Promoting Your Business on Cable Access TV
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” That’s what I told a political opponent’s campaign manager when he laughed at me for using cable access television as part of my communications strategy. Unfortunately for him, he would learn too late what I already knew — that implementing this medium into any communications strategy (political or otherwise) is a pretty good idea, and can reap tremendous benefits.
A few years ago, I took a break from public relations to work on my first local city council race. The candidate was actually my older brother, a person very active in his community but felt it was time to do more in the realm of public service. So he decided to run for office.
From the beginning we both knew that one of the biggest problems he would face, as a first-time candidate, would be how to gain name recognition. One of the ways in which we planned to circumvent the problem was by integrating the use of cable-access television into our communications strategy.
Yes, cable-access television! I know it sounds strange, and the old Wayne’s World skits from Saturday Night Live must certainly come to mind. In fact, most small-business owners do chuckle at the mere mention of the medium, but what they often don’t realize is that many of the same media strategies used in political campaigns can and are regularly implemented to promote small-business owners and their company services. Here’s what you should know in order to take full advantage of this often under-used medium.
Respect Cable Access Hosts as Potential Customers
Sure, many cable access hosts are just ordinary citizens who want an outlet for expressing their views, but many of them also have prominent professional careers. No matter what their backgrounds happen to be, don’t they also represent potential customers? You bet, and by appearing on their shows, you get a chance to describe your business in plain speech, talk directly to your customers and also practice doing interviews.
Contact Cable Access Hosts Early
Each cable outlet is different but most only allow hosts to produce a limited amount of shows so that everyone gets an equal chance at exposure. But, did you know that you can also use this information to prevent your competitor from appearing on future shows? Here’s an example of how we did it.
During the campaign I was able to book my candidate on five of the eight available shows devoted to political issues. By the time our opponent’s campaign manager discovered our plan, it was too late to get a booking because the production schedule had ended for the quarter — a mere 60 days before the election. The cable access shows really served as an electronic billboard for us, allowing our candidate to appear on television twice per day on each access station for two solid months. Potential voters saw our candidate 112 times on television, which made him quite recognizable on the street.
Consider the Cable Access Host a Member of the Media
Research each show’s topic to make sure you and your company’s services offer the proper fit, and then pitch story ideas. Follow up with them regularly and prove that you are a great expert to have on the show. Provide the hosts with media kits, adhere to their deadlines, answer their questions immediately, and take the time to find out how they would like to be contacted. These are all the normal steps you’d take with any other journalist.
We lost the election, but the use of cable-access television helped to keep the race close until the very end. More importantly, well-established political incumbents began to take notice at what we had achieved. Appearing on cable-access television was no longer taboo, and many of them now have their own shows. They now see the value in using cable-access television to get their messages out to their constituents — a communications medium that has always been available to them for free.
The bottom line here is this. There really aren’t very many differences between promoting a small-business owner and a political candidate. Each can achieve favorable results simply by properly executing their messages. And while it is true that we are a nation of channel flippers, most people will and do stop — on occasion, to listen to guests on cable-access television. Furthermore, you’d be surprised by just how many of them do act on what they have seen.
So don’t get angry the next time a business competitor laughs at you for appearing on cable access television to promote your services. Just tell them the same thing I did, and take comfort in knowing that your competitor will likely learn too late that cable-access television can be an excellent way of introducing small-business services to potential customers in your town.
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