‘Save Jericho’: Considering the Next Step for the Campaign

Fans are sending peanuts. Fans are posting comments on blogs and message boards. Fans are making phone calls, sending post cards, bombarding Nina Tassler and Les Moonves with emails. But the question is: “Where does a movement go from here?” And, some people are offering answers, like Rich at Copywrite, Ink.

And, with no offense intended, I believe his answers to be unrealistic and unachievable for this movement. Right now this movement needs a Stage Two, and what Rich is offering is but an extension of this existing phase.

Rich suggests seven ways for fans to spread their base of support, all of which I feel somewhat miss the mark of what is actually going to make this campaign a success:

Solution One: Tighten Your Message. Everybody “diggs” the nuts campaign for its novelty. And it continues to generate buzz at various news bureaus. But what is sometimes missing are those clear, crisp speaking points about the show: tell people why this isn’t just another sci-fi serial with diehard fans (it’s not). Reinforce your doubts that Nielsen accurately captured the show’s ratings.

For the record, I believe that the campaign is already encompassing many of these ideas…but what he is suggesting here is watered-down talking points that don’t actually delve into the depth of this discussion. Right now, I think the biggest problem with the message is that it is too unsubstantiated; there just isn’t the evidence available, widely, to make those claims. The last thing that the ‘Nuts for Jericho’ campaign needs is to simplify that down even further. While it is true that the message about ratings and about Jericho’s quality are important, they can’t just be talking points.

Solution Two: Expand Your Base. When you think your Ranger growth is slowing, round up friends, family, and neighbors to your cause. Sure, they might never have seen Jericho, but they will support the show if you ask them: sign the petition, buy some nuts, or mail a pre-stamped pre-addressed postcard. This could tip the balance, keep it in the mainstream, and engage more people.

I don’t think people are quite so eager to randomly start buying peanuts (especially not neighbours). However, the larger problem with this idea is that the campaign becomes all about size and not about its content. While size is important, inflation at the cost of people having no real connection to the campaign is something that, in the long-term, could lead to complications. If the campaign really needs to bond together on another issue to prove themselves, will these one-off supporters be there? I really don’t think so. If you’re going to engage them, show them the show and let them decide for themselves. Are we not above peer pressure?

Solution Three: Local Speakers. Several times throughout the campaign, Jericho Rangers have come close to missing in-person interviews with local broadcast companies, especially CBS affiliates. It would be advantageous to locate and identify speakers before you need them in mid-sized and major cities across America.

This isn’t a bad idea, but execution could be difficult. Not only are spokespeople difficult to find, but I also kind of dislike the precedent of basically creating a script for these people (Going back to Solution 1, although as pointed out below I’m ignoring most PR logic.). I also worry, with no offense intended, that the most loyal fans may not make the best spokespeople. At times I believe that the campaign has been two one-sided, choosing blatant disregard for CBS as opposed to constructive criticism. One of the things that is so great about Jeffrey is that he’s taken on the cause despite having not seen the show himself, and the result is someone who has the facts without perhaps the same blinding rage. If we can find 12 Jeffreys out there, then this idea holds merit.

Solution Four: Affiliate Buy-in. Probably because CBS affiliates are much closer to the fan base, they seem eager to report on the protest. I can only imagine, but part of the reason is associated with the local affiliates being able to sell the show. Besides, if they cover it, other non-affiliated stations might follow suit with their own spin. Local stations borrow stories all the time.

I honestly don’t really understand the Buy-in part of this, but affiliates are a smart group to go to with complaints in general. They represent a key battleground for any campaign and for any group of people. The problem is that, often times, they’re going to focus on the sideshow aspect of all of this (It’s about Jericho fans going crazy with peanuts more than anything else). I worry that the complexities of this message will be lost in their coverage, and that they shouldn’t be relied upon entirely.

Solution Five: Star Power. Sure, the fans have kicked around star power for some time, but they have yet to make it connect. The secret is to secure celebrities not affiliated with CBS or any other network. Designate a team (but don’t overwhelm them) to contact publicists who want their client on the front cover of Star Magazine saying “nuts to CBS” or simply something nice about Jericho actors, writers, or producers. The reward: 8-9 million moviegoers.

No. Absolutely not. This would be, perhaps, one of the worst ideas in the history of marketing, and I honestly do not understand where it’s coming from. I know that Jericho is important to its fans, but there is absolutely no way that any celebrity in their right mind would be willing to become a part of this campaign (Unless there’s a D-List celebrity who really likes the show kicking around somewhere. Kathy Griffin, where are you?). Rich is treating this like it’s a political cause, but the reality is that it’s a TV show: they’re not taken seriously by most citizens, yet alone by celebrities. Unless Hollywood’s obsession with famewhores has extended, I really don’t see how this is a viable option.

Solution Six: Forget Rumors. If anything distracts this fan base the most, it must be the constant buzz of rumors. Just the other day, on Shaun O Mac’s online radio show, Stephen Scaia mentioned the Jericho set is still standing. Look, we all know the fans already secured a wrap-up so a working set only makes sense. Enjoy these rumors but stay focused until CBS says “yes, season two.” Then celebrate.

First, there has been no “securing” a wrap-up, as Tassler could easily go back on her word (Sad, but true). Second, I agree with this general principle: rumours are bad.

Solution Seven: Reporters Rock. Don’t get me wrong. The first rule in media relations is appreciating that the media is never your friend. They will report your missteps as quickly as your successes (it’s their job). With Jericho fans, however, there is a bit of a twist. You’ve won most of them over. So please, don’t dismiss or ditch them when a story doesn’t go your way. They’ll respect you for accepting a setback and be more willing to consider a follow-up.

See, this is something I can agree with on principle: reporters are a fine source for Jericho fans within this movement. And, yes, unsurprisingly, you don’t want to piss them off in the process.

However, these last two ones are incredibly simple, and none of these solutions provide any sort of direction for the campaign. They are designed to homogenize the message at the sake of its complexity, or to slap a pretty celebrity face on the campaign at the price of their dignity and that of the campaign. This campaign right now does need to be more organized, and some of the suggestions offer good tips, but this isn’t what Jericho fans need right now.

They need a Stage Two. They’re sent their peanuts, spun their story: now they need something that is really going to make CBS stand up and notice. This grassroots campaign that is garnering a lot of press for being odd and interesting needs to be turned into something that can educate people, something that can start to bring people onto Jericho’s side for good.

I don’t know what that is, to be honest. But I don’t think Rich does either. Unlike a political campaign that can exist purely with talking points and rhetoric, I believe that the ‘Save Jericho’ campaign is about something more fundamentally complex and quantitative. It can’t operate under the same principles as grassroots political movements because it will never gain that level of national accreditation from media and individuals. As a result, it needs to find its own path, its own goals.

Over the next week, I think there will come a point where these new goals will need to be established. And while Rich’s intentions and suggestions should certainly be kept in mind, I would warn against following them to the letter. ‘Save Jericho’ is not your normal case study, and treating it as such will only lead to problems.

9 Comments

Filed under Jericho, Television

9 responses to “‘Save Jericho’: Considering the Next Step for the Campaign

  1. See, this is why I’m the PR flack and you’re the television analyst.

    YOU may dislike the idea of “basically creating a script for these people” and “watered-down talking points,” but for a grassroots campaign facing off against a soundbite-driven media, coherence of message is absolutely essential. People register information best through repetition, so it’s entirely within the movement’s interest to come up with three key, solid reasons why CBS should give Jericho a second chance and to repeat those in every letter, every publication and every news interview that they get.

    Having key messages makes the movement appear organized instead of all-over-the-place. And an ORGANIZED movement is what CBS fears above all else.

    That said, I think your point about the movement needing a place to go after the peanuts effort is 100% spot on.

  2. Hey Myles,

    I like what you write sometimes, but your challenges on what I offered seem too text book for my taste. Still, I admire the effort so I’ll touch on your points.

    First and foremost, I might point out that I have not developed nor did I say I developed a strategy. Mostly, I was discussing tactics that are already in play by the fans.

    1. You’re right that they’ve been improving in this area, but you are mistaken to think I was offering actual talking points beyond talking ‘topics.’ It’s up to the fans to write their message. I will say, it takes at least 80 impressions for a message to start to stick. Expanding the talking points, as you suggest, doesn’t work.

    2. If you’re right, then I have greatly underestimated the fans’ friendship base. I have friends, family, and neighbors who would and have bought $5 in nuts. You’re also underestimating civic engagement. People who are engaged take a greater interest in any cause.

    3. Nobody said anything was easy, Myles. But the Jericho fans have dozens of well-spoken people. You underestimate them; perhaps I don’t because I have a better understanding of who they are.

    4. Actually, if you took the time to read some of the responses from affiliates over the last few days, you might think differently. And, they have already gone further than nut stories, sometimes saying they are fans of the show themselves. One of first new outlets to run with the story was a CBS-affiliate.

    5. No, not the worst idea. If you have worked with celebrities, like I have, you would know that fans come before venues, including networks. I might also point out that I never suggested they become part of the campaign or spokespeople … just a little publicity play that hurts no one and might be fun while gaining 8-9 million fans.

    6. I cannot even address your denial that the network has offered to provide the show closure. It’s a false on its face.

    7. Well, we agreed on this, so what is there to say?

    I would have to disagree in your net assessment. Most of these solutions came out of areas that they needed a little more direction on … there doesn’t seem to be any need for me to develop a campaign strategy for them. They are doing fine on their own, despite your consistent dismissals of their efforts.

    In my humble opinion, with no disrespect intended, what they seem to need less of right now is a teacher who invests most of their posts into negative talk, eg. trying to convince people of what cannot be done. Maybe it’s different in Nova Scotia, but I thought teachers best served others by inspiring rather than hindering their efforts?

    All my best,
    Rich

  3. Rich, I think you’re right: what I offer is a challenge, some of it certainly being of a textbook nature. However, I think a campaign like this needs to be challenged.

    I am not being negative, but rather constructive: I, like you, am not purporting myself a leader of this movement, but rather as an interested party who has opinions and can offer a perspective (Emphasis on “a”). I don’t believe that being critical is an inherently bad thing, but rather something that can push them to do better, to advance their ideas, to help them in the right direction.

    My general problem with your solutions is that they won’t solve anything in the big picture: they are simple extensions of the existing campaign that, in my view, will allow for limited growth. Admittedly, some of my criticism was my own dislike for much of what PR can be about in terms of talking points and the like, but I think that my brother is right: I am a television analyst more than I’ll ever be a PR person.

    I’ve seen the affiliates who jumped onto the story, but it was still a low-level, flimsy analysis of the situation that was played for interest, sure, but also so the news crew could banter playfully before the commercial break. That doesn’t make it bad, of course, but it doesn’t make it ideal either.

    Similarly, I didn’t mean to suggest that Jericho didn’t have appropriate people to represent them (In fact, they have plenty). I think I just worry that even the most intelligent Jericho fans could let their anger boil through. It’s one of the reasons why Jeffrey has been such a good spokesperson: he has just the right amount of disconnect from the issue, with a lot of spirit behind him. If we can find 12 Jeffreys, then I’ll retract anything I said about it. And I hope that day can come.

    Rich, if I was trying to “Hinder” this campaign, I wouldn’t be talking about it. I wouldn’t be discussing it at all, I’d be bashing the show left and right. However, I’m not doing this: instead, I’m bringing forward discussion. Any campaign like this needs to be able to do two things: examine itself and grow as a result of it. I want to ensure that the first is completed, and that people don’t lose sight of certain aspects of the campaign that I think, personally, are its more powerful messages.

    And you, and others, will disagree. And I will not sit here flaming you for those opinions, but rather analyzing them and furthering discussion. As a result of that, people might consider the next step more closely. I don’t offer an attempt at cracking down on your suggestions, but rather an attempt to ensure that people are also thinking in new directions, thinking of new ways to expand upon this campaign. You’re talking micro, I’m talking macro.

    And I don’t see what is hindering their efforts with this. I don’t see how this is outright negative. I have never, and will never, write a piece where I refer to this campaign as futile, or slash its methods apart. Rather, I will always offer a removed, but interested, perspective that you won’t always agree with, but perhaps might make a few people think about something.

    Regards,

    Myles

    [Also: I don’t see how you can possibly take Tassler on her word in terms of closure. I guess I’m more of a pessimist than I thought, then.]

  4. Myles,

    Please don’t mistake me nor misconstrue what I said as a flame. It all lends to the discussion as you said. In our case, it seems, we agree to disagree.

    You see, grass roots campaigns work because they are grass roots campaigns and not overly strategic or too organized in their nature. If this group were to waste time electing or designating formal leadership and expanding their message to the point it becomes watered down with nothing sticking, then it would all crumble down around them. Passion, persistence, and commitment are what make movements like these work.

    Usually, when you try to apply proven communication strategy to a grass roots effort like this one, with accidental (but very good) leaders,
    it will damage it before you ever make it to macro level. Nope, sometimes you have to go with it and simply give the base a few baseline tools to improve what they already have. And that is what I did in writing up those seven solutions.

    In closing, let me add, if I simply didn’t like you or something, I wouldn’t come by to flame you. I’d more likely say nothing at all.

    All my best,
    Rich

    P.S. That was your brother’s comment? Well, a fine write up on his part.

  5. Nancy

    We are changing it up a bit with a great movement. Part of our proceeds are now going to help the tornado victims of Kansas.

    “You never know when you might need a tank.”
    Johnston Green RIP

  6. Nancy, the decision for part of the proceeds to go to Project Greenberg was a fantastic decision, and will go a long way to assist the campaign. In fact, all of the efforts could turn towards assisting the town, and I believe this would be a strong way of getting the unity and coherence of the message across. What needs to happen is that complete shift, however: what happens next must, absolutely must, be a plan as fully realized and supported as Nuts for Jericho has been.

    Rich, I didn’t mean to treat it as a flame, I blame me rushing to get out of the office if that was the case. I think my big issue is that, as it stands, ‘Save Jericho’ is still at the same stage that so many other similar campaigns got stalled at (Although it is certainly doing well for itself). For me, I think it needs to be shaken up, find a new level at which to attack CBS and make a stand as opposed to simply going at the same pace. I didn’t find that in your solutions, but I guess I really shouldn’t have expected to find it.

    I think I just worry that with terms like “Talking points” and “On Message” being thrown around I worry that certain issues will get skirted over. I’ve seen a lot of very intelligent arguments regarding the show, and I’d hate to see them get lost in the process. This is such a complex issue (New Media v. Old Media, Nielsen Ratings, CBS Leadership, Television Scheduling, Serial Programming, etc.) that the TV Analyst in me doesn’t want to sacrifice any of it…but sacrifice is necessary, I guess.

  7. Myles,

    I hear what you are saying; those issues are side bar issues for people like you and me or someone else as appropriate to discuss (I try to stick to communication), but not the fans. They have three important topics: 1. numbers (nuts, signatures, ratings); 2. the show was not as it was defined (it was not an end of the world story); 3. Neilsen and new media measures.

    Only 1 has stuck … so until they get 2 and 3 stuck, there is no point talking about 85 and 86. You know, I like Seth Godin, and I’d like to share way.

    He sums up marketing in very plain talk for everybody. His post today might expand your understanding… http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/05/one_a_few_most_.html

    Some of what I alluded to today could do move where Rangers are now … (A FEW: Being exceptional matters most. Stand out, don’t fit in. Shun the non-believers.) … and move them toward … (MOST: Amplify the excitement of the few and make it easy for them to spread the story to the caring majority.)

    I know you don’t agree with me that they should expand, but going for MOST will keep the media interested, make CBS notice more often, and potentially create a larger fan base for the show, because anyone I mention their campaign too immediately wants to watch the show.

    As a TV analyst, it would make sense for you to want to discuss it all because you have a lot of good points. So discuss those … write up your analysis and ask for comments from people like BoonDoogie or me or whomever seems to fit except the fans, who have looking to meet an objective not nesc. engage in discussion on those points rather than challenging our points, which never leads us to discussing your points anyway.

    As for me … yeah, yeah, I could write up some exciting sell the campaign stuff … but that’s not served well on my blog. It’s not always easy, but I’m more inclined not to pick sides because there doesn’t have to be any sides. The fans want what CBS wants… a hit show. The irony is CBS doesn’t want it to be called Jericho. Picky of them.

    All my best,
    Rich

  8. Ataraxis6

    Myles and Richard, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. This campaign is so unique. Nobody really knows where it is headed.

  9. Nancy

    Something that bugs me is that no one at CBS will talk about the show’s numbers on the internet and those that watch on tape, DVD, etc.
    Do you guys have any ideas on how we could turn this to our advantage????

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