How has entertainment publicity changed with the rise of streaming? Alison Grand, President of Grand Communications, shares how streaming has given PR pros the opportunity to land even more media coverage. Alison also reflects on the increased demand for diverse and inclusive children’s entertainment.
Find out what Arthur and his friends are doing now here.
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HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: ALISON GRAND
DOUG: Alison, your firm plays a big role in entertainment, from documentaries to children’s programming, among other things that you do. I’d like to start in the children’s programming area. Could you give us the top note of how diversity and the move towards that have actually come into play in children’s television?
ALISON: Hi, Doug, sure. We have seen a major improvement in that sense in kids’ TV over the many years. We’ve seen diversity move from, frankly, tokenism to real, authentic diversity. And several of the kids’ shows that we’ve worked with and that we represent really have hit the mark in that way. One of which we recently launched is called Alma’s Way. And they really made sure to include like the full spectrum of Latinos, including Afro-Latinos, which aren’t quite so often seen, especially in kids’ TV, and really kind of bumped up that authenticity and diversity a notch. And that’s just one example of some of what we’ve seen in the space recently.
DOUG: That’s really cool. Now, in the communications space is there a temptation to be promoting a show based on diversity or is that sort of an accepted part of it? How do you sort of walk down that path to actually communicating the importance of making sure the shows do that and participate, but not trying to be like hail, hail, this is the only reason that we’re such wonderful people.
ALISON: Yeah, well, it’s a good question. I mean, frankly, it’s not even like a nice to have, it’s a must-have now and it’s not really so much media, it’s more about the end-user or the audience and having them really feel seen and included. Some child watching a show at home who maybe is autistic, here’s a character who they can see themselves in. And so, that demand we’ve found really has come more from the end-user who really value the importance of being seen. And I think media sort of gets that. And really, it’s a point that they can rally around to. So, definitely, it’s not the only thing that makes up a great show, but it is an essential ingredient.
DOUG: Right, and that’s great that you focus there. You’ve worked on so many famous programs. One of them, I guess that’s coming to an end now is Arthur, that has been a staple for years, maybe anecdotes from stories or things that you had to do to keep Arthur in the public eye for so long.
ALISON: Well, I mean, my team and I most recently and most directly, as far as Arthur goes, worked on that media bonanza that was the 25th anniversary. And there were some interesting pieces like a marathon and some very anticipated final episodes that really revealed what Arthur and his friends were going to grow up to be. So, there was a lot of interest and, of course, so much love out there for the show. We find that, especially when it’s a show that’s been around for so long, it’s sort of like has generations of fans. So, there’s just such a sweet spot, and it really becomes news, and it rises beyond just sort of parenting media into like full pop-culture sort of things. And one of the reasons really, I think, that Arthur has been so successful and been sort of a groundbreaker in several ways is just that, they haven’t shied away from those challenging or not often dealt with topics. Back to your point about diversity, that’s one of the things that they’ve always paid attention to and also just challenging and timely issues that one would think maybe a kids’ show wouldn’t delve into, but they do, and they have. And I think that’s one of the things that’s made it so successful and so loved over all these many years.
DOUG: Yeah, we don’t do plot spoilers on this series, so we won’t take a deeper dive into Arthur. You better watch the show if you want to figure out what they do when they get older. No plot spoilers here.
ALISON: Those episodes have already aired, but yes, you can still watch them for sure.
DOUG: Right, you can probably access them, stream them. And that almost gets to our next point of how entertainment publicity has really changed during the course of the pandemic, obviously, and with the growth of streaming and explosion of content, how’s that affecting the communications landscape?
ALISON: It used to be that everything was very, what we would call street date sensitive. You know, it was sort of everything was about the premiere and the press coverage needed to run in the lead up to the premiere. And when the premiere was over, that was sort of it. Now, we’ve found, and definitely streaming is a big reason why, it’s not so street date sensitive anymore. Now it’s sort of like, well, if the media we were working with wasn’t able to cover it in advance of the premiere, well, it’s available for streaming for free, sometimes for free, and it will be for the foreseeable future. So, it sort of gives almost a second life to the effort and gives really the ability for us to drive much more coverage than just being sort of around the premiere, and that’s sort of the end.
DOUG: Yeah, one of the things I think that’s sort of interesting and I know I’m guilty of it, but I definitely do it. For the shows that I watch when they stream, and maybe they’re released on a weekly basis, I’ll check the reviews after to see what’s being written about it after the show. Is there a way to try and get your show sort of into that funnel, or does it already have to be a hit at a certain level to be considered? Can you sort of feed that communications piece?
ALISON: Sometimes there’s a reason for that sort of thing. It might be like a guest star or something that sort of everybody’s talking about the next day. But by and large, our efforts really go to promoting the new show and following its launch as well. And yes, to your point, I mean whatever angles and sort of opportunities that there might be within that post-launch, we’re really always looking to rally around, too, because, of course, our objective is to get as much attention as we can and keep it in the headlines even beyond its launch.
DOUG: Yeah. I’m going to ask you at the end if you have sort of any predictions for the future of where this is going, but I’ll give you a moment to think about that even while I ask you a new question because you’ve done a lot of work in the public broadcasting space, which is so important. And why is it important?
ALISON: Well, first of all, we love PBS, but likewise, NPR and any public media are very important. And really the reason for its existence was to democratize high-quality media, high-quality educational, good for you content. And that is just what it does, it democratizes it. So, it’s not about you have to shell out some money for a streaming service or you have to shell out money for cable. It’s really free and widely available. So, it’s sort of a great concept that continues to be a great concept. And even in the age of now where there are so many streaming services and so many options, PBS remains a very important entity within all of that and probably the most accessible. So, whether it’s Arthur, or whether it’s Great Performances, or Nature, or American Masters or tons of things that you can learn about and you wouldn’t have known, it’s sort of all happening on PBS. So, it’s just a very important thing, and we love them dearly.
DOUG: Yeah, and speaking of Great Performances, now I’m putting pressure on you with the big finish. Any predictions for the future, things that communicators need to be aware of if they’re involved in entertainment PR, specifically with programming?
ALISON: People would be well-advised who are in the business to really manage and make the best of the connection between media and social media and how one can sort of feed the other. Sometimes now if we’re getting a piece of coverage in The New York Times, let’s say, they’re also tweeting that article or they’re putting it on their Facebook. And we might retweet it, and it’s sort of growing eyeballs and growing that visibility that you plant into even bigger visibility. I mean, both through the outlets social and through your own or the brand’s social and just how there’s such a reciprocal sort of relationship to that. And influencers as well, we always keep our ear to the ground, influencers who might be talking about a show that we represent or a brand that we represent, and then looking to engage those influencers, and sort of create that sort of goodwill that keeps them touting that brand and keeps them in your corner.
DOUG: Awesome. Well, that’s great advice and great insights. Thanks so much for participating.
ALISON: My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.