It’s Tuesday Night, Is Your TV on HGTV or ESPN?

In my household, like in every home, my spouse and I often debate which channel we are going to keep our television fixed on. She prefers channels like HGTV, Food Network, and any program that features Leonardo DiCaprio or Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I would be pe rfectly content if our television were stuck on ESPN, TBS, and USA year-round (unless it were Shark Week of course). The reasoning behind this is simple:

I like to watch sports, comedies, and crime dramas. My wife wants to see home decorating, cooking, and dreamy men with superb acting skills.

Choosing the right program while channel surfing can be the difference between watching Gordon Hayward throw down a white man dunk and sleeping through Paula Deen dunking a white chicken breast in three sticks of melted butter.

For public relations strategists, a channel is the media method by which you are planning to communicate your message. It could be a newspaper article, a radio interview, blog post, or even a tweet.

In public relations, choosing the right channel is even more critical than in watching television. It can be the difference between creating a social media mob and retaining large numbers of customers.

Back track with me to last month when Netflix announced a 60 percent increase to the price of their DVD rental/streaming package. For some people this was a “where were you when…” moment. If you Netflix customers can think back, how did you first hear about the price hike?

a. Facebook/Twitter
b. Netflix blog
c. An email from Netflix
d. Word on the street
e. None of the above

Netflix used two communications channels to deliver the message of the price hike to their key public: a blog post and an email.

Most customers received the email after they had heard about the increase somewhere else or they didn’t receive it at all. While the blog post now has over 12,000 comments, I’d be willing to bet most people were linked to it from a social media site with a status along the lines of: “Those jerks at Netflix are punching kittens in the face.”

If you choose the right channel you can control your message. The email wasn’t a bad idea, but it was a day late and a dollar short. The blog on the other hand was a terrible channel because it allowed the media and social media mobs to control the story. A very small percentage of customers read it and Netflix fails to reach their entire key public through it. Those that did see it ran with the story.

I’m not going to say that there is a perfect solution to keep people happy when executing a price hike. But, when delivering the bad news it’s best to control your message from the start instead of letting others do it for you. Always be first, factual, and forthcoming.

When it comes right down to it Netflix had the chance to control their message by choosing a more direct channel to communicate the situation to their key public. Instead of seizing that opportunity they showed HGTV to the ESPN crowd.