Why Filming “COPS” in Manchester, NH is Good Marketing for the City

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You might not watch the show, but you’ll definitely recognize the theme song. “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” It’s the theme music from one of reality TV’s longest running programs, “COPS.”

Since 1989, SPIKE-TV reality series “COPS” has filmed in 140 cities across the U.S.; and the latest would have been Manchester, NH, had business owners and city officials not pulled the plug on production earlier this week.

Chief Nick Willard of the Manchester police department was excited to host the TV show in his hometown but withdrew his enthusiasm following concerns from the public.

This was a huge marketing opportunity for Manchester gone to waste.

Regardless of how you feel about reality TV, people are watching it. Admit it, you too have been guilty of watching reality TV. So, how was this a lost marketing opportunity for the city? Like many other cities, Manchester wants to attract more people, whether it’s to live, for work, to catch a ballgame at the Fischer Cat’s Stadium or further an education. By participating in an opportunity to film a reality series here in Manchester, NH this would have been a great content marketing vehicle to drive quick exposure and generate greater reach, not only through TV programming but also by leveraging social media to engage with audiences.

Based on content marketing information published on the MESH Agency Blog, we’re convinced that there are plenty of ways businesses, or in this case, cities, can capitalize on reality productions and other TV exposure.

What people don’t know about Manchester can’t hurt them; but it can’t help, either.

Manchester is the largest city in New Hampshire, and one of the largest cities in New England.

Manchester was modeled after Manchester, England, the world’s first truly industrialized city. Today, the city of Manchester is recognized as a safe and affordable place to live, with a growing professional population, developing tech hub, and great tax rates.

So, how much of that did you know already?

Unless you live in Manchester, or are planning a visit, it’s likely some of that information was news to you—harmless trivia, but new information nonetheless.

Coverage on a reality TV show like “COPS” would have done the city a favor by showcasing some of this information and setting the scene for viewers.

Clips of Downtown Manchester would have revealed the red brick architecture of the original manufacturing mills along the Merrimack River, as well as the wide populated streets, local businesses, universities, and historical neighborhoods.

If anything, the show might have given viewers a look inside a place they would have never bothered to examine. The big question is, why not take advantage of another media channel?

Further, the city’s law enforcement has been recognized for its professionalism; why not take this opportunity to feature that fact at a local and national level?

But that’s not how city officials and business owners viewed this marketing opportunity.

There are risks involved when you sign up to be on reality TV.

One of the greatest challenges of reality television is managing, or attempting to manage, the image of an individual, business, or brand, portrayed on camera.

In this case, the producers of “COPS” would have had total control of how the city came across on the show, something that typically happens on the editing room floor and not in real life.

Manchester might have backed down because it was afraid of how the city would look to outsiders; after all, there would have been no way to censor crimes during filming, nor would the city have had any control of how those crimes looked to people watching at home.

But, as they say, there’s no such thing as bad press, right?

Public perceptions are fickle. Had Manchester been brave enough to face the camera, despite any drama, there might have been great opportunities to showcase the city’s professional police department, as well as its commitment to public safety.

A compelling story makes for great reality TV.

While it’s understandable that public officials would want to keep their city’s reputation squeaky clean on camera, truth be told, we all know that urban areas experience crime.

This is a great marketing lesson for small businesses and large: it’s okay to put your best foot forward to consumers, but don’t be consumed by brand perfection, or you’ll risk driving people away.

Consumers need to relate to a brand in order to build trust. A city that doesn’t want to admit it experiences crime won’t relate to the people who live there, or to the people that would have considered a visit.

In actuality, if the professionals over at the police department had performed on camera as well as everyone expected them to, things would have gone well for Manchester.

Like many other cities across the nation, Manchester has some crime, but showcasing how great the police officers manage public safety — now, that’s a great story, and isn’t telling it via a popular reality TV show better than ignoring the issue? It’s certainly more relatable. And when people relate to brands and businesses, they buy from them.

Brands and businesses make mistakes; they get bad reviews and upset people all the time. It’s how a brand or business manages these events that separates the winners from the losers.

Still not sure? Just ask Steve Harvey, who turned a Miss Universe Pageant flub into Super Bowl 50 commercial success.

Profiting from reality TV is all about creativity.

In addition to getting in front of a national audience, the city’s feature on “COPS” would have been a great opportunity for local businesses to rally around the event.

Events like this bring people together, and small businesses could have used that fact to their advantage with special promotions, viewing parties, and even corny commemorative T-shirts.

In summary, reality TV isn’t going anywhere; in fact, reality TV might become more popular, and politically important, in the near future.

Meanwhile, inexpensive marketing opportunities that yield results with consumers have become harder to come by; it’s critical to grab marketing opportunities when you can, and work with what you have, even if it’s not your best angle on camera.

Manchester declined its opportunity to get real on reality TV; don’t make the same mistake with your small business. Take time to look at all your marketing opportunities and don’t be afraid to be the first in your area. Contact us if you would like to discuss how to get started.