Why Breaking News and Weather Coverage is Critical in Building a News Brand

A photo of a TV reporter interviewing a police officer at the scene of breaking news
Breaking news coverage provides a great opportunity to build the image of your news brand. Photo © Dennis Kitchen / Getty Images

If you think you're seeing more "breaking news" from your local TV stations than ever before, there is likely a reason. Breaking news and weather are what the TV consultants say are the top ways to boost a station's Nielsen ratings.

How Breaking News Builds and Audience

Even the term "breaking news" is enough to command attention. As stations strive to compete with online news sources and social media, saying something is "breaking news" gives it immediacy and importance.

In some TV markets, the stations may all cover generally the same news. Yet there's one station in the bunch that makes a point of branding as many stories as possible with the breaking news label.

That strategy helps with several goals. It allows that station to differentiate itself from its competitors. It also adds urgency to its reporting. Finally, it suggests that somehow it was the first with the story and that everyone else is playing catch-up.

The reality is that every story breaks at some point. The stations that consistently take certain stories and develop a breaking news branding plan are helping to establish themselves as the top choice for information. In an emergency, viewers will tend to think of that station as the go-to place for instant information because they've been exposed to this branding strategy.

How Weather Creates an Brand Identity

Every station presents a weathercast.

But the station that positions itself as having the best equipment, the most experienced meteorologists and the most aggressive approach to covering storms and other severe weather will put itself ahead of the competition.

Weather emergencies are more common in some parts of the country than others.

But even if your city is never in the path of blizzards, tornadoes or hurricanes, a station can still present itself as the weather authority of the market.

That would include branding the weather team with a catchy title, like "First Alert Storm Team" or something similar, and making use of technology, like a Doppler 6000 StormTrac Radar. A station needs to be seen as being well-equipped and staffed by the most experienced and educated weather team.

In weather, most stations may have similar or even identical computer systems. So it becomes a marketing strategy in making people believe that your station's team is simply better than anyone else's. Because weather affects everyone, regardless of demographic group, this is the one part of the newscast that is of interest to everybody, so it's important to own it.

Is There Ever Too Much Breaking News or Weather?

Stations must resist the urge to set a breaking news quota -- something like saying there have to be five breaking news stories in a half-hour show. Viewers will catch on quickly that the term is being used loosely for stories that aren't urgent or important.

The same is true for weather. A weather team that is perceived to exaggerate the level of danger that the city faces from an incoming storm will ruin its credibility.

Viewers will think they're witnessing a carnival sideshow rather than a serious weathercast.

A news director must advise the newsroom to use restraint. Like adding pepper to a recipe, there comes a point when it's too much. Journalistic considerations must be considered in addition to the entertainment value.

Even so, a station that is seen as being the leader in breaking news and weather is well-positioned for victory in the Nielsen ratings. You can't let a competitor take these titles away from you.

Find Your Next Job

Job Search by