Sweeping Sweeps

To many people, May simply brings flowers …but not for anyone even remotely related to the news industry. Both pitchers and producers alike are highly aware of what May brings: long nights, tension over ratings and a general overwhelming sense of danger. Because to news folks, May means Sweeps!  And not just any Sweeps, THE Sweeps that will define advertising dollars for months to come.  No pressure, right?

PR professionals who deal in TV and radio will tell you, between cranky news folks (can’t really blame them) and the utter need to have a story the network can hang their marketing dollars on, watch out for May.

We spoke with former newscast producer and resident zcomm producer, JoAnn Mangione, for an inside look at the mayhem known as sweeps. “Sweeps means news organizations need to put on their PR hats. The idea is to get the audience to stay tuned after their favorite primetime show and watch the local news,” said Mangione. “No matter what newsroom I worked in there was always that one person who could come up with the perfect tease lines to keep an audience, ‘The Mayor is dead, we’ll tell you what city at 11.’  Sometimes the Sweeps story is tied in to a the plot line of a popular show people are watching at 10 – give them the right tease and you’ve got them at 11.”

Well, that must be simpler in a time when viewers have a hard time differentiating between the crazy Vampire show and the news. They are both just as unbelievable. Take” The Good Wife” for example. A TV drama that focuses on a woman whose high profile husband has admitted to having an affair. What a great lead into the exact same thing happening in real life! It should not be this simple. Public figures have really taken the fun out of coming up with creative lead-ins and teasers. How hard is it? “Stay tuned for more of the same.” Sigh.

Today’s headlines look more like Michael Ausiello’s Sweeps Scorecard of shocking pregnancies and sex scandals than news.  Perhaps the networks threw in the towel after 30-year runs of “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” because they couldn’t compete. Because between Arnold‘s infidelity, Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault allegations, a shuttle launch and, of course, the end of the world for non-believers, Erica Kane just seems like a nice lady who lives a really quiet life.

It’s so blurry these days, but one thing is clear. Real life has taken the spin out of PR and the intensity out of Sweeps.  Somehow, real life has become more sensational than any headline we can write. All that’s left to do is grab the remote, pop some popcorn and sit back and watch. Let’s just hope that with all the TV drama turned real life, we don’t see even one hint of a glittering fang on the news because we did not sign up to live in Forks, Mystic Falls or Bon Temps.


With today’s headlines centered on global issues such as Japan’s earthquakes, a shutdown in the US government, school shootouts in Brazil and, of course, the upcoming Royal Wedding, PR professionals’ jobs are getting tougher by the day. While finding your way into the news fold has always taken finesse, global turmoil has made it nearly impossible to get the latest survey, product launch or company announcement into the mainstream limelight.

So, what’s a PR professional to do? Here’s what — let the earth-shattering, breaking news dominate the print and broadcast media, and take to the digital streets. Go where the people are – online! Need some numbers to convince you that online is where it’s at?

According to the Pew Institute’s  2011 State of the News Media Report:

  • 34% of respondents said they read news online within the past 24 hours as opposed to 31% who favored newspapers
  • 41% said they get most of their news online, 10% more than those who said they got most of their news from a newspaper.
  • The 18-to-29-year-old group overwhelmingly cast their vote with the web; 65% said the Internet was their main news source.
  • Only 40% of people in the study said they read the news in an online or print newspaper, a 12% drop from five years ago.

And now, think about it logically, not only do blogs and online news sites not suffer from the “space” constraint of a 30-minute newscast, but your story doesn’t go away at the end of 30 minutes either. The Internet is a bank of information that never disappears. Your story becomes part of the archive, the longtail of the web that keeps stories alive. For better or worse, what happens on the Internet stays there for life!

And consumers aren’t the only ones getting their news online, journalists also search the sites for their next big story. Can’t get your story on the New York Times Online?  Try one of the hundreds of niche blogs that attract the right audience as well as reporters who are interested in the topic.

PR professionals are no longer locked into a handful of outlets. We now have access to millions of sites that are a better fit for our news and will generate more attention for our client. Sometimes the sites may reel in smaller audiences but they carry a lot of weight with their fans.

Ssssso, take a tip from the Bronx Zoo Cobra, if you want attention go out and make some noise ! If a venomous snake on the town can make headlines with all the breaking news, so can your story!