Is being on the TV good for business?

I’m currently delivering a talk called ‘Blowing your own trumpet’ and getting coverage on TV is one of the ideas I talk about but is it always a good idea? Last night I caught up with the latest episode of ‘Undercover Boss’ featuring Carluccio’s and then today watched a couple of episodes of ‘4 in a bed’ and both had me questioning the wisdom of TV coverage.

Why does it take a TV programme to reveal problems? 

In Undercover Boss we saw Carluccio’s CEO Simon Kossoff discover, dirty and disorganised kitchens, broken lifts, long term senior staff vacancies, empty restaurants and disaffected staff. In fairness we did get some insights into some of the more successful restaurants but judging by the live Twitter comments they weren’t what most people were focused on.

Should a CEO need a TV programme to understand that the reason one restaurant was struggling was that it hadn’t had a General Manager or Head Chef for months? Does it take a film crew to reveal that a talented Barista with 3 years’ service was still on minimum wage? Why does it take a waiter to point out why the marketing for events was not working?

Will the favourable bits end up on the cuttign room floor?

Will the favourable bits end up on the cuttign room floor?

Now I am fully aware that a lot of the film will have ended up on the cutting room floor and there was probably a lot more of the good stuff there than the problems but that is my point. A TV producer has to make an interesting programme, perfection is rarely as entertaining as things going wrong so subjecting one’s business to a programme like this is a high risk strategy.

Is the concept going to allow you to win?

4 in a Bed is a programme that features the owners of 4 different Bed and Breakfast establishments staying in each others’ properties and judging the experience. Guests pay what they think the room was worth and the winner is the one which has received the highest proportion of its bill at the end of the week. The model is very open to gamesmanship.

Owners are judged on the warmth of their welcome, cleanliness, facilities, sleep quality and breakfast. We see guests looking hard for dirt, hair, marks on sheets etc. They pull out furniture, strip beds, get on their hands and knees to look behind toilets, in short they do everything possible to find fault with their rivals. They strive to find criticisms of the breakfast offer.

Winning the competition might be very good for business but the programme model accentuates weaknesses which may be very costly. On the one hand we see some charming, incredibly patient owners and some beautiful properties. On the other hand we see owners having a melt down over breakfast and we see some irrational and unpleasant behaviours most of which are not going to encourage us to book into those establishments.  What makes for good TV is not necessarily what makes for good business.

In my observation the easiest way to win 4 in a Bed is to run budget accommodation which is clean, comfortable and great value for money, that way the other owners will pay you at least what you charge and often more. The businesses that struggle to win are the high end, luxury establishments where prices are high and expectations are higher, owners who charge £45 per night can’t conceive that anything can be worth £200 per night so almost invariably underpay. The danger is that potential clients then get the feeling that owners are overcharging which is not good for bookings.

Be sure you know what you are doing

Publicity is good for business. Free publicity is better. Free publicity that is objective and independent is gold but before you get lured in do your homework and your risk assessment.

  • Make sure that you understand the format for the programme.
  • Think about all the things that could possibly go wrong and have a plan in case they do.
  • If there are too many risks then turn down the opportunity.

Remember the producers are out to make entertaining TV not to win you business. I’m not saying that they will deliberately set out to trip you up but they have the editorial control. It is hardly likely that you will get the chance to influence the content that goes out.

When I was filmed delivering a training workshop a few years ago the first I knew of the content was when it went out on Breakfast TV. The journalist had spent the entire morning with us, had filmed the workshop, interviewed participants and then went back to interview them at work; he had hours of film which got cut down to a 3-4 minute clip. Fortunately my experience was very positive but that’s not always the case so think twice or three times before you agree to put your business in the limelight.


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