The ‘Turn-Around’ News Marketing Test

By Graeme Newell 

Most of us roll our eyes when we hear companies market “price-of-entry” features.

The car dealer: “We will give you the best car for the lowest price.”
The restaurant: “We use only the finest quality ingredients.”
The lawyer: “I will work hard to win your case and get the maximum settlement.”

Well TV news has its own price-of-entry list of shame:


“We will cover all the news of the day.”
“We’ll let you know what’s happening in your community and the nation.”
“We’ll have a complete forecast.”

So how can you tell if your marketing claims are effective and attention-grabbing? I like to give them the “turn-around” test. Start by listing all of your promo product claims on a sheet of paper. For example: “No one covers more breaking news” or “We stand for local news.” Next, flip that statement around. Create a statement that is the exact opposite .

Original Product Claim: “Reporters dedicated to honest reporting.”
Turn-around statement: “Reporters dedicated to dishonest reporting.”

You see that the turn-around statement is absurd . It is generally accepted within the TV industry that reporters try to uncover the truth and present an honest story. You will find that “price-of-entry” marketing claims will usually fail the turn-around test. Their turn-around statement will be absurd. Why? Because the marketing feature is an intrinsic characteristic of ALL newscasts. These are advertising claims with little meaning and thus, make for very weak marketing.

This kind of no-meaning feature marketing is most rampant in morning news promos.
Original product claim: “We’ll have all the news, traffic and weather to start your day.”
Turn-around Statement: “We won’t have the news, traffic and weather to start your day.”
Again, it’s absurd. That’s because EVERY morning newscast will have “news, traffic and weather.”

Making this claim is like creating a car ad that promises: “We’ll put tires on our car. It will include a steering wheel and an engine.” Of course it will. That’s characteristic of ALL cars. Any point that has an absurd turn-around is an expected feature and therefore not something that will differentiate your product.

Now let’s look at some good marketing product claims – ones that take a strong stand and differentiate their product. A strong product claim can weather the turn-around and will be sensible.

For example…
Original product claim: “We will cut into programming at the first sign of severe weather.”
If you flip that around, the statement is NOT absurd.
Turn-around statement: “We will NOT break into programming at the first sign of severe weather.” Both positions are viable news programming options. Some stations choose not to cut into programming.

This plausible turnaround could be a viable position that could be taken by another news organization. Why? Because the claims are quantifiable. The original claim clearly demonstrate a product feature that is distinctive.

The original product claim has teeth because the opposite is not ridiculous. You are taking a strong stand and sticking your neck out with a position that demonstrates innovation and bravery. It is NOT an expected product feature and therefore can differentiate your shows.

Another example…
Original product claim: “We will have daily health updates on the latest medical discoveries.”
Turn-around statement: “We will not have daily health updates on the latest medical discoveries.”
Again, the turn-around is NOT absurd. This promise is quantifiable and specific. It has guts.

So how can you fix limp product claims? By making them quantifiable. Let’s take our weak product claim above:
“Reporters dedicated to honest reporting.”
How do you measure “dedication?” You can’t. You can only measureaction . So if they changed that claim to:
“We’re serious about honest reporting so we’ve hired a special fact-sniffing editor to double-check every word in our reporter stories.”
That is quantifiable, and the turn-around is NOT absurd.

For viewers to sit up and take notice, the product claims need to have some courage and conviction that proclaim a bold stand, not just a re-statement of industry standards. Viewers should hear your claims and say “Wow, that’s pretty bold. That station is taking a real stand.”

So go through all of your product claims and get rid of the blah, blah, blah claims made by everyone in the industry. Show your customers that your newscast has differentiated and unexpected content priorities that go beyond standard news gathering. Impress them with your conviction and courage.

Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at gnewell@602commu