The Big Pitch: What steps should ABC take to counteract its image as a struggling network?

Brian Cummings

Brian Cummings

Brian Cummings

Cummings McGlone & Associates


When a company makes a product that the public doesn’t like, it isn’t

having a public relations problem, it is having a operational


It’s like the company that pours toxic waste into a river, and calls it

a PR problem. As our desired demographic would say, ’ NOT!’ PR,

reputation management, relationship management, spin control or whatever

we’re calling what we do today, can influence the public’s perception

for a while. But, thankfully, reality catches up sooner or later. And if

the emperor has no clothes, no amount of consultant-speak will clothe

him. What can ABC do? Try entertaining us.

Stanley Levenson

Levenson Public Relations,


Historically, ABC has been the network of choice for youth and young

adults aged 18 to 34 and 18 to 49. As baby boomers have matured, the

network has built a solid line up of programs that appeal to adults

between 25 and 54, especially heads of households who are in the

professional/executive managerial occupational categories. Clearly, ABC

is transitioning to attract a more affluent market, while continuing to

build and expand the youth audience. As opposed to delivering

programming that appeals to the masses, I encourage ABC to concentrate

on the upscale market, command higher prices for its time slots and

position itself as foremost in the timely presentation of the

highest-quality programming.

Jeff Hasen

Publicis Dialog

Salt Lake City

The sputtering publicity machine needs a Sears repairman - or a speedy

return to the basics. How about looking at what’s best on the air (a

loud vote here for Steven Bochco and Dennis Franz) and doing good old-

fashioned press relations with the stars? The network universe is

widening with sister-cable entities and web sites, and cross-promotion

is always a part of the picture. But in other ways, little has changed:

the job is still to push the good stuff and let the cream rise. To put

it into the numbers world ABC executives inhabit, it’s time for PR


Charles McLean

Hill & Knowlton,

Washington, DC

ABC shouldn’t try to persuade people via a branding campaign to watch

the network just so they can be seen watching the network. Its execs

must give creative people license to produce quality programs, then give

the new shows a real chance to succeed. Leadership in television is

taking audiences from where they are to where they don’t know they want

to go.

In 1979, few white viewers would have told a focus group ’I’d like to

see a show where the main characters are black.’ But The Cosby Show was

an enormous hit with blacks and whites. So playing the blame-game,

especially on the entertainment pages of top-tier newspapers and

magazines, will not do. Instead, take some chances and lead. A few hits,

and they’ll be back on top

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