By Al Sunshine, RTDNA Contributor
As the November book comes to an end, frazzled television newsrooms all over the country are probably concentrating on how their sweeps numbers are shaking out. But "Black Friday" shopping is the start of the “retail Superbowl“ holiday season across the country. Serving your viewers to build audience trust and loyalty should still be getting a lot of attention. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Holiday Hiring Up or Down?
Jobs are a critical national concern and part-time retail hiring should be a interesting story this year. Is it better than last year or are businesses reluctant to add much more help? How can you help viewers find a holiday job? What kind of tips are local job counselors offering job seekers? Some businesses may be eager to find new workers who will talk about how happy they are getting back to work. That’s a good story that needs to be told, tempered by the reality that most part-timers will be cut after the holidays.
Finding the Best Deals
For consumers, can you do better than just covering the usual opening-day mobs rushing to get those so-called Black Friday "bargains?” Some analysts say the prices get even lower after Black Friday as retailers get nervous about unsold inventories and start slashing prices even deeper closer to Christmas. What do your market analysts say about the best time to find the best deals as the end of the year approaches?
Will cash be king this year?
Can smart shoppers use cash as leverage to ask for even better prices at the check out counter? Most financial planners advise using cash can save us big bucks when it comes the end of the month and those credit card bills and their high interest rates start coming due.
Online shopping will continue to expand this year, how is it affecting local retailers?
Start asking questions now about whether local retailers will really match online prices? Or will they cite all the “fine print” and exclusions they require which prevents many shoppers from getting the lowest online prices at local stores? Can an online shopper find a better deal than hitting your local stores?Who really has the lowest online prices, and which online venders offer free shipping and which may make a little extra profit on higher shipping charges than their competitors? What are their return policies and what about their re-stocking fees? What about all the latest layaway deals? Are they a viable option for many families? If you start paying for a product using layaway and then decide later you don't want it, can you get all of your money back?
Shopping Safety, Holiday Scams
Then there’s the whole issue of shopping safety, including preventing identity theft and credit card fraud. Local police can be very helpful providing safe shopping tips for your viewers to make this Holiday as safe as possible. But what if the malls and stores don’t want to discuss these kinds of issues or you need to put your whole story down on paper in a request for access to their property for shopping/holiday video? This can get tricky.
I’ve always hated to discuss story content with PR folks prior to coverage, especially when it involves false advertising, fraud or safety issues. They're inclined to either refuse access or generate a call to station management to kill the story. With your news management’s approval, “tourist cams” can be very helpful getting the video you need without ruffling feathers prior to airing your coverage. Everyone these days has smart phones, many of which are capable of shooting broadcast quality 16X9 HD Video. There are also a variety of new HD minicams on the market that can produce very good video.
I’ve found it very easy to casually shoot video inside public areas of stores and malls without interfering with business or possible confrontations that can be prompted by using a bigger, marked TV news cam. Tourist cams and cell phones blend in nicely with holiday crowds and you may not have to worry about any hidden camera laws in your state since they are openly visible. But you still need to consider local laws prohibiting audio recording without all party’s consent along with making sure you’re in public areas with no reasonable expectation of privacy when videotaping shoppers. A check with your station lawyers is always a good idea before taking a small camera onto private commercial property without the owner’s permission.
Sweeps may be over, but it’s a great time to give back to your audience. Consider bringing together needy families with generous volunteer groups to make the holidays a little better for the less fortunate. Call-in phone banks during newscasts can help connect volunteers with troubled families and make your Newscast more interactive. Everyone can use a little extra financial planning and money management as the end of the year approaches, such as debt management, tax planning and family budgeting.
Plan now to make it happen and your viewers will remember your help when that next major ratings book starts in February. Remember, it’s right around the corner once the holidays are over!
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