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.