Food Network, DIY and Fine Living.

For example, DIY (for Do It Yourself) is a Scripps cable network, but it's also a local TV show in some of Scripps' broadcast markets.

“DIY is a terrific example of our synergy,” says Barclay, who is getting a Brand Builders Award for her prowess. “It grew out of the idea that the stations and the cable networks would work together to help each other.”

Barclay and others make sure that the local versions are relevant to Scripps markets. “You can do a DIY segment on how to get rock salt off your car in Detroit, where we own WXYZ,” she says, “but you don't want to run that segment in Phoenix,” where Scripps owns KNXV.

Another example: Before Iron Chef America started on The Food Network, Barclay made sure that Scripps stations with chatty morning shows aired behind-the-scenes segments about it. The result: Iron Chef America had the most-viewed debut in Food Network history.

Obviously, Barclay knows that promos on Scripps' stations are just a part of a larger, company-wide promotional and programming effort. Still, she insists on a “very aggressive schedule of promos for the cable properties” and keeps those cable promotional activities going even during sweeps periods at the stations. She notes with pride that stations like the interaction with the cable networks.

“We don't cook 'em up; they cook 'em up,” she says, referring to some of the best synergistic promotions. In Detroit, WXYZ teamed with DIY and Habitat for Humanity to have former President Jimmy Carter help with a building project in Motown. In Cleveland, WEWS dreamed up the The Great Big Food Show, for which Food Network chefs showed up at a food fair sponsored by the station. Scripps' 10 traditional stations run “interstitials,” short info-snippets prepared by Scripps cable networks, in their newscasts. (Five other Scripps stations are Shop at Home channels that operate separately, in terms of promotion.)

Barclay's job includes coordinating other messages at Scripps stations, such as integrating company-wide slogans like “Coverage You Can Count On” and “Working for You.”

She watches a lot of tapes of local promos and can quickly see little flaws before they develop into big problems. “It takes a great deal of trust for them to let me look at their work and make suggestions,” she says, adding, “but sometimes it is just a forest-for-the-trees kind of problem.”

And sometimes things work so well, Barclay can only smile. At WCPO in Scripps' hometown of Cincinnati, Director of Marketing Sheila Obermeyer, also a Brand Builders honoree, played a big part in turning the ABC affiliate into one of the network's top performers. She credits tight coordination between her department and News Director Bob Morford for creating promos that often seamlessly tie in to ABC programs. The magic, she says, is finding a relationship with the newsroom that “they can feel comfortable with.”

It's another example of cooperation that Barclay knows is crucial for success. “Viewers are bombarded by so many messages,” she says, “getting the hearts and minds of viewers is much harder than it used to be.”