Owned by the Nine Network, GTV Channel 9 is a Melbourne-based commercial television station. Officially up and running from 1957, the channel has been around for over 60 years. Channel 9 pioneered live variety shows, with programs such as The Graham Kennedy Show, The Ernie Sigley Show etc. unarguably making their mark as a television station. GTV-9’s former building in Bendigo Street, Richmond. For this report, I interviewed Lyn Elford who previously worked at GTV Channel 9 from the 1980s until the early 2000s. Changing jobs about every five years within the channel, she progressed until she became the Marketing and Community Relations manager.
Having experienced an array of responsibilities and developed a ton of knowledge about traditional marketing, Ms. Elford shared her insight about the industry. This report will only touch on traditional marketing as Ms. Elford’s industry knowledge is based on the times when digital marketing wasn’t as big as it is now.
The Director of Communications and Public Relations manages and supervises the publicity department as a whole. The Head of Publicity and Marketing has the other departments underneath it. The Publicity Manager has a Publicity Assistant working for them although is placed at the bottom since it’s also their responsibility to assist the entire publicity team if required. Publicists are underneath Publicity Managers but also have Junior Publicists directly working under their direction and may act as an assistant.
Working in public relations essentially means working 24/7. It’s a demanding job that requires employees to be on the phone and the computer all the time, constantly trying to get their stories picked up by the media.
In Lyn Elford’s time at Channel 9’s publicity department, some of the daily tasks they had to do were things such as preparation, presentation and distribution of the daily TV guide. At the time, Channel 7 owned The Sun and would only publish Channel 7’s Programme Guide. Left with no choice, Channel 9 then pioneered on-air promotion by giving previews of their upcoming shows on their own channel. Trying to creatively work around obstacles such as the real-life example mentioned is just one of the many things that the public relations department has to deal with.
The publicity manager is the one who is required to have an abundance of connections — from newspapers, magazines to radio etc. They also draft tons of press releases and would have to talk to huge groups of people all the time.
The marketing and community relations manager has to create strategies that would benefit their clients’ public image as well as contribute positively to the community. They manage the relationships between community leaders as well as the media. It is also their job to be a representative of their company at events. It is also expected that they have a broad knowledge of department processes.
The publicists create media coverage for their clients so they can get attention and be perceived in a positive light by the public. While the famous quote goes “All publicity is good publicity.” Channel 9 did not uphold that belief and chose to provide no commentary on any negative story that their clients were affiliated with.
The publicity assistant(s) would have to maintain media and stakeholder lists, collate all published promotional material, provide regular updates on anything that might be relevant, preparation and distribution of releases, liaise as necessary with all relevant parties including talent, producers, the media, managers and agents. They would also have to coordinate events and functions such as launches, celebrations and announcements. If the staff had to travel, it was also the publicity assistant’s responsibility to book it for them.
The publicity department also had photographers on their team that would maintain and update Channel 9’s photographic library.
As the publicity department of GTV Channel 9 only handled their own staff as their clients, the stakeholders and research methods involved in their work is fairly simple and not as complicated as other companies or organizations might be.
Channel 9 is a huge and well-known television station and their reach extend across not just Melbourne but the entirety of Australia. This means that there are millions and millions of stakeholders involved.
As previously mentioned, the publicity department only handled Channel 9 staff so they simply consulted in-house researchers as required to provide material that was appropriate and relevant. While they did monitor their competitors’ performance through ratings, their staff was very confident that they were doing better than everybody else. Although over-confidence in this line of work is not encouraged nor wise, it seemed to have worked out for their team at the time.
Media releases were and still are the easiest way to get a story out there. Once the media releases are sent to all possible media outlets, it’s the publicity department’s job to follow up via phone calls to ensure that they have read it. It’s inevitable to lose out to the other channels or if speaking generally, to other PR people — but it is the PR department’s job to make sure that their story is the one that needs to be told. Everything that needs to be known should be on the media release. Providing every single detail means that the media can put out the story straight away and wouldn’t need to contact anyone for more details. In the case that they do call for extra details, it is imperative that the PR department has the answers that they are looking for.
In the 80s, before there was social media, smartphones and the ubiquity of the internet — print, television and radio were the only mediums used in public relations. Knowing and understanding who you are speaking to is one of the most important factors of working in public relations. Since one of the biggest stakeholders of Channel 9 is the population of Australia, it’s important that the publicity department has an extensive understanding of how Australians think, process the information that they are given, the morals they uphold and so on. The better that the publicity department team understands their stakeholders, the better they will be at their job.
Success is determined by the number of viewers (ratings) which then determined the amount of advertising revenue. The main objective is to get as many viewers as possible through a wide variety of media streams — edge out the competition and promote our own network (client/organization). For many years Channel Nine was the most successful network.
Different companies supplied the ratings every day. The network as a whole agreed to use the same company and for many years it was Nielsen Media Research (Nielsen Ratings). It’s a harsh world, so if programs are not successful they are moved to a different day/time or taken off-air. However, these options are expensive and are not the first choice.
Channel 9 has helped shaped television as we know it today. They were innovative and found new ways to interact and engage with their audience instead of sticking to the status quo. They’ve proved themselves to be an admirable channel and it’s no surprise that they continue to be at the top to this day. It is also interesting to note that in almost 40 years the general gist of public relations has stayed the same. Digital marketing has definitely changed the game, but traditional marketing has stood the test of time. However, if the traditionalists refuse to catch up with the times, it would definitely be a huge disadvantage in this digital age.
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