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Top Broadcast PR tips from the BBC Head of Sport (English Regions): Charles Runcie

Charles Runcie, English Regions

 

The BBC Head of Sport. English regions has recently given a talk to PR practitioners at Shout! about how you can make your story stand out from the rest.

And here are some of his top tips from the session.

Is it interesting?

Think to yourself “do I really care?” If a sports story topic is of interest to you then it is likely to stand out to others. If it is not, then it is unlikely to be appealing. A general rule in broadcast is to think would it be a good chat with your friend in the pub. Can you see yourself discussing it in the kitchen with colleagues? If so, then go ahead and pitch it.

Grab our attention

One of Charles’ key tips was put your headline grabbing fact at the very start of the broadcast press release. At the very least, sum up your story in a sentence. Broadcasters are busy people and often only have chance to glance over the first few lines of the press release. If the most salient part of the story is buried in paragraph five, then the story may be overlooked and rejected. Although this sounds so obvious, in Charles’ experience it is a very common occurrence and a bug bear.

Regional Links

If a story has a regional link then this will be of more interest to BBC local stations as they focus on regional stories. Make sure you put these local names and places in your press releases as editors tend to skim read for them. So if it is based on research or data results, the more local statistics available the better. If there is no regional relevance, still remember that if the story is strong and is interesting or has a fantastic spokesperson then broadcasters may still use it and add their own local take on it if necessary. If it is a national story, it is worth finding out where the spokesperson is from and then let that local region’s broadcaster know.

Topicality

If you have a good story but think there has been a similar story in the press recently then don’t worry it may still be a relevant talking point for the regions, let the journalists decide. They can often create a new twist or spin on the story. Obviously, if it is almost identical to the recent story then it will no longer be of interest. But if there’s a development or a new angle to a recent topical issue that’s been on-going then it is worth pitching to broadcasters.

Timescale

Make sure when you are thinking of pitching a story to broadcasters that you give yourself enough time to sell it in because although broadcasters take good stories last minute, they also in Charles’s words ‘plan, plan, plan in advance,’ so the earlier you pitch, the more chance of success. Sport planning meetings take place typically late on Wednesday, Thursday or early Friday so try and get your story out as early in the week as possible. This means it is more likely to make the short-list and can be discussed with many people in the newsroom and even if they are not interested they may know of a colleague that will be.

Strong Personalities or a powerful message

It goes without saying that spokespeople need to have something appealing to say and have an opinion. No matter how famous they are, if they are shy, reluctant or coerced, it is advisable not to put them forward. If they were put on air, the interview may be cut short if they appear bored or ill-informed which could ruin your client’s reputation as well as drastically reducing any chance of gaining future coverage.

The story should also have a powerful message that is compelling to viewers or listeners and can be summed up in a soundbite.

Access

Your reputation could be on the line if you don’t deliver what you promise. What Charles means by this is that broadcasters will remember your company’s name if you say a spokesperson is available and then last minute you let them down. Make sure you are clear with your spokesperson about the importance of knowing their availability and exact times.

Think it through

Just because you think a story will work well for radio, do not assume it will work for TV or online and vice versa. Coverage on radio, TV and online requires very different things but many PRs pitch their stories to all. It would be a more effective option to tailor the story to meet the specific platform. So for radio, specify that the spokesperson is available via an ISDN line and the exact timings. For TV, explain the locations that the spokesperson is available from and where they have access to. Often PRs forget that radio is all about words and sounds, whereas TV is more focused on the pictures telling the story. Therefore, let TV broadcasters know if you have any b-roll available, as this can help them out in terms of deciding which pictures they want and they are also more likely to take your story. A story may only be suitable for one platform, therefore only pitch your story to that one. Radio is better for more chatty topics that would probably not appeal to TV broadcasters, particularly if there are no related pictures to match.

Lasting power

I’m sure it has happened to all PRs, where a story has been dropped last minute. Charles Runcie stressed not to take it personally as breaking news can come in at any minute and push out not only your story, but a number of stories. Obviously, stories often have a timescale in which they can run, but if you can pitch a story that can be used at a later date then this will help with your chance of gaining coverage. If breaking news does then push out your story one day, you could suggest using it as a feature another day or the following week. The one problem with this is that broadcasters may not like using your story later on if they’ve already seen another broadcaster using it unless there is a new angle on it. However, with feature stories broadcasters are less concerned with the time it goes out on air as it doesn’t have to be contemporaneous.

If your story gets dropped last minute it can just be bad luck (especially if a breaking story comes in) so try to take it as a positive thing. You now know that the broadcasters who agreed to use the story, will be interested in those kind of stories and you could ask if they would like hold it for a later date if it is not pegged to a particular day.

Time of day

It is always better to make your spokesperson available as early in the day as possible as this gives a greater chance of coverage. There are more programmes covering, for example breakfast particularly in radio so there is more chance of interest from broadcasters. Radio covers a lot of stories as discussion points during the day time. It also means if your story was popular it may even be repeated later that day but it is unlikely to be used the next day if it first goes out at 10pm for instance, as this would be old news

Diversity of the story

The greater the number of people it appeals to, the more likely you are to gain coverage. Broadcasters think in terms of what their listeners would be interested in, so the more ages and types of people it will attract, the more likely you will be able to get broadcasters from many different outputs to use your story.

 

Finally, Charles told us what is changing at the BBC:

Social Media: The BBC now have two million followers so PRs should keep up to date with the kind of thing they are tweeting.

Skype: if they have a smart and clear backdrop, BBC’s will do interviews via Skype, as long as you have wifi reception.

Drones: a story with shots of scenery is very useful as it is hard for broadcasters to have the time and resources to get these shots last minute.

 

For more information on how to secure broadcast PR coverage, download our media relations guide.

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