How Local TV Covers Snowmageddon in the South

This isn’t Minnesota. A few inches of snow in North Carolina quickly gets named Snowmageddon on twitter and warrants wall-to-wall television coverage.  Here’s how we do it at WRAL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh.

From the moment of the four letter forecast, it’s all hands on deck. Managers mobilize their departments to both do their jobs and support the news department in getting / covering the story.

Every single person in the television station “unofficially transfers” to the News department. Accountants become snow desk volunteers. Sales execs become shuttle drivers getting crews to and from nearby hotels. Every person with a camera of any kind becomes a photographer.  Department heads and staffers from other divisions in our parent company Capitol Broadcasting  work the 24/7 social media response team. Our goal is personal service. Be helpful. Be a resource. Be a lifeline in every possible way.

WRAL-TV Facebook page

60+ WRAL staffers tweet

We look for every technology available to get stories, pictures and videos to air. We used Skype to get a liveshot on with Jackie Hyland, one of our main news anchors, who was stuck in her car for nearly four hours.

WRAL News anchor Jackie Hylands details her 4 hour traffic nightmare on the way to work.

WRAL News anchor Jackie Hylands details her 4 hour traffic nightmare on the way to work.

Especially on days like today, you need to be able to broadcast live from anywhere. Drive5, is our new mobile dashcam fleet (with its own twitter account) that allows us to broadcast live from absolutely anywhere. One of the most incredible video feeds came from a dashcam mounted in a news car traveling along Glenwood Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the city that was absolutely crippled by abandoned cars.

We used a new ipad app @TVInteract to move live tweets with pics to air without having to add graphic support.

The tech team in Raleigh keeps the site humming. They’ve built an incredible backend so the servers don’t even breathe hard, easily handling web traffic at more than a million page views an hour. Web editors are scheduled around the clock, each assigned to a reporter/photographer team to move content quickly to the web, mobile apps and social media. Other editors are assigned specific tasks like moving viewer submitted pictures from various platforms to web and TV and publishing multiple live streams.

The Video Central section on the top of the homepage at lists multiple live streams throughout the day and night.

The Video Central section on the top of the homepage at lists multiple live streams throughout the day and night.

The station website recently relaunched a responsive design that changes the layout of the site as the story gets bigger. Any site format change on the main site gets automatically mirrored on the mobile apps. If you haven’t seen responsive design yet, check it out

Design changes to accommodate huge stories like a snowstorm

Design changes to accommodate huge stories like a snowstorm

In the promotion department, we follow the tone of the story as it unfolds. Some snow storms are lighthearted and some, like this one, are more serious. Our plan completely changed as the story changed into dangerous gridlock. We start capturing sound from air in the early morning hours. We produce quick spots that deliver on our core mission to serve. We focus on what makes WRAL coverage unique.

Over and over, every time in a crisis, North Carolina proves it has heart. Neighbors help neighbors. Good Samaritans outnumber the complainers. The kindness in people emerges and our community makes me very proud to be a native.

Read awesome stories of people helping people

Broadcasting live 32.5 hours of 36 requires an army of WRAL staffers, steaming on and multiple mobile apps, simulcasting on sister radio station MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM, and sister TV station WILM, posting information and responding to questions on facebook and twitter 24/7…That’s how WRAL does it.

So here’s to you, North Carolina, for taking it on the chin like a champ. WRAL is here to help you #StaySafe.

How to get the (creative) job

You have 30 seconds to get my attention. Knock me down. Grab me by the shirt. Do SOMETHING to make me look at you.

Cover Letters

I’ve read 200 cover letters that say:

“I am writing to inquire about the position of…
“This letter is to express my sincere interest in job number XXX listed on your company website.”
“You will find my qualifications make me an excellent fit for your company”

I’ve only ever read one that started with, “I miss sweet tea, I really do.” His cover letter got him the interview. He’s been working on my team for seven years and is one of the best hires I’ve ever made.

If your cover letter doesn’t define your personality or stand completely out from the pile, don’t write one. A poorly written or just plain boring cover letter could keep me from even getting to your resume. If the job for which you’re applying has “writer” anywhere in it, your cover letter HAS to be interesting and well written and 100% error free. I can’t tell you how many people get cut from the pile for typos or addressing their letter to a company other than mine. Details are important, and if you can’t get them right in your first impression, I don’t want you on my team.

Take a risk with the cover letter. Bring something “uniquely you” to it. Talk more about what you can do for me and this opening than outlining every experience you’ve had. For the love of Mary, please don’t blind me with jargon. Hiring managers don’t have time (or the desire) to read a cover letter that’s a page, or God forbid 2 pages, long. Keep it short and sweet and use it to make me HAVE to read your resume because I’m so intrigued by you! Or don’t write one. 


I hire creative people. Creative people use every contact point creatively to get attention. Make your resume stand out visually.You don’t have to be a designer (unless you’re applying for a design position and then I promise you your resume HAS to be designed!) You do need to show me at least a glimpse of your creativity and your understanding of creating a personal brand. You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression if your resume looks like the 100 others on my desk. Make it memorable.

If you don’t have the experience, sell your skills. List them first. Skills based resumes work better for people who haven’t been in the workforce long or who have gaps in their resume or who are trying to transition to a new field. Sell how transferrable your skills are.

Objectives are 1980

Objective:To join a team committed to excellence.
Objective: To expand my knowledge on a team that is united for a common goal for the good of the company. 

I assume the objective is to get a job. Unless it’s exceptionally clever or passes the “knock me down” test above, leave it out.

Social Media

Please … especially you young folks out there just entering the job market, clean up your social media accounts BEFORE you apply — hiring managers WILL check and tweets of last weekend’s kegger don’t leave a good first impression.
Everybody’s a social media guru these days. If you’re trying to get a social media job or a job that requires social media – your resume should include your social media profiles and links to samples of your social media work. I just read 60 resumes for a Social Media Manager and *fewer than than five had links to social profiles. I’ll know how much of a guru you are if you make it super easy for me to find your genius.  At the very least, your resume should have clickable links to your twitter and linkedin pages.


This is a no brainer, but I’m amazed by how many people don’t do it. Customize the cover and resume for the job you’re trying to get. Make it easy to hire you!
What tactics have worked to get you the job? Hiring managers, share your success stories and pet peeves!

Super Bowl Ads: LIKE, LOVE, FAIL part 2

SuperBowl “Brandbowl”  part two. Remember the rules: one impression, no rewinding, watch it and score it:


Budweiser “A Hero’s Welcome”

WOW. Just wow. “Every soldier deserves a hero’s welcome.” This spot wins in every possible way. The only thing I want now is for the massive corporation that is Budweiser to do something with their cajillions to make sure every hero actually gets one. LOVE.

Heinz Ketchup “Hum”

If you’re happy and you know it, tap, tap…the ketchup . This is a sticky (memorable), fun spot with great payoff. Grandma wins in the end. Though I do wonder how much of their revenue still comes from glass bottles versus plastic. Picky point. LOVE.

Chrysler “America Import”

Like much of Bob Dylan’s music, I didn’t understand some of the lyrics, but the message — the message worked. Chrysler is Detroit. It’s America. It’s pride. The spot made me feel good , made me want to buy American. Although, I have no idea what the Chrysler 200 looks like. LIKE.

Microsoft “Empowering”

Beautiful emotion. They’re selling technology as the connection to love, emotion, family and all the things we want in life. Emotional branding at its best. The most brilliant part of the spot? Using computer generated audio as the voice over. Just well done. LOVE.

Budweiser Puppy Love

Everything that needs to be said about this spot has already been said. It has everything you want a great ad to have. Great storytelling. Emotional connection. PUPPIES and a great payoff. Would it have been even better with a mutt puppy than a “thoroughbred?” Whatever. LOVE.

My big winner: Budweiser all the way around. The puppies + the heroes = marketing gold. 

How about you? Who did you LIKE, LOVE, FAIL?

A note about hashtags. The big agencies have missed the boat here. I think I saw a stat that said 49 spots used hashtags. Which ones do you remember? Most were an afterthought, not part of the core message. It needs to make sense, be memorable or have a reason for being there or it just adds noise. The two that I remember: FOX’s #JackIsBack, and tweet #esurance30 to win money. #winning.