Living Large with Emily Smith

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CBS news has seen its share of personalities grace the NYC stage with varying degrees of popularity. The need for relatable and consistent personal branding has always been the goal among news professionals. This consistency helps the everyday audience know what to expect in relation to the actual news being delivered — almost like a primer for information.

In the ever-changing landscape of news media, a new breed of media professional has evolved, setting out to change the expectations we have toward our media personalities. In a world where people have access to stories 24/7, a broadcaster’s goal is less about delivering information, but rather guiding the viewers through the experience.

Cue Emily Smith, the fresh young star of CBS News who is Robin Leach and Murphy Brown rolled into a media trailblazer. Like many of today’s new media personalities, the ability to execute her craft on many levels creates a value that resonates with a modern audience.

She explains, “Versatility is the key. [News directors] hire people [who are] one-man bands. People are now taking their own cameras out, iphones out and shooting stories… that was unheard of here. That is considered versatility.”

Like many media industries, there is an increased value placed on alternative skill sets that can bring premium content generation with limited expenditures.  In her words, “If you can [tell] a news director ‘I can work with a cameraman, I can shoot my own stories and I also went to law school… the more hats you can wear, the more someone will want you to work for them.”

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The value to the viewership is the comfort they find when an informed guide ushers them through both hard news and alternative content. Ms. Smith brought viewers into the watery streets during Hurricane Sandy, experienced “Sully” Sullenberger’s dramatic landing on the Hudson River with the viewers, and then held their hand through tours of luxury apartments and homes as host of CBS’ Living Large.

She adds, “On a Monday or a Tuesday I can be doing anything from [covering] a fire, to a homicide, to an airplane landing on the Hudson… and then all the sudden I find myself in an 85 million dollar home on Central Park South on Thursday. So my week varies to the extreme!”

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“On a Monday or a Tues-day I can be doing any-thing from [covering] a fire, to a homicide, to an airplane landing on the Hudson… and then all the sudden I find myself in an 85 million dollar home on Central Park South on Thursday. So my week varies to the extreme!”

In a departure from the prototypical luxury lifestyle fawner, Ms. Smith is the “Deborah Norville next door” and is another example of how media personalities can now avoid being typecast. Both hard news and luxury lifestyle pieces may now flow from the same source. Dual brandings are common; just ask Ryan Serhant, Fredrik Ekland and Luis Ortiz.

In Emily Smith’s case, the fact she offers such a layered experience creates a comfort in the viewer where they feel involved, regardless of the topic. It’s a mix of translucent social media, a hard nose journalistic background and a willingness to talk with the viewer, rather than at them.

Emily explains, “Someone [tweeted me about] a story once and he was a celebrity in my mind because I’d see him every day on Twitter! It’s funny how [social media] has made the world so small that on-camera people can talk about our Twitter followers by first and last name.” She adds that social media “makes people feel included and in-touch. If they have other questions about a story or if there’s more info they need, all they have to do is ask.”

Agents can relate when promoting luxury real estate properties, often they must have the same skill-sets to gain a sellers trust and confidence. They need to be experts in social media and personal branding, have the proper business back-ground and also relate to people of every demographic.

“I want to represent the average person,” Emily says while talking about connecting with multiple audiences, “Obviously [Living Large is] a selling tool for real estate brokers. People with a LOT of money are watching, because brokers get back to me say, ‘I sold my $40 million dollar house because [a buyer] saw it on channel 2!'; So I know it works, but I want to represent the average person, because I am that person.” In reference to the title of her show, she adds, “[I’m] living medium!”

The key is having a compelling narrative for everyone; voyeurism itself is often a compelling element in and of itself. “Being invited into someone’s house with a video camera, going through it, showing how people live, people are fascinated by that. We know that from reality TV. We [also] get a chance to see how people decorate and get ideas for home improvement projects and I think some people like to escape,” she says. She goes on to explain the value the tours have in educating New Yorkers on the intricacies behind the high-end dwellings within their city.

She further explains how Living Large isn’t just a show-and-tell, offering nice houses, but it’s the one-of-a-kind element that brings editorial credibility to the pieces. That uniqueness is how the show defines luxury and exudes from each property they tour. “In NYC it’s being able to say this is the only one in the world, this is best in the world and pretty much meaning it. The only home that has panoramic views showing both sides of water (north and south), having the only staircase that can detract by the push of [a] button and turn into a slide…” It makes for compelling television.

This target marketing approach has offered unique experiences Emily talked about her tour of the apartment where the movie Ghost was filmed, “The broker had the movie on. We were watching clips of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in that same exact apartment we were in and I wished I could share it with everybody; then I remembered I GET to share it with everybody!”

It’s that “bring the viewer with you into the experience” mentality that breeds success for cutting-edge media personalities like Emily Smith. That sense of community she has is a strong example of what new media is based on and why people like Ms. Smith have become an industry role model.

— By Ian Clintonville

You can reach Emily anytime via Twitter @ESmithTV


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