A Closer Look at Television Content
In very general terms, a content specialist role is highly adaptive, it can refer to creative writers, researchers, journalists, marketing strategists, social media marketers and television content personnel, and at times, it can be a combination of any of the aforementioned roles and if not a bit of everything. This shows that the job of a content specialist can be a lot more multifaceted, but people can choose to focus it on their area of interest, which is the case with our invited guest, Nwabisa Matyumza. In today’s blog, we narrow our focus of content to television. Our guest is none other than Nwabisa, who is a television content specialist with a broadcasting house.
She tells of a fascinating story of how she walked into the SABC back then and requested to speak to somebody. After waiting a while at the reception, someone finally gave her a minute, because she was hungry to learn, she sold herself and committed to job shadowing somebody. And that’s how her journey as Television Content Specialist began. Nwabisa says she is passionate about content, one of the qualities you need if you want to pursue this field of content. She is thrilled by how content portrays the audience and how it impacts the consumers’ emotions.
So why TV content?
The ability that television has to generate different emotional responses from people, is a good enough reason to have interest in the role. It is fulfilling to see the impact of what you put together at the end, whether it’s emotions of sadness, joy, excitement, anger, shock, and surprises. All of those reactions bring about some kind of proof that as a content specialist, you are doing something right. It makes all the long hours and the effort that go into it all worth it.
For Nwabisa, it excites her to see the audience engaged in the content that she helps put together, it is a job well done when she looks back at her work after a long day and watches those consuming the content talk about it. Apart from the plethora of emotions television content elicits from the audience, its ability to spark a conversation among the audience is a big achievement for any content specialist.
Skills required for a Television Content Specialist
According to Nwabisa, one has to love and have a passion for television. Having passion is important because television is ”not a science, it’s an art and one needs to have passion if your creative side will come through. You have to enjoy the “art to create art”. You need to have the ability to step out of yourself and step into a realm where you can put something together that is inspired by either, your own surroundings and culture or other people’s cultures, languages, and their way of doing things. We need to understand that creativity is a process that involves marrying two or more elements to come up with something that will either entertain, educate, or do both for the intended audience.
What to study?
One does not really need to study for this role, but it is always important and advantageous to have a degree or diploma in media studies.
- Media studies help you understand why and how you should communicate the message you want to communicate with your audience. It forms the bases of any field that is related to content specialisation. Media studies will help you to think in terms of the audience.
- For television production, you need to study film because the language there is more technical and fast paced, you need to have the basis of the technical language or lingo if you like, that is used in film production.
- Study a language or two outside your own, this is very beneficial in that it gives you depth and enhances your knowledge when you speak to people. Being multilingual enhances your communication skills and also have a more perceptive understanding of the outside world.
- Be an avid reader. You need to understand the literature and history of people in order for you to be able to tell authentic stories, expanding your knowledge base gives you depth and weight when you tell your stories.
- Have experience with how other people live. When you are able to relate with the character on an emotional level, it translates into what you produce on tv as the final product.
A combination of education, skill, and experience will help you become an effective content specialist. As you are starting out, always look for opportunities to go and volunteer in your field of interest or job shadow someone. You don’t have to wait to be formally employed, as busy as people’s schedules are, there are always people who are willing to teach others, but you have to show an interest and a hunger to learn for someone to take you seriously. There are many examples of people who got employed as soon as they offered to job shadow somebody.
What is a typical day like for a television content specialist?
Each day is quite different from the day before. You always need to be up to date with the general events calendar and produce content aligned with what is happening. For example, you can look at an event like the Passover/Easter holidays. Since the kids will be on holiday, as a content specialist, you start to research and look at channels that cater for young school going kids. Then you further break it down, is it boys you are targeting or is it girls? While the kids are watching, what would the adults be interested in? Which adults specifically? You know since it’s the Passover, your target market is usually the religious folks. So you start to think around the appropriate content to play during the period of the Passover.
Furthermore, you look at what your competitors have that you don’t have. You start a conversation with your competitors and request for content they have. Bear in mind, the whole time you are conducting your research, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your target market, the research data informs you how best you can serve your audience. The research involves reading and calculating numbers and looking at trends. It’s not always exciting and one may not understand at first, so it means putting in extra hours to get the work done.
Oh no, that’s not all! After that, you have to think about why you are communicating what you are putting out? What is the moral of the content being shown? What do you want your audience to get out of your content? After you have answered the questions about your audience…you need to look at what the business is looking for. Will the channel meet those goals from a business perspective? So it becomes a combination of all these elements and being able to adequately answer in a manner that satisfies all the stakeholders in their different capacities.
Nuances to take into consideration for regional or global content.
First of all, you can’t box people-you need to think about how different your audiences may be based on the regions or countries they are from. South African audiences are not the same as an audience from Liberia, or Ghana. You need to understand what the major differences could be, for example, is the community Christian? What are the specific values in each region? How do we take this content and still make it work in all these regions with their differences? Having gathered all this data, you need to know when and how far you can push the envelope if possible, but it should be carefully calculated risk.
What’s the one thing someone can take away from this?
To a student, call someone up and go and spend time at a media company. People love to teach but show that you are committed and passionate. Always ask, and the worst response one can get is a no. Learn more about the area of your interest and spend time to really understand what people are doing.
For someone already working, offer to volunteer and spend time learning the ropes. There’s no point in your career where you can say you are too old for you to learn, we live in a world that is constantly evolving, there are always new things to learn. Exposure is important at whatever stage of life you find yourself, hence job shadowing and volunteering are key.