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Can You Put a Price On Trust?

From a consumer standpoint, there may be no more important measure than trust. If a brand has earned consumer confidence, those consumers are more likely to support that brand.

So why do some marketers believe they are better served by national network and cable news, and ignore the most valuable, trusted and targeted programming available – local broadcast news?

Broadcast TV is far and away the choice of news for adults, according to the 2012 Knowledge Networks’ Media Comparisons Study. 37.4% of their respondents cited broadcast TV as their primary source of news, far outpacing the next largest segment, the Internet, at 17.2%.

But importantly, local TV stations are the place viewers turn to first as their primary choice for news – more than the broadcast networks, online, cable news networks, every possible medium. And that’s not just for breaking news, but for all news. Local broadcast TV news is clearly the viewers’ choice.

So why isn’t it clearly the choice of marketers?

The overt answer would seem to lie in the myth of nationalization. Once feeling as though they have reached “critical mass”, marketers get intoxicated by the notion that they’ve obtained “we’re a national brand” status. However, that’s merely a function of distribution.

To the viewing consumer, scale is immaterial. Viewers base their news choices upon trust. Their local anchors and reporters have earned their trust by being a proven resource to their lives. National news may widen the spotlight, cable news will bring the partisanship, but local broadcast news will bring the trusted information that directly impacts viewers’ lives.

That’s what translates into value.

In a recent study conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates comparing local TV news to other media, 61% of respondents consider local TV news the most important source of information in the community, higher than every other medium available. Moreover, ads in local TV news produced the best drive to purchase of any TV news outlet, almost doubling cable news and broadcast network news combined.

Local news is so fundamental for one simple reason – local is where sales happen. When you reach the local news audience, you’re delivering transactional viewers.

Face it, the news is a moving target. National news can excel in those events when scale is truly an issue – the selection of a new Pope, healthcare reform, that sort of thing. Interestingly, a story has to become a “national brand” in its own right in order for network news to bring anything resembling perceived value to viewers.

Cable news really has become an exercise in marketing to the political fringes. Audiences aren’t brought to these sources because of their stories, rather because viewers perceive themselves as members of the same private club.

For comparison, let’s look at the quality of the news coverage for local stories that became large enough for national attention, starting with the Boston Marathon bombings. While the national networks spent their time competing to be the first to bring new news to the events – and figuring out what neighborhoods they were in while doing it , local stations devoted their native personnel to the local resources that could best help to bring new, credible information to light. As a result, several of the networks featured their affiliates’ live feeds.

During the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, local stations inform their audiences of hyper-local concerns – power restoration by neighborhood, addresses of gas stations that are open during fuel shortages, etc.

Local news professionals have become part of the first response team in an emergency. Misinformation and innuendo in times of crisis can not only be annoying and embarrassing, but worse, they can be unintentionally deceptive and downright dangerous. Today’s society is so immediate, so information-based, and so reactionary that experienced local journalists are now critical to the dissemination of vitally accurate public safety information to viewers.

Moreover, local stories with massive national interest, like the freed kidnap victims in Cleveland, reinforce the confidence we place with these local news sources. Even cable news relied upon local news – CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed a local reporter from WOIO in order to get the most up-to-date and comprehensive information out to his viewers.

Marketers can look at local news as an entry point to reaching a dedicated, well-defined target audience that can be customized with heterogeneous messaging. Network content available during other dayparts is typically the same in every market. Yet local news is the one example of televised content that will be unique to its individual market – and that’s the inherent draw to the viewers. It’s content that resonates with viewers on a very personal level – these are people and places that I know – that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.

It comes down to trust. Viewers know that they can trust their local TV broadcast news teams for a very good reason – they know them and they won’t be let down.

Trust isn’t something that you can buy – it’s earned.

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