How to Score National Television Broadcast Coverage

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | May 19, 2010

The relaunch of legendary toy retailer FAO Schwarz in New York City on Thanksgiving Day drew dozens of camera crews and resulted in more than 650 broadcast hits locally, nationally and worldwide within the first week of the store's reopening. Obviously considered hard news by the press, the event was a magnet for broadcast, in particular, given the wealth of visuals to choose from: the uniformed "toy" soldiers at the front entrance; excited children lined up to be among the first to get in when the doors opened; the enormous signature bronze bear sculpture at the entrance - an ongoing "photo op" for parents whose youngsters could not resist the urge to crawl up and sit on its lap.

Once inside, the camera crews had a field day, photographing the life-size "studio plush" ranging from majestic elephants and giraffes to adorable pigs and other farm animals. A nursery where children could "adopt" an infant was staffed by uniformed "nurses". The giant piano made famous by Tom Hanks in the movie "Big" took center stage on the store's mezzanine, and featured performances throughout the day by trained store associates as well as shoppers.

The decision to debut the store on a national family holiday was a calculated risk that paid off. Camera crews already assigned to cover Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade did double duty by heading a few blocks over to cover the FAO Schwarz opening. The launch gave FAO Schwarz a jump start on "Black Friday" stories that kick off the holiday shopping season the day after Thanksgiving. Publicity generated by the camera crews that showed up on Thanksgiving Day created a momentum that carried through the entire holiday season. FAO Schwarz was the backdrop of choice for holiday shopping broadcast coverage.

Prior to opening day, we had provided an advance exclusive to NBC's "Today" to have the first look inside the store and to conduct the first interview with the retailer's CEO. Due to the momentum created by this piece and the opening day coverage, FAO Schwarz was also featured by the other two network morning shows between Thanksgiving and Christmas - rare in the competitive world of morning television.

It's easy to see how a legitimate news event is the most logical route to securing national broadcast coverage. As you will see from the next example, however, it is not the only one.

A few years ago, we were challenged to achieve a hit on NBC's "Today" for our client, Boca Raton Resort, Club & Spa. In the absence of a hard news angle, we turned to the resort's executive chef with an idea: Could he create a dish representing each of the five recently nominated films for that year's Academy Awards? He accepted our challenge and developed five beautifully presented dishes to represent each of the nominated films. Sure that we had a winning idea, we approached a producer at "Today" and the idea was accepted. The chef and his dishes were featured on "Today" the morning of that year's Oscar presentation. The exchange between the chef and co-host Matt Lauer was lively and entertaining. We achieved our goal and our client, needless to say, was delighted with the result.

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