Monday, December 17, 2018

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. A Tale of Two Press Tours: Taraji P. Henson and Fox Africa, compared with Katherine Kelly Lang and the SABC - and the very striking difference between them.

They're both American actresses, known to South African TV viewers, they both portray iconic characters in American dramatic series, both their shows are seen on both pay-TV and on free-to-air television in South Africa and Africa, they both visited South Africa this year, both went on safari - and both did press tours with the media.

Yet the stark, big and very visible difference between how bizarrely bad the SABC went about the visit of Katherine Kelly Lang of The Bold and the Beautiful on SABC3, and how excellent FOX Africa went about the visit of Taraji P. Henson of Empire of FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201) couldn't be more striking.

The incredibly well-organised South African visit of Taraji P. Henson resulted in great media interaction between Fox Networks Group Africa (FNG Africa) and the local and international press during her time in South Africa.

That however just once again underscored what a shoddy, apparently clueless, botch-job the SABC did with Katherine Kelly Lang and the South African public broadcaster's unwillingness to do what's normal and actually expected (or possibly not knowing what to do) when it comes to an international TV star's visit.

I've remarked in September on the SABC's failure to properly communicate and it's utterly bizarre and inept Katherine Kelly Lang press tour so I won't go into the details again.

However, Taraji P. Henson's visit of the past week just again made it possible to directly compare the two.

The direct comparison - because both tried to do the same thing - underscores just how big the difference is between what is "normal" and "standard" when it comes to TV channels and broadcasters doing press events with international talent, and how far away the SABC is from knowing, doing or adhering to what is actually the international basic standard, and what is expected in and from the industry, as well as from the press.

The SABC's lack of doing proper (in fact, basically any) communication and its failure of working out and following a carefully thought-out strategy of unlocking value and exposure through engaging talent and press is what is the big, big problem standing between the SABC and getting what it wants, and what the press needs.

With Taraji P. Henson's visit to South Africa this week - and experiencing and peeking behind-the-scenes to see the precision, professionalism, speed, always-available, specifically targeted, rational and multi-dimensional approach of how FOX Africa's marketing and publicity machine operates - it was again painfully obvious how the SABC's marketing and publicity didn't do (or doesn't know how to do) any of that.

Because the SABC publicity team couldn't bother to properly communicate with media regarding Katherine Kelly Lang's visit, Fox Africa was so normal and did everything so properly and correct, that FOX seemed far above-average and brilliant in comparison with their Taraji P. Henson media blitz, although they actually just did what goes for normal and what is expected.

Even before Taraji P. Henson jetted to South Africa, and even before any public announcement, or media advisories or invitations to the press conference for general media, or invitations to the "A Night with Taraji" dinner were emailed out, or even before interviews were set up, Fox Africa already reached out to strategic press and media to communicate, to tell them about it, and to keep them in the loop as to what was being planned and what is likely to happen.

The result was that the media was informed. Fox Africa worked with the press as media partners beforehand and throughout the press tour.

In contrast the SABC with Katherine Kelly Lang and BBL did nothing remotely like this.

After Taraji P. Henson's Monday press conference this week, media who didn't attend, it physically immediately got an emailed dropbox with images for download, followed by quickly transcribed Taraji quotables from the media event.

Despite doing similar press events in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, an Isidingo set visit and on-set appearance on several SABC3 TV shows, the SABC and SABC3 never once bothered to send out even a single photo of any of it, nor any rush-transcript of what happened or quotables, or what Katherine Kelly Lang did on the Isidingo set.

Naturally, photos and information are available of Taraji P. Henson's Friday "A Night with Taraji" media dinner organised by Fox Africa, with national media from outside of Johannesburg who were also invited, knew weeks beforehand that it's being planned, and attended.

Of course the SABC and SABC3 couldn't bother to take or issue a single photo of Katherine Kelly Lang's Johannesburg media dinner or issue any press release about what she said and did at the dinner, that only Johannesburg media were invited to, with no information or anything shared with  national media from outside of Johannesburg.

Fox Africa - being strategic and forward-thinking to maximise value and to create a win-win for everybody, even before setting up and organising interviews - already started asking print media doing one-on-ones and sit-down interviews with Taraji P. Henson if they could please bank and slot in and run interviews only around March 2019.

In this way, when the broadcast of the 2nd half of the 5th season of Empire actually starts, the show gets more exposure when it's on the air, and media get more interaction with media consumers than now during the end-of-year period.

Who knows that the SABC and BBL's plan was with Kelly.

During her South African time, Fox Africa set up a carefully chosen set of phone interviews between Taraji P. Henson with international press for the Africa, Europe and Russia region; as well as specifically picked local radio, TV and print interviews.

Taraji P. Henson, her team and Fox Africa who know that less is often more, deliberately didn't do every media it could foist Taraji on, going for a strategic approach and seeking out interviews and appearances that would reach a cross-over audience and those media consumers who would know of and be interested in Taraji but also potentially already have been watching, or be interested in watching Empire.

In contract the SABC that basically almost completely ignored non-SABC media with Katherine Kelly Lang's visit, went for a seemingly spray-and-play approach, hilariously pushing Katherine onto almost every conceivable SABC regional radio and SABC TV show platform it could, whether Katherine Kelly Lang and The Bold and the Beautiful was an actual fit with that specific listenership like Umhlobo Wenene, and viewership or not.

Fox Africa publicity was constantly available during Taraji P. Henson's visit and communicated, responding to media's emails, calls and whatsapp messages.

During Katherine Kelly Lang's visit the SABC didn't bother to respond to all whatsapp, emails or calls from the press asking about it and wanting to know what is going on and happening.

Fox Africa's top marketing director and communication boss was directly involved in organising, was on the ground, hands-on, and involved with Taraji P. Henson's press tour and knew exactly what was going on.

With Katherine Kelly Lang's visit the SABC's top marketing and communication boss was not.

During Taraji P. Henson's press tour, Fox Africa marketing and publicity people didn't plaster photos and selfies with the star and themselves in public. They were, and kept behind-the-scenes, constantly working to get the star the exposure, which is what the job entails.

With Katherine Kelly Lang the SABC didn't miss opportunities to deliberately publicly push out on social media, by choice, images with the star.

Beforehand Fox Africa and Taraji P. Henson's team worked out in the finest detail the times and schedule of her diary for her whole visit of what she'll do.

When Katherine Kelly Lang got to Cape Town where she only did interviews with SABC radio and a few inserts on SABC3 TV shows, the SABC told the press waiting and wondering what's going on after not hearing back from the SABC, that "Katherine Kelly Lang is now tired".

ALSO READ: Taraji P. Henson at Fox Africa's 'A Night with Taraji' dinner event talks embracing change, Hollywood pay disparity, looking for solutions - and playing Cookie on Empire with 'the why'.
ALSO READ: IN PHOTOS: The exclusive, invite-only, golden delicious - and absolutely beautiful - 'A Night with Taraji P. Henson' dinner event of Fox Networks Group Africa.
ALSO READ: TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Outfoxed: How Fox Africa surprised South Africa's TV biz as it surged to first place with the best TV party of the year in mid-December and Empire's Taraji P. Henson.
ALSO READ: THE EMPIRE COMES BACK: Empire's Cookie, Taraji P. Henson is jetting back to South Africa for her second week-long visit.