PR and breakfast TV teams: Chasing the same Holy Grail and what we can learn from each other

Photo reproduced courtesy of ITV

Photo reproduced courtesy of ITV

A bright new breakfast telly show takes to the airways at 6am on Monday.

In case you hadn’t heard, ITV are re-launching their morning news offering. It’s the third time they’ve done it in five years. But will ‘Good Morning Britain’ be able to win the ratings war where their previous offerings have failed?

Each time, the network has tried to find the winning formula – that sprinkle of morning magic that wakes the nation and keeps them watching.

I couldn’t help thinking that the challenge the programme team will be facing – to get this latest attempt right – is something us PR folk deal with all the time.
We too are seeking the holy grail of effective engagement with our audiences. We need to ignite genuine interest, change behaviours and keep them coming back for more. We want to position our organisation as the leader in its field and gain people’s respect and trust.

And we need to do this brilliantly, or we’ll lose the loyalty of our audiences – just like the ‘Good Morning Britain’ team. How we do it is pretty much the same too – and it often boils down to five key elements.

Number 1: Killer content
We’re all into producing high quality content that’s varied, fresh and accessible – a perfect blend of hard news stories and lighter bites. That’s because we know that people are consuming information ‘on the run’ and it’s vital to capture attention quickly.
But, in the words of Frank Carson, “it’s the way you tell ‘em” too. It’s not enough just to have key messages. It’s also about the presentation. And this is where good corporate journalism comes in. Look for the human interest angle in your ‘story’, tell it plainly and simply, and focus everything around the users’ needs. Check out this great blog from the Government Digital Service on just that.

Number 2: Fresh presentation
Like telly, a picture tells a thousand words and we’re finding new and effective ways of getting our messages across. Whether that’s corporate video, Infographics, or social media – we know we need to ‘mix it up’ a bit these days and get our messages out in a multi-channel way that stimulates the senses.

Number 3: A frontline ‘presenting’ team people relate to
It’s no longer good enough to wheel out your CEO or senior directors. People want people they relate to. In my organisation, we’re creating an army of corporate journalists. We’re fronting up grassroots staff as our key spokespeople. They’re blogging and providing more content for us so that we can showcase the ‘human face’ of our organisation in the hope that it becomes more ‘relatable’ to the public.

Number 4: Effective engagement and innovation
Nothing compares with good personal interaction and simply broadcasting your messages is not enough. Ok, we don’t have a bright studio sofa, but healthy debate and conversation should be the main weapons in our PR toolbox. And we need to find new and interesting ways of doing it.

And finally, number 5: A winning brand image
Everything we do in PR is built around creating respect, trust and a strong reputation for our organisation.  But to do this – to create a successful brand – you need to have a clear idea of what your organisation is about, what the vision is. You then have to translate this into consistent messages using creative techniques. And you have to constantly evaluate. Based on your analysis, you need to be fine-tuning your approach to improve impact.

Are you trying to sprinkle that little bit of breakfast magic into your corporate PR efforts?

And will Good Morning Britain manage to get it right and create the kind of rise and shine the nation requires?

I’ll be watching on Monday. Will you?

 

Regional news is dead: Long live hyperlocal. But is it sustainable – and who is guiding it?

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When I left the world of TV news 9 years ago, regional broadcasting had already started its slow and drawn out decline.

I’d witnessed, first-hand, Granada closing its Albert Dock studios in Liverpool, Meridian axing its Newbury newsroom and decimating its Maidstone centre.

I’d also experienced (at ITN and Channel 5) the regional TV news cull having an effect on national output. With fewer local reporters to call on, national correspondents were bearing the brunt, having to cover a wider area under increasing pressure.

Redundancies, closures, cutbacks: not just a TV phenomenon – but a newspaper one too. And, the real victims were the communities these local news outlets were supposed to serve.

From a selfish perspective, I couldn’t help but think I’d got out at the right time.

But for viewers who were increasingly finding themselves forced to watch ‘local’ people and news far removed from where they lived – there was no escape. The damage was done. For them, local journalism was dead, along with the connection and sense of belonging that their old news service provided.

Fast forward a few years and, behold, there is a saviour in the midst. Hello hyper-local and a warm welcome to community journalism!

Online news sites, covering extremely small geographical areas are popping up faster than you can say “micro-blogging” – and they seem to be plugging the gaps.

Thanks to the digital/social media revolution, and cloud-based computing, it’s now ‘power to the people’. Individuals are creating their own bespoke offerings. They’re focusing on news that’s relevant to their real-life neighbours – areas the TV and newspaper groups long abandoned.

But can these micro news services really satisfy in the long term?

Can they truly compensate for the death of their professional forefathers?

And, can they provide a sustainable business model for start-ups and the self-employed – generating cash, as well as kudos?

Step forward Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and the legend that is Professor Richard Sambrook (former BBC Head of Global News). He and his team have set up the Centre for Community Journalism which is devoted to professionalising ‘hyperlocal’ – through research, training and enabling strong networks of community news hubs. The service looks excellent.

But what’s particularly impressive is that they are offering a FREE online course in community journalism for anyone who wants to sign up. Called a MOOC (aka Massive Open Online Course), it starts on Monday 14 April, runs for five weeks and requires around 4 hours of study time per week.

No doubt the key driver is to professionalise this new industry in the hope that it will become a sustainable one, rich in killer content with a genuinely newsworthy agenda to serve local communities across the UK.

I’m one of the many who has signed up to the course and I have high hopes.

I might not work in journalism anymore, but as a public sector PR manager, I am keen to keep up with the latest media developments, engage with hyperlocal news channels in my area and tap into their growing audiences – all of whom are public service users.

Can this course deliver?

Care to join me?