Archive for June, 2019

IMG_8262

Hamilton McCulloh

After 12 years at Seattle marketing powerhouse GreenRubino, Issaquah’s Hamilton McCulloh has found a new purpose: real estate communications. The former KING 5 Evening Magazine Executive Producer and one-time Coordinating Producer with Bill Nye the Science Guy has taken a position as Vice President of the real estate practice at Seattle’s Allison + Partners, a global firm of 30 offices around the world. I caught up with McCulloh recently at a local coffee shop.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 4.14.28 PM

Hamilton McCulloh (HM): “Even though I’ve been a specialist, I actually did a lot of commercial real estate when I was at GreenRubino. Tourism, health care were certainly big verticals for me but so was commercial real estate, and we always offered crisis communications, and reputation management, all that kind of stuff. So this was kind of the next logical step just to continue to challenge myself. I was at GreenRubino for 12 years. I started the PR practice and it was very successful and a lot of fun, but it was just after 12 years, it was time to take it up a notch by joining a global agency and I am grateful for the opportunity.”

“So I’m gonna help Richard Kendall and the real estate team grow the practice. Allison & Partners at a corporate level sees real estate as a huge opportunity of growth for them. So I’ll be leading key accounts, I’ll be doing doing business development, I’ll be helping manage the team.”

John Yeager (JY): Are you working in the news business at all then?

HM: Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh, quite frankly, probably more so than I have been and have been of late.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 4.02.07 PM

1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

JY: How’d you get started? Why’d you pursue TV?

HM: So, the reason I decided to pursue television was because of the Miracle on Ice. In 1980. I grew up a big hockey fan in Rye, New York. I played a little bit of hockey, but I also knew about the time I was 16 that I was never gonna play center for the New York Rangers. And then along came the Lake Placid USA Hockey team run in the Olympics and that moment on the Al Michaels called, “Do you believe in miracles?” And I said, “I do believe in miracles!” And I will never play the game at that level anywhere near it but the ability to share that moment with people all around the world. That was a pretty amazing impact, and I thought, what a cool way to make a living. So that was what actually put me on the trajectory to get into television.

McCulloh got his start in TV in 1986 with “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” in New York City then moved to WBZ in Boston. In 1990, he accepted a job at KING 5. He then went on to serve as Coordinating Producer for Bill Nye the Science Guy. Then back to KING 5’s Evening as Executive Producer.

Evening Crew 1990

Evening Magazine 1990 – Hamilton McCulloh (pictured center) 

JY: So you’ve always been, in one form or another, maybe not all the time in news, but always working on show content, and having a deadline, and knowing what a story is. How has that changed in 30 years?

HM: That aspect hasn’t changed at all, I don’t think. Obviously, the channels and the way you reach the audience has completely changed on its head with the digital aspects, but identifying what’s a good story, and good storytelling tactics, and what’s gonna resonate with your audiences, and getting that instant feedback. Obviously we used to get it in the Nielsen overnights, but now we get it immediately with digital feedback in terms of what’s resonating with people. Identifying the story and telling it well, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the amount of time to tell that story, because we were living in an era of short attention spans, even on Bill Nye the Science Guy, which is going back to 1993.

Nye Emmy

1999 Emmy Awards in Seattle Hamilton McCulloh (pictured left) Bill Nye (center) 

Jim McKenna was the director and executive producer of the show with his wife, Erren Gottlieb, and he would be sitting in an edit bay in the offline, and then even in the online edits of the show, and as soon as he got bored with the segment, it could be 42 seconds in, he would do that effect where you’d cut to the guy with the remote control and the old- fashioned TV from the 50s and it would cut to static.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 4.25.44 PM

Bill Nye – The Science Guy KCTS Seattle

HM: It would be right in the middle of a voiceover from Bill Nye or Pat Cashman or somebody. And he you would just cut it right in mid-sentence, and he felt like that was enough, ’cause he was looking at it through the eyes of the target audience, which is an 8-12-year-old, [chuckle] he would say, “Okay, you’ve made your point, move on to the next thing.” And so even in the 90s there was this notion that you didn’t need seven and a half minutes, or in the news business, even a three-minute story. Obviously, when you got started, you probably had occasion where you could do longer stories. And you did more features where you could go two and a half, three minutes. Good luck doing that today. Good luck writing a longer story, more than 200 words. Because if you can’t see it on one screen pass, you’re pretty much onto the next thing.

JY: So that’s changed. I think people used to have a little bit more patience with deeper storytelling, and so I think that’s just the nature of the digital age where if you’re watching things on YouTube or on a clip that you get from a link on Twitter or Facebook, as soon as your bored with it because you control it.

HM: Yeah, you have control, including when you watch it. It was like ritual back in the day, when I was first a young adult, my Sunday mornings were watching Charles Kuralt and reading the New York Times on Sunday morning. That was two hours of just total bliss.

JY: Yup, that’s just when the show was on. Then it’s an issue of trusting the gatekeeper. Then it’s a brand that you trust. And right now, we assemble our own content all the time, so we’re our own editors.

HM: Right. But that’s where PR people come in. At some level… The ultimate gatekeeper now, as you say, is the audience. The gatekeeper before that is the storyteller, and how they’re telling it, and if they’re putting any sort of context into it, whether it’s an opinion piece or just a general reporting piece. Before that there’s an assignment editor or a producer. There’s somebody that’s filtering it to get to that point. But even before that, if you go back to the genesis, oftentimes it’s a public relations person that’s teeing up that story. And if they’ve done their homework well, if they’re worth their salt, they know the reporter or the assignment editor, they know what those people are looking for, they pitch a good story. Now, you and I could both do that ’cause we’ve been on that side of it; we’ve been the “pitchee”, not just the pitcher. And I don’t think the viewing audience or the readers or the listeners, depending on what it is, whether it’s a TV show, a radio show, a podcast, a whatever, understands what percentage. And I’ll look at the numbers, but what percentage of the stories that they’re consuming actually had a genesis with a PR person. And you’ve gotta trust the process along the way to get to the viewer, but there’s an awful lot more that goes on behind the scenes than I think most would realize.

HM: There’s only so much time in the day for the reporters. Look at it from their point of view, they’re now tasked with doing more. They’re shooting their own stories. They’re filing three times as many stories as they used to. They don’t have the time to do the research, and read the papers, and stare at the ceiling the way we used to, and daydream about what might make a good story, and go back and forth and debate how it could be a good story if it isn’t inherently a good story. So they, trusting people on the media side, need to work with people on the PR side to cultivate enterprise stories.

JY: Do you think meeting a daily deadline, or in any case in this work that you did, you still had to meet a deadline. It changed you as a storyteller. How did that do that?

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 4.09.05 PM

HM: Take Evening Magazine. I moved out here in 1990 to help Jay Cascio, who at the time was the executive producer, to take the show local, because the Evening Magazine and PM Magazine cooperative syndication, if you will, got cancelled by Group W, and then everybody disbanded. And I was very fortunate to land a job with KING 5 that moved me from Evening Magazine in Boston to Evening Magazine in Seattle. Because not everybody was so fortunate; there were hundreds of people that were laid off from that decision. But we put together this master plan where every reporter had three days to do a story. You had some built-in time to do some research, and pre-interviews, and those kinds of luxuries. And so you would shoot the story, write the story, research the next story. And our reporters were delivering whatever that adds up to be, four, five, six stories a month. And we would allow for more time to travel, and we did bigger productions, but we were also telling stories that were four, five, six minutes long.

HM Head Shot 2019

Hamilton McCulloh

HM: Fast forward to today, and this wasn’t while I was there, this was when Mark Erskine was the executive producer at the time. He was faced with this kind of challenge of how do you produce things, A, more efficiently, but also B, that’ll resonate more with the audience. And so we came up with this Evening Magazine 2.0. And now, if you watch the show, the stories are two and a half minutes, and much more involved with the wraps, and it’s just a much more fast-moving show, and they basically have to do a story a day. It’s all so different. But they are one of two local shows on the air in prime access and they have been for nearly 30 years so they are clearly committed to doing it right.

 

IMG_8264

Hamilton McCulloh and John Yeager (Repurposed Journalist)

HM: And one other difference now, in terms of the digital evolution in the storytelling world is sponsored content, which is touchy for journalists. If you’re a journalist with a capital J, it’s not a pleasant conversation, but it’s a reality. And so we have the ability to meet with a client who’s got an interesting point of view regarding their industry. It could be in health care, could be in government relations, could be in commercial real estate, could be in anything. And so we have the ability to do a Q&A with their CEO for 30-45 minutes and turn around and write 400-500 words on that in a matter of hours which is pretty valuable; not everybody can do that, but if you come out of a broadcasting career, you can do that.

HM: Almost every agency I know of has their own internal video production capabilities. And you don’t have to be that sophisticated about it. You were laughing before, but you can literally post something from your phone and put it on your website, or send it out via your social media channels, and get your message across even in real-time.

HM: I always just wanted to tell stories that made a difference. I always wanted to have impact with the stories we were telling. And I still feel that way with our clients. The impact might be different, ’cause it might just be building their brand or promoting something; in some cases with non-profit clients that’s a valuable community asset. But it’s still something. I want stories that resonate and have impact. So that hasn’t changed since 30 years ago.”