Today Good Broadcast is delighted to welcome Jack Baine into the business. Jack is a senior journalist/editor with more than twenty years’ experience at the BBC working in a range of departments including BBC World News TV, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, BBC Radio 5 Live Drive, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Leicester. He created programmes on TV, Radio and digital platforms that have reached millions of people in the UK and around the world.
As someone who has spent over 20 years having PR professionals pitch stories to him, here are his top tips on how to handle journalists and selling stories into broadcast media….
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
Over the last 20 years at the BBC I like to think I’ve picked up a few pointers on what makes journalists tick. They’re a strange bunch - passionate, arrogant, clever (mostly), argumentative and downright rude (sometimes). If you’ve ever had the pleasure of pitching a story to a stressed out producer, or a self important reporter, then I’m sure you’ve come across most, if not all, of those traits. People who work at the BBC like to think they’re immune to ‘PR Spin’, as they would put it, but if you follow a few golden rules then you'll up your chances of getting your message across.
- What the top line? All the journalists I’ve come across want to know what the story is in one simple sentence. If you don’t know what it is, then you’ve got no chance. When reporters come to me with scripts for TV and radio packages I insist they write the top line first because everything else should flow from there. It’s about clarity - headlines are important.
- Don’t send emails. It may sound a bit silly, but in my experience I’ve never put a story or contributor on any of my programmes from someone I haven’t spoken to over the phone or actually met. Personal relationships matter, so if you get to know journalists then you’ve got a better chance of doing business with them.
- Understand the programme. When you’re talking to a journalist you’ve got to know who they are trying to reach. Different programmes on different radio stations and TV channels have very different audiences. When I was Deputy Editor at Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme a PR kept sending me emails about classic music and art galleries. They didn’t have a clue about the people who actually listened to Radio 1 so the press releases went straight in the bin.
- Timing. Journalists are under constant pressure to fill programmes and you need to understand the planning processes for different outlets. It’s no good pitching a story for the next day if it takes time to set up. You need to target the people in charge of planning desks and get to know when their big weekly meetings take place. Give them a bit of advance notice and it should make life a little easier.
- Give them options. Journalists will always be grateful for interesting people to interview or good places to record material for broadcast. Always have options up your sleeve when pitching a story because it shows you’re thought about what it takes to produce a bit of compelling radio or television journalism.
- Follow the news agenda. Sounds simple, but being on top of running stories gives you the edge when it comes to getting your message across. Why not craft your campaign around issues that keep on cropping in the news? Can you get your company to put up a contributor who becomes a recognised expert in their field? Journalists always need people to interview so getting your name in their contacts book is essential.