C-SPAN Hits the Trail

VP Peter Kiley on Marketing the Jewel in Cable’s Public-Service Crown

C-SPAN Networks vice president Peter Kiley is a 20-year veteran of both C-SPAN and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, including several years helping plan the latter’s annual conference. He oversees C-SPAN’s marketing team and the effort to get his affiliates credit for the good work they do. As he prepared to make the trip to Orlando, Fla., for this year’s CTAM Summit, Kiley spoke with Multichannel News Washington bureau chief John Eggerton about the challenge of promoting the public-service channel, what C-SPAN considers its “Olympics” and the value of 6,000 Twinkies. Read on.

MCN: Give us a little biographical information about yourself.

Peter Kiley: I’ve spent more than 25 years at C-SPAN, most of that doing affiliate-relations work focusing on our relationships with distributors, carriage, billing, contracts, legal issues.

Much of the value proposition that C-SPAN has with its affiliate base is doing good things in the community with them and helping our affiliates get credit for providing the public service that C-SPAN is. So, I spend a good deal of our time working with our marketing team — Marty Dominguez is VP of marketing, and does all the legwork — our communications group and our community outreach group to get the message out that C-SPAN is not a government channel, that it has never gotten a dime of government money, and that we’re funded by affiliate fees paid by our distributors, including satellite distributors and telephone companies.

Because we are a nonprofit, and because we keep those affiliate fees very low, we are not in a position to market ourselves in the traditional ways you see other programming networks do.

MCN: Which brings us to C-SPAN’s Mark Award nomination for the New Hampshire primary campaign.

PK: I think, for us, each campaign cycle, particularly a presidential election cycle, is a huge opportunity.

We refer to the couple weeks of the conventions as our Olympics. But we begin our coverage of the campaigns and start our focus on them much sooner than most of the other news networks do. So, as politicians begin visiting Iowa, New Hampshire and other primary and caucus states, we start covering those dinners. We know from a history of doing this since the ’80s that there is a very politically active community in each of those areas.

So, for this election cycle, we decided to hyper-target Iowa and New Hampshire during the early campaign season. We did many of the same things in Tampa and Charlotte [site of the Republican and Democratic conventions, respectively], and we’re doing on a little different scale some similar things in [swing states] Virginia and Ohio.

What we did in New Hampshire was to go into the state and say that we were going to show New Hampshire’s motivated people, our audience, as well as the politicos in the state, the organizers and even candidates themselves, and the professional media traveling to New Hampshire that C-SPAN is the place for 2012 coverage.

We took the C-SPAN Bus to New Hampshire and had it at events where candidates were, the offices they were opening in the state, as well as schools and universities and to the Red Arrow Diner and other places where we knew political conversations were taking place. In the Red Arrow Diner, we put our logo on coffee mugs, placemats and certain foods.

MCN: Is that the 5,000 whoopie pies and 6,000 Twinkies?

PK: Yes.

MCN: Are you sure those are the best food choices? Sounds like Michelle Obama might not approve.

PK: I think those were the choices of Red Arrow Diner of what were good sellers.

MCN: Why do you go to the CTAM Summit and what is the value of the show for you?

I always learn something at CTAM, particularly from the outside-the-industry speakers. I often find some of those the most interesting. And I go for the networking. With fewer and fewer events on the annual calendar where the industry gathers, I really value the opportunity for the hallway conversation, the cup of coffee in the morning to see people that I normally wouldn’t in my regular visits to our distributors have a chance to see.


C-SPAN collected some figures on the effectiveness of its New Hampshire primary marketing campaign, which earned it a Mark Award nomination this year:

Transit: 2.5 million exposures between various billboards and airport dioramas, beginning in early September through the primary.

Interactive media: 1,400 visitors to the CSPAN Bus interacted with the kiosks in New Hampshire, and 7,000 total visitors interacted between its debut and the end of the eligibility period.

Collateral marketing materials: 2,500 pieces distributed

C-SPAN Bus events: 14 events in nine cities over four days. 1,460 Bus visitors and 24,200 exposures

Local partnership: 5,000 whoopie pies and 6,000 Twinkies were sold. 180 mugs were made available to patrons.

Source: C-SPAN research