Thursday, February 15, 2018

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: Sorry, SABC1, no coverage of your S'phethe Ezishisayo from me - and here's why the bulk of the rest of the 'champagne press' who've never cared, won't do any reporting either.

As a TV critic it's bad to say this but the SABC's lazy SABC1 won't be getting any coverage of its "S'phethe Ezishisayo" media event held last week from me - this reporter covering the medium of television is done churning out comprehensive articles out of nothing about channels like SABC1 who can't care less about actually properly engaging the media and stakeholders.

It took a week to get a PR person at the SABC (eventually not even SABC1) to respond to multiple media enquiries seeking more information about SABC1's media event where Clara Nzima, SABC1 channel head, spoke last week and new on-screen talent were unveiled while the entitled press drank and publicists hunched over their cellphones updating their Facebook feeds instead of engaging with media.

While SABC1 is the biggest TV channel in South Africa in terms of viewership, it's one of the channel's getting the least exposure for its programming in the press. The reason is its outdated, stoic, one-dimensional PR approach that hasn't evolved in 20 years.

While SABC1 flew in media from Cape Town and Durban to join the Johannesburg based press, a lot of media covering SABC1 were not. SABC1 couldn't even do bare basic PR and communication to say that a media event announcing new talent and scheduling changes would be happening - nor bothered to send out anything afterwards.

Truth be told, TVwithThinus (as usual) would be able to put together, out of nothing and with no help by just doing some digging, a perfectly fine and comprehensive news report about what Clara Nzima and SABC1 talent said at the event, and the channel's programming news and changes.

But this time I won't.

In a multi-channel universe where the inbox overflows with press releases and advisories from a multitude of TV channels, I'm tired of having to beg and beg and beg for basic answers and information from channels who don't care.

SABC1 can continue to life inside its own, increasingly irrelevant bubble-world, or it can update its PR strategy to one that's dynamic, responsive, interactive and where it at the very least signals that the press covering the channel matter.

After a week of asking several times for a transcript of what Clara Nzima said, of what the various on-screen talent said and what happened at the event, there's been nothing beside a press release run-down of SABC1 shows.

It's because SABC1 doesn't have it, doesn't think its important or necessary, doesn't know how to do it - and on top of all won't respond to say that it doesn't.

How SABC1 thinks or wants (if it even wants it) proper media coverage of its channel news, programming executives and shows when it does less than minimum and can't provide the media with what it needs, is really beyond me.

The other sad tragedy about the lack of coverage of SABC1's media event of last week (and there were several so-called "media" in attendance) is not fully SABC1's fault as it is the press.

A week later you will (still) struggle to find any article or report about SABC1's event or what was actually said and happened there. It's because the channel doesn't care about proper press but do hugs and air-kisses with nouveau media and the so-called "champagne press" who have Instagram accounts and Twitter followings but no intention of actually properly covering your TV event or media launch and doing the homework.

These so-called "entertainment" remoras who harbour thinly disguised desires to be famous and who are largely in it for the open bar and to come and grab goodie bags, can't care less about actually working or going back and doing something in terms of reporting.

If they did, there'd be multiple articles already about SABC1's event. But there's not.

These social butterflies under the guise of "media" flit from event to event to exploit for self-gain; literally attending for what there is to take at TV media events - then leave and don't do journalism besides a possible self-promoting selfie.

The same happened at SABC1's Uzalo set visit last month in Durban for Friday's funeral episode.

The same happened at M-Net's media event for the launch of its rebranded Vuzu AMP to 1Magic channel: a lot of booze, a lot of so-called "media", a lot of executives and producers showing up to talk, and in the end not a word in print or any articles about what was actually said there.

Why invite these lame-duck people over and over again if they constantly end up not being media messengers of what you're trying to communicate about your brand?

SABC1 has no clue, and can't bother to ask or improve, as to how "best in class" TV channels have been operating and have advanced in terms of how they communicate and do public relations with media, falling further and further behind.

If you were to tell SABC1 that certain TV channels actually do group internet video calls to journalists to brief them that they will be issuing a press release and what will be in it days before it's even issued; that some channels even have Whatsapp groups to tell journalists information has been emailed, that some channels calls and communicate even when there's nothing to say but are building and maintaining actual media relationships, there'd probably be vacant-looking, uncomprehensive stares.

While this journalist covering television constantly feels compelled to do the story anyway, to just dig more and find the information and relay it to readers anyway because it's important - irrespective of whether a TV channel or show even cares or made any effort - for once I'm not going to.

I'm tired of it and if SABC1 doesn't attach value or importance to getting its own message out, for once I'm no longer either.

SABC1 PR needs to wake up and start doing proper public relations. If your channel head talks and you can't provide a rushed transcript of what the person said, that is wrong and a failure.

If you have a media event and don't have any publicity images because you can't be bothered to have a photographer, you've failed. If your on-screen talent is unveiled and there's a Q&A and you can't disseminate that to the media not invited or not present, your not doing your job.

If you can't tell press that there would be a media event beforehand, or afterwards, how do you justify your job as a so-called communicator?

If you can't in a week and after being asked multiple times, respond to basic questions from a journalist - simply ignoring enquiries and hoping you'll tire out the press interested in your brand who will just give up and go away - why are you even in PR when you can't communicate properly?

SABC1 is the biggest TV channel in South Africa but the proper value it seems to attach to getting proper press is sadly very little.