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Ronan Hughes – Output Editor at Sky News

The latest Shout! Communications Big Talk also featured Sky News’ Output Editor Ronan Hughes, who gave some fascinating insights into recent changes at Sky and how they aim to stand out from the competition. Ronan has been with Sky News for 11 years, so he knows his stuff! He also previously worked for ITN and Channel 5.

The first point Ronan made was about just how much Sky News has grown up and become more serious over the years. In fact, it’s completely evolved. They’re now focusing on analysis and specialist journalism, rather than simply following the pack with everyday stories. This was something Ronan really focused on throughout his talk and a good tip off for PRs wanting to give an exclusive. Their focus is now on ‘distinct journalism’ and having something different to other broadcasters like the BBC and ITV. Ronan says he always receives the usual ‘embargo stories’ that PRs will be most familiar with, but claims these can be predictable and too mainstream for what Sky aims for. Now, he says it makes much more sense to invest in their own journalism and what can bring customers to them.

“There’s nothing unique in mainstream stories…”

To help Sky News achieve this unique take on the news, a lot more specialist journalists have been brought in – people who really understand certain topics. Ronan made an interesting point about this, saying these specialists, often from print, may not necessarily be the strongest presenters, but they can really hunt down a story and produce quality journalism. Rather than having three journalists reporting from the scene all day when a big story breaks as we saw after the Westminster attack for instance, Ronan says Sky News is now more likely to send one presenter to do that job and then have two specialist journalists digging away to find exclusives that will make their coverage stand out.

“The way people are consuming news is changing quickly”

The way we would hear about breaking news stories like the Westminster attack has also changed significantly, with social media obviously playing a big part in that. There was no such thing as Twitter when Ronan first started. This meant it was all about getting the breaking news strap on before the BBC, rather than trying to push out details on social media first. Previously, you’d first hear about a big news story when you switched on the TV or radio, but now there’s a wonderful little invention called ‘push notifications’. Ronan says breaking news alerts sent directly to a users’ phone are crucial and far more important than getting the breaking news strap on their live coverage. If you’re not too sure what push notifications are, they’re the handy little alerts you can set up for your phone through most news outlets now. They’ll come directly through to your mobile device from somewhere such as Sky News so you know to switch on the TV and tune in to their live broadcast immediately. It means viewers can get the latest details much quicker than ever before and pushes the audience to switch on their TV.  They have even recently employed an Alerts Editor!

It may sound like an obvious point, but pictures are everything for TV broadcasters like Sky News, which Ronan briefly touched on. The way footage is shot has also developed in recent years with smart phone technology, so there’s no need to have a van full of equipment anymore. In fact, some of the most engaging videos now come from a smart phone camera, with footage showing a first-hand account of events more likely to capture and keep the audience’s attention.

Ronan ended on his top tips for PRs pitching to Sky News, which is slightly different to the advice from our other speakers. As you may have gathered, Sky News want exclusive content and are unlikely to consider something everyone else will also have. How can you make their coverage stand out? Think about their audience, how it will appear visually and how it will be distinct. Remember, PR campaigns don’t just have to be about reaching as many people as possible on a variety of stations. You can make a real impact by being selective and making one great piece!

If you’d like to watch the talk back in full, please click below:

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