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Oh reality

October 7, 2010

Reality TV. What did we ever do without it? It seems I can’t turn on the television without encountering someone’s version of reality, whether they’re housewives or little people, buying a wedding dress or having a baby. There’s a lot more we could criticize about television besides the surge in “reality” program that is anything but. Television is all too often an escape – from our own reality, from conversations with the family around us, or from pursuits that would better serve us. But anyone who watches any amount of TV can hardly escape it, and therefore we owe it to ourselves to be educated consumers, or at least learn a few tips while we’re watching!

Reality television may seem to have begun with Survivor (or Cops, as my husband likes to point out – and which he still considers the best program on television) but it has morphed into a phenomenon that anyone with an interest in pop culture or media consumption trends should consider. TLC (The Learning Channel) seems less about educating its audiences than it does about finding new ways to put little people or babies on television. And MTV (Music Television) has adjusted its business model to reflect less music and more twenty somethings with questionable morals and relationship standards.

Never one to take the programming of television producers and broadcasters lying down (I prefer to recline, actually), I do think there is something to learn from reality television, whether you watch it or not.

1. You can have too much of a good thing. Over time, ratings decline on almost every reality show. Whether it’s American Idol or Survivor, shows fatigue, even if they do try to reinvent themselves. We can all certainly learn from this. A few too many times I see companies see one public relations or social media strategy succeed and the inclination is to repeat the success again. One success can certainly lead to another, but trends and community interests generally change too fast for an exact repetition of a campaign or outreach effort to lead to equal success.

2. Get personal. Reality television trades on the illusion that the audience will connect or relate to the people they’re watching. Many even require you to feel so strongly about them that you dial-in or text a vote for your favorite. Any company, brand or business could benefit from building communities that focus on relationships and identifying personally with an organization. It’s a key reason why often times brand agents are critical to a company’s success – how your supporters relate to you and convey that support to others can have a great deal of influence.

3. Don’t believe your own hype. Most reality stars don’t take this advice, but it’s good for just about anyone – big company, small business, or individual – to keep in mind. A part of what gets a lot of reality television shows interest, especially at the beginning, is the relatability or likability of the characters (or sometimes this goes the opposite way and we watch because we hate them  – but that’s generally a less reliable marketing method). When those same characters seem to realize it or take advantage of it, we start to fatigue.

Reality television is what all television is to some extent – an escape. And while an occasional escape into someone else’s reality is okay, we could afford to be educated consumers of what is increasingly becoming a major market share of our television programming.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 10:45 am

    DISTURBING: MTV has stopped showing music videos (completely) and encouraging teenagers to act like the musicians and has instead just shown other ‘role models’ in ‘real life situations’ and is attempting to teach them how to act – verbatim.

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