We all know what a brand is and what it means to brand a product, company, new business, etc. But is branding a news channel the same? What are the components of news branding? Do we actually need to brand a news channel? And how do we do that?
Well, first of all you have to have a brand. It’s your trademark, your identity, and it should be who you are. Basically, everything has a brand. So why shouldn’t a news channel have one? It is the branding that not only differentiates channels, but also distinguishes good, professional channels from all the others.
To brand a news channel, we first need to keep in mind that this is different than branding for other businesses. The reason behind this is down to two words: news and visuals─or in creative terms: content and the look and feel. Therefore, the branding strategy for news channels and its components are different and extensive compared to other types of branding.
Think of the brand, think wider
My preferred branding definition is: branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organisation, product, or service. It is the communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.
That says it all. Your brand is who you are and what you want to say. It’s the strategic message that communicates your unique values to the audience and, in turn, will develop your reputation.
Therefore your news channel branding cannot be centred or focused solely on your logo and colours. You must look at the full picture. You should consider every element when you brand for news channels: the studios, graphics, music, font, promotions, channel ident (a short sequence shown on television between programmes to identify the channel), and even the editing style—everything that makes it to your screen, which is called on screen presentation (OSP). It must all work in harmony; following the same rules and sending the same message, in order to stand out strongly and firmly, and support your content (the product).
Why, you ask? Because, simply, your product is all about visual content, and thus your branding needs to be seen all over it. You need to create a dynamic and vibrant brand that connects everything under one umbrella, integrated with editorial content. A brand that moves as the news moves, adaptable to your needs—flexible and resilient—remaining fully functional as the news changes, consistent and constant across all your platforms and your news bulletin and shows.
Brand combination and synthesis
You must create a brand concept and design it based on brand values and positioning in future articles. Here, we will focus on news channels, brand components, and synthesis.
These components are: the logo, the font, colours, channel idents, on screen graphics, studio set, website, smart phone app, promos, and editing.
The order here is very important; fundamental actually. It’s like building a house─you can’t do the ceiling before putting down the foundations and walls, can you?
This is undoubtedly the main component of the brand. That said, most branding agencies and creative directors make the same mistake when they design a logo for a news channel or TV channels in general. They design the logo as if it is the only visual item that communicates “the brand”, and then try to build other components around it. This shows no grasp of the nature of TV. To design a logo, you should study its behaviour with the rest of the branding components and how it will be integrated with the channel ident, studio set, and how it will look in a smaller size in a corner of the screen. You must note how the logo can be utilised later as the channel’s main branding item.
Draw all the relevant questions and answers before you draw your first sketch of the logo.
The final shape and concept of the logo will decide your second item: the font.
Is it mandatory to design a special font for a news channel? No, it is not. But news channels are very text heavy—it is always up on the screen on the news ticker, info straps, infographics, etc. By using your own font, following the same rules and concepts as your logo, you will certainly make the screen look more unified. The strong presence of your brand will shine out from the screen.
Study your logo options well. Design it in a smart, yet creative and unique way, through which your message can be interpreted correctly, then derive your font from it.
The colour palette should contain two to three colours in contrast, with an option for a fourth (and maybe also a fifth) in which all the colours are represented in different proportions.
Your colours should evoke meanings that convey your branding message.
An ident is a short clip (motion graphics) that touches your audience and communicates your message directly or indirectly to them. It is your identity. Naturally, you need the logo and colours to be in a context to better communicate your brand values and essence to the viewers. The logo is the main item; however, it solely cannot reach out to the audience. Therefore the ident is what gives your logo life and influential power. Idents are who you are and what you are.
I also consider the news bulletin and the programme opening titles as part of the channel identity.
On screen graphics
Obviously any on screen graphics (OSG) will be derived from the logo and the ident, right? Yes, logically. Unfortunately, however, most channels don’t follow this rule—you can always find something wrong. For instance the BBC ident is a globe, but their OSG are rectangular. If you think about it, you can find many similar examples across a plethora of channels. A brand can be as strong as the BBC, but the visual elements of the brand make it look fragmented and disjointed.
Keeping all your branding constant is enormously powerful and creative. Position all graphic elements in harmony with the logo, ident, colours, and animation. Keep each of these elements contextual with the main subject, whether it be news, programmes, or something else. Create a variety of options for flexibility, expansion, and potential modification in order to keep up with the changing requirements and unpredictable nature of news.
Often the set design only shares the brand colours and ignores the other components, such as the logo and the ident. There may be flat screens with looping backgrounds or a logo to compensate. It’s not wrong to do this, but you can do so much more if you think outside the box and step away from traditional methods without compromising your camera shots and movement.
Design your studio the way you designed your ident, while still considering cameras and other technical limitations. Make your branding part of the set and your whole studio part of the branding. Use the shapes, lines, and curves of your logo/ident in your studio backdrop, news desk, floor, and walls—make them all connect.
Website and smartphone app
This is the era of the internet, social media, and smartphones. Your digital platforms are as important as your TV screen, if not even more so. These need to be branded the same way as your TV, while thinking digitally. The branding needs to be shown within the web pages and app interface design, as well as the user experience.
Promos and editing
Come up with a consistent way to film and edit promotional materials. What kinds of tone or rhythm are you setting? Produce them in cohesion, which can possibly reflect your brand values and its characteristics.
Finally, do remember that this is not easy. Branding requires a great deal of thinking, looking ahead, and a broader knowledge of all the TV channel’s sections and divisions. This is not a one-man job, but you need one person to oversee the project as a whole.
Watch and examine other channels and ask yourself: “Why did they do it this way? How could it be better? What is missing here? How would I improve the branding?”
My next piece will be on what you need to know before you draw the first line in your brand.
Nebras Hameed is the head of creative services at AlArab News Channel. He is an award winning creative/art director with over 20 years of experience working in the TV and broadcasting industry.