The stories that BBC and ITV journalists really want from PRs

Scriba PR’s editorial excellence manager Jenny Gibson dipped into Broadcast Revolution’s recent webinar for PR professionals, about pitching stories to BBC and ITV. Here, she discusses the five key takeaways.

‘Real’ people are much more desirable than corporate spokespeople

Regional TV and radio love to feature everyday people that their viewers and listeners can relate to. If they have a local accent, that’s even better. That’s only bad news for PR representatives with no imagination. Suit-wearing directors might be the strategic leaders of your client’s organisation but the workers on the production line, or volunteers, are its beating heart. PR-originated stories are often much more likely to make it onto the TV and radio, if ‘ordinary’ people rather than big bosses, are made available to do at least some of the talking.  

Not all ‘real’ people are natural media stars

Broadcasters are looking for people with lived experience to bring a story to life. But, before rushing to present whoever is willing, there are a few things to think about. Firstly, is this person a good talker?  You need to be confident they won’t clam up in front of a microphone. Will they talk in ‘normal’ terms, rather than boring, work-related jargon? Finally, have you considered diversity? Broadcasters try to avoid a steady procession of middle-aged white men doing all the talking across their networks. No offence to middle-aged white men, of course, but BBC and ITV want to feature all genders, ethnicities, and abilities, of all ages. Can you help them to achieve this? 

A story is unlikely to be told if it doesn’t affect people

News teams’ first question when presented with a PR-originated story is: “So what?”. Not in a disparaging way, more: “How does this affect our audiences?”. The current cost of living crisis is a great example of a story that has a real-life impact. Rising prices are getting so much airtime because they are affecting so many of us. However, broadcasters don’t just want doom and gloom. Stories about sporting events or appointment TV – think of all the content on Happy Valley around this month – pass the “So what?” test because large numbers of people are actively interested in them.

Good stories need time to put together

Journalists on the lookout for stories from PRs can see through tales that are all sizzle and no sausage. Surveys need a minimum of 1,000 respondents and statistics should be solid, and open to scrutiny. Content linked to Black History Month may be seen as worthy of their attention, but the more frivolous National Hamburger Day might not. News teams also appreciate a bit of notice. If you have a key piece of research to promote, let them know a couple of weeks before you officially launch it. Strong, national stories that can be regionalised – for example, with specific case studies – are “gold” for broadcasters. Reach out with a snappy email summing up your story quickly and clearly. For radio, Facetime audio and Zoom are now the preferred media for interviews, which will generally be live, rather than pre-recorded. However, video calls are now a last resort for TV, following their prevalence in the pandemic. News crews will do their best to come and see you.

Your client isn’t guaranteed a mention

Finally, while TV and radio journalists are happy to run strong, brand-led stories that do provide the originator with publicity, they are very wary of giving ‘undue prominence’ to a company or organisation when there isn’t an editorial reason to do so. That means you get a mention if it’s relevant to the story. If you are a broadband provider putting forward a customer to talk about the benefits more generally of fast connections, that namecheck may not be forthcoming. It’s OK to ask, but it’s not a given.

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Written by Jenny Gibson

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