I had a staycation over the holidays, which involved some great takeout, some new board games (big fan of this one), and a lot of Law & Order: SVU.
I learned a lot about cops and lawyers and what I would do if I was ever arrested . . . but, I learned a bit about press too.
And I didn’t learn this tidbit from the actual story on the show, but from the way the Network was selling me to watch.
See, the pre-New Year’s Eve marathon I channel surfed onto was pitched as “Commercial Free.” And it really was! There were no pee breaks, no pretzel breaks, no breaks of any kind. Each seven-or-so-minute segment of the show (which always end with these dramatic chords) rolled into the next, which rolled into the next and eventually rolled into the next episode.
And while that type of SVU suspense was a bit overwhelming at times (especially when Andy Karl got shot in a season finale), the idea of no commercials kept the station on all day (including while my wife and I played this other great board game).
So it worked.
And when I finally had to hit pause so I could grab the Chinese food at the door, and give me and my dog a “bio break,” I realized something.
The network spun a negative story into a positive one.
The marathon I was watching started midday, during a holiday period when I’d bet most people were NOT watching TV. And it started in the afternoon.
In other words, I bet the advertising time was a difficult sell.
So they didn’t sell it.
A business’s first instinct when facing a “down time,” is usually to get desperate and slash prices, offer deals and beg for any business any way you can get it (this is especially true in perishable inventory industries like media, restaurants and the theater).
But instead of getting desperate, and selling the time for pennies on the dollar, this network spun the story around. And, in a brilliant example of how to control a story, they went public with the opposite tale . . . that they were not even offering the advertising time for sale!
It was the perfect spin.
The next time you’re faced with a challenge on your show or your business and are going to take a hit no matter what, see if you can turn the story around and get a win out of it in your customer’s eyes. (e.g. Can’t sell seats on Super Bowl Sunday? Offer tickets to a charity.)
Because sometimes the best commercial for what you’re selling is no commercial at all.