Monday, February 7, 2011

Sweeps stuff

Despite all the changes in our industry, we're still pretty much under the thumb of the ratings and the three sweeps months of February, May and November. Some things have changed over the years; the public now understands the concept of sweeps, and they know everyone will go all out during these three months. Of course, smart NDs know that you're in sweeps all year... most viewers don't change their habits for one month. You build an audience over time by doing a solid job every day.

That said, you guys are still expected to go the extra mile. In some stations, the sweeps calendar will be checked with the daily numbers; how did that expose on killer escalators fare on a Wednesday night? In some cases, you're at the mercy of the promotions department, your network lead-in, or both. You might knock out a terrific package on the stairway to death, but if your newscast follows a real dog on the network's prime time lineup, it might not matter.

In reality, what does matter is the effort you put into your sweeps stories and the final product. So, a few things you can do to take things to another level.

-Do a standup. It's amazing that I have to even say this, but television reporters are expected to be seen on camera. I continue to see a majority of packages that are done sans standup, the reporter a disembodied voice that could belong to anyone. The viewer needs to connect the voice with the face, and the face with the story, and that story needs to add to your brand. No more excuses here: if you're continuing to say to yourself, "I couldn't think of a standup" or "I didn't have time" you're not trying hard enough. Would you go out on a date with someone based on a voice, or do you need to see the person? The viewer feels the same way. The viewer needs a relationship with you, and needs to know what you look like in order to do that.

-Use a tripod. This isn't MTV. It's news. Don't make the viewers reach for the dramamine.

-Interview more than one person for your story. Journalism 101, guys. Find the second point of view, and the third, and the fourth.

-Use your voice to convey your interest, emotion or both. You need to sound as though you're totally into the story. If you sound interested, the viewer will be interested.

-Give your promotions department (if you have one) good stuff to work with. Take the time to point out the good shots, to explain the story, even to offer ideas of what might be the most promotable part of your story.

-Go over your ideas on how you might cover the story with your ND or a veteran on the staff.

-Really put some effort into edition. Nat sound, quick cuts, and avoiding jump cuts can really help a package look good.

Got all that? Fine. Now do it every day, regardless of whether or not we're in sweeps.


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