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Visiting Professor - Day 2- Get out of the Way

“Don’t get in the way,” is the sage advice of Bernadette O’Grady, Programming and Public Relations manager at WPTV-TV. When I asked her what I should tell recently graduated students she was eager to give me her opinion. She told me that students should listen more than talk. They should listen to directions and not “get in the way” when dealing with clients or productions. I agreed. A student with limited experience needs to keep learning on their first job. Shut up, help and don’t become a problem. It is not about you. It is about the thing you create or sell.

I keep learning my role. I recently heard the words of an executive producer say, “You’re just the photographer, so you don’t need to be in the meeting.” You signed on for a job, not someone else’s job, so do what you need to do and get out of their way. No matter where you are in your career you need to know your role.

After two days at WPTV-TV, I feel the familiar strains of broadcast television and there is a uncanny familiarity or a sense of deja-vu. The sales department is the leader of any TV station. If they can’t sell commercial time for your newscast or the network program then the operation floats in dead water.

This morning I sat in on their weekly sales meeting and enjoyed their camaraderie as they discussed their upcoming quarter. We celebrated the announcement of their #1, #2 and #3 sales people. The #1 sales person sold 138% of their television sales goals and 230% of their digital sales goals! Wow! The engine of WPTV-TV is running very well. They are the #1 station in the market and that provides greater opportunities.

Many people believe TV is dying. I’m learning it isn’t that simple. Right now, if I’m going to sell something to someone, TV still gives the best value for the cost per thousands than any other platform, that includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or whatever digital platform you have. The various ways to monetize the local affiliate product is the issue today. Too many people see TV’s death as a binary choice because they don’t watch TV, but they probably do but don’t know it! You may not know it but the sales departments are finding ways to get news products in places you didn’t expect or knew was sold. TV news isn’t just sold in TV spots. It’s sold on many platforms on many levels.

I spent almost 2 hours with John Gibson, Digital Sales Manager of WPTV-TV and he gave me some amazing insights (maybe not to my students but to me…the old guy) that the depth of sales is far greater than I imagined. Internet sales are based on cost per thousands. Clicks and impressions bring revenue, we all know that, but in reality TV news is now a boutique industry.

In the 1970’s, TV News marketed itself to everyone with a shotgun affect. Spread their message far and wide and see if anyone gets hit by it. Today, sales managers use algorithms to target YOU! Yes, they know everything about you. Your cell phone tells us where you travel, how far, how frequent, and what did you buy. TV stations don’t need to appeal to the masses, they need you if you are in their target demographic. We are all tied to Big Data and that’s what helps sales representatives sell their product.

I’ve been puzzled for many years over how TV news wills stay relevant, but really that’s not the issue. Stressing about “saving TV” is missing the concept. Informing the public is the goal. The public square is not just the television world and every news organization must follow where the public lives. News organizations are aware of their situation and drilling into the places where they will maintain their relevance.

Finally, I tell my students that when they get their first job they need to listen and hang out with their co-workers. I tell them that casual conversations reveal great truths about the work place and your coworkers.

Cathy Goltz organized an after work get together with the Sales Managers. We met up with Sales Consultant Roland Eckstein and had dinner. Roland is a great guy. He told us some great stories about his career and people he met along the way. I listened and was impressed by his enthusiasm and success. If I was 30 years younger, I’d join this sales force.

Students: Leadership doesn’t come with a degree. It comes with being able to dodge the attacks, face the consequences and act with integrity. Roland told us a story of when three General Managers were furious over one of his employees. He did the ethical thing and gave those stations a break, and he took the hit. However, it secured his position with those stations and the corporation. He did the right thing.

Lots of lessons learned today.

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