There's nothing like an identity crisis to get things rolling in the right direction. Until recently, KPIX San Francisco's news programs boasted the station's prowess with the tagline "News Is Everywhere," suggesting that its news teams were everywhere, too.
Fact is, for more than a decade, KPIX news was, Nielsen-wise, nowhere at all. But the news has changed, and so has the promotion, under General Manager Ron Longinotti and Promotion Director Steve Poitras. When Longinotti joined CBS-owned KPIX (from its cross-town rival, powerhouse Fox affiliate KTVU), the station's promotional efforts took off.
The former tagline set a fundamentally overblown tone, says Poitras: "It was too far-reaching as a marketing pitch." The real trouble was that the news wasn't that good.
Now it is, under new News Director Dan Rosenheim. News promos are trumpeted widely during the day on cable, radio, and the station and updated depending on the magnitude of the report.
We have such flexibility of media use," Poitras points out, "that, in any one day, as much as $50,000 of media expense might go into promoting that night's news across a platform of 15 radio stations, five cable networks, and our own stations."
Now, when KPIX is advertising its news on radio (or its own air), it is now able change its promotional messages on a dime. It used to take a long time to change those spots.
Providing more-timely promotions also meant eliminating the traditional skepticism between the news and promo departments, which once worked at cross-purposes. However, Poitras says, marketing has become more effective because the departments are now on the same page. They both want the same kind of product. He describes it as "a process of looking inward."
The synergy and trust shared by the two departments is reinforced at twice-daily meetings when they swap information about news and promotion plans for the evening's programs.
"I think we've managed to enlist the news department's trust because we will not oversell a story just to get viewers' attention," Poitras says. "We know that tactic backfires when the viewers see a pattern of the news stories not fulfilling the promise of the promo."
Viewers have noticed: In the May sweeps, KPIX was No. 1 at 11 p.m. for the first time in 14 years and was the market's only station to improve from the same period a year ago. It's not a one time bit of good luck: The newscast has won four out of the past five sweeps.