TV Santa Barbara’s Pandemic Pivot

Reimagining to Assist the Community

Credit: Courtesy

When TV Santa Barbara started in 1974, TV sets were as big as crates, the equipment was bulky, and the mission was to provide the community with an outlet for self-expression.

Nearly five decades later, a lot has changed in the world of public access TV — but not that core mission.

“We’ve always been the one place where every member of our community can make themselves heard,” says Erik Davis, TVSB’s executive director.

One of my favorite things about working as a consultant is that I get to discover and uncover so many cool businesses and resources that I otherwise wouldn’t have known anything about. 

TVSB is one of those clients. Erik and I worked together from the top down with his team to create more structure and systems within their current model of organization: systems that will better fit the world we are living in post-COVID. TVSB is a community gem, and I was thrilled to learn more about all the ways they support Santa Barbara through their services. 

In addition to running a television station where local producers create and edit programs, TVSB carries programs 24/7 on two channels, 17 & 71 (TVSB Voice and TVSB Culture), and it provides and helps to train kids in media.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck a year ago, Erik and his team found that their old way of doing business needed a big rethink.

“We were a reactive, open community access organization where members came to us to create media and our model was to support them,” he says. “I knew we wanted to be of service and give back to this great community. But we needed a pandemic pivot.”

One big way to pivot was to provide free services to local cultural institutions that wanted to go remote. Last year alone, SBTV helped the Avocado Festival and Old Spanish Days Fiesta transition to online events. They were there when four area high schools needed virtual graduations, helped connect hard-to-count populations in the 2020 Census, and worked with the United Way on an online summer camp.

“Last year we produced over 25 new shows and featured over 200 nonprofits in our programs,” Erik says. 

Here’s more from my Q&A with Erik:

How do you define a successful day?  For me, a successful day is one where I’m coming away with emotional energy and excitement — where I’m pumped to think about progress and success and share the day’s stories with my wife. I like to see progress visually, and big-picture ideas coming to fruition. If I can get passionate about a project and see it underway, then my days go by quickly, and I get that jolt of success.

What is your #1 time-saving hack?  Eat the frog first! I’m a big list-making person, and always try to finish the thing I least want to do first. I’d been doing that for years before I even realized it was a time-saving hack. But eating those frogs frees up my creativity and jump-starts my day.

Name something you do now that you wish you had started earlier in your career?  I would’ve learned to appreciate the moments and savor the process more. As I have learned even more throughout the pandemic, we don’t know what tomorrow holds, so make each day count. Appreciate everything. Also, cultivate the personal relationships and give back to the community.

If you had more whitespace in your day, how would you spend that time?  Sharing stories. The beauty of this job at TVSB is that we get to hear, tell, and share stories from all over the community. As executive director, I do a lot of work that isn’t creative but is necessary to keep an organization running — from IT and HR to invoicing and meetings. I’d like to carve out more whitespace to follow my passion for sharing stories through media.

How do you go to the beach (metaphorically) within your day?  I go to the actual beach! My happy place is the harbor, so I like to go on walks and take lunch there. Metaphorically, we have completely revamped our physical studios with color, plants, and local art, so that I am surrounding by beauty. When I arrive in the morning, I’ll put on the Jimmy Buffet or Kenny Chesney station too.

Bonus Question! What is your ultimate productivity tool you cannot live without?  My yellow 8.5″ x 11″ notepad. I’ve been a list person for as long as I can remember, and I like the yellow pads, which I fill with tasks all arranged in different colors and priorities. I like to cross things off my list and then re-set at the end of each Friday. That yellow pad with the to-do list is my go-to organizational tool.

Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at sara@saracaputoconsulting.com.

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