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As new stations launch, don't ignore the PR opportunities of local TV

New local line-up: STV Edinburgh launched this week

Once upon a time as an account exec: I am sat in a boardroom with a high-end property developer client and the boss of the PR firm I worked for. My boss suggests to said developer that we should be aiming for coverage in a certain Scottish red top; the developer pulls his best lemon sucking face.

“Not our target market,” he says, matter of factly.

“Really?” asks my boss.

“So footballers aren’t your target market? Commuters? Bosses of big firms? Lottery winners?”

His point was, of course, that everyone reads the red tops. Just not everyone admits to it.

Fast forward a few years and I’m having similar conversations with clients about local TV. Some clients are embracing it, seeing it as a key opportunity for reaching their target audiences. Looking for new content and in the process of establishing their shows, producers and researchers are open to new ideas and guests (and therefore to working with PRs, which, when you’ve spent years persuading/begging producers to let your client on for a four-second slot, is a gift from heaven).

However we’re also seeing reticence from other clients who see it as ‘too local’, not established enough and in a couple of cases, not ‘prestige’ enough. They don’t feel that the ‘right’ people are watching in order to make their time investment worthwhile.

These clients bring me back to my conversation all those years ago about the red tops: why should clients bother?

In its first month, June 2014, STV Glasgow reached 572,000 viewers, and has been one of the most successful local TV initiatives. Wouldn’t any newspaper be happy with that figure? And according to the Local TV Network, in STV Glasgow’s first month, almost 30 per cent of all viewers in the transmission area tuned in at least once, with the average viewer watching the channel at least three times throughout the month. For a city the size of Glasgow, that’s pretty impressive. In addition to the TV audience, there were also an additional 50,000 live and catch-up streams on the STV Player.

With these figures, businesses should ignore local TV at their peril. As well as being a great platform to reach local markets and engage the community, local TV also reaches firms’ staff, offering a really good route to boost their teams’ profiles and staff morale. Avoiding this valuable platform could mean that superb opportunities are missed. The potential audience capture for clients, particularly on flagship shows like the STV Glasgow’s Riverside Show, is sizable, however local TV still struggles with a slight image problem as the ‘poor sister’ of national TV.

As a PR I will fight the corner for local TV, as I see it as a valuable platform for our clients, as well as (on a less mercenary level) a valuable community resource. It’s up to us PRs to work alongside local TV to help make it a success – promoting it to our clients as an excellent opportunity to reach a geographically targeted but demographically-wide audience, and offering producers and researchers really good stories and interviews and exclusives, which in turn will keep viewers tuning in.

Local TV launched this week in Edinburgh and is due to follow soon in Ayr, Aberdeen and Dundee. These are centres with large, educated and cultured populations with huge potential for interesting and fresh material. There is huge potential for local TV to be a platform for cultural and popular discussion, as well as covering issues and news that matters to local people.

And to those clients who still don’t feel it’s ‘quite right’ for them, I say: everyone puts on the Riverside Show while they’re having their tea.

Lisa Mennie is a director of Skylark Public Relations

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