Carr helps broaden Hallmark Channel's view

Two major announcements were keeping Nancy Carr, SVP of corporate communications for the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, very busy of late. The Hallmark Channel just acquired three programs - I Love Lucy, Cheers, and 7th Heaven - adding to its list of popular "off-net" series.

Two major announcements were keeping Nancy Carr, SVP of corporate communications for the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, very busy of late. The Hallmark Channel just acquired three programs - I Love Lucy, Cheers, and 7th Heaven - adding to its list of popular "off-net" series. And Comcast renewed the distribution agreement with both television stations, adding an HD version of the movie channel planned for March 2008.

Carr's role, handling press strategies, special events, and internal communications, was critical to getting the word out. And in all her efforts, she never strays from the company's core strengths.

"Hallmark is the premier channel for family programming," she says. "We're not about sexy. We don't have forensic crime. We're programming for the underserved."

Despite the proliferation of edgy viewing options, Hallmark is determined to stick to its family-friendly guns, since there seems to be an audience for it. The Hallmark Channel reaches 85 million households; the movie channel about 10 million. The 25- to 54-year-old age group is the overall target - with baby boomers at the core.

"We're the poster child for decency," explains Carr. "This is certainly a time when policy-makers and the FCC have been looking at content. That's not an issue for us."

While the Hallmark brand has been a staple for 50-plus years, the Hallmark Channel was not an immediate hit with the media when it debuted in August 2001.

But by the time Carr joined from CBS in 2005, things had changed remarkably.

"[At] Hallmark, the whole PR team has had to work hard over the past six years," she says. "Now the phone is ringing more. I had no idea what a success story I was walking into."

Unbeknownst to Carr, she was also walking into a period of great transition.

Within a few months of her start, Hallmark, which had been looking for a strategic partner or buyer, called the search off, laid off 20 people, including the CMO, and the CEO stepped down.

"It was [key] to provide continuity for not only our business activities, but the way we related to the investment community," says programming EVP David Kenin. "She has provided that link so that the company did not miss a beat in our public information servicing."

The key for Carr was crafting a single, unified message for all.

"Publicity is 'I've got a release. How do I get it in the [media]?'" notes Carr. "PR is establishing a rapport between an organization and its various audiences."

Enhanced online offerings, such as behind-the-scenes footage and a community section for blogging and chatting, are intended to further engage an already emotionally invested following. Carr says the Web site has seen a jump in traffic over the past year, including in boomer-audience participation. And the holiday season is a time when viewers are even more receptive to the Hallmark message.

"The Hallmark Channel is relationship-oriented... [and] we're coming to a period that's particularly tied to brand essence," she notes. "When we go online, we enhance our experience on-air."

Next year, the schedule will be packed with more than 30 original movies. Each film will have its own microsite and the network is adding more program streaming, which began with a series called Adoption that, as of press time, appeared on the homepage.

"We're doing the right thing," says Carr, "and we'll do more of what we've been doing."

Nancy Carr

September 2007 to present
Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, SVP of Corporate Communications

2005-2007
Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, VP of Corporate Communications

1999-2004
CBS Television Network, VP of communications

1993-1999
Various posts at CBS, ranging from associate director of publicity to VP of publicity

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