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Working with the BBC – one size does not fit all

by AprilSix Proof

I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk with Mantej Deol, Senior Broadcast Journalist at BBC Business, on the vast array of topics that BBC Business covers and how best to bring your clients to their attention.

This was a great opportunity to hear directly from a journalist at one of the biggest news agencies in the world to discover what  will catch their eye in terms of potential stories. Securing coverage from the BBC is a fantastic achievement for any PR, but it is not easily achieved, so any insight into how the organisation prioritises news is incredibly helpful.

Deol’s first point was to emphasis that there are nine different outlets at the BBC, such as BBC online, BBC News and BBC World, so making sure that you are pitching your story to the most relevant desk is vital. For instance, if you have a story about one of your clients opening a new office in Skegness and you’re offering it to BBC World, you’re not going to get very far. BBC World is aimed at a global audience, and will not be interested in a local story, so making sure you understand your audience within the BBC is essential.

Next, Deol discussed the details of what makes an interesting pitch. Your story’s relevance to what is going on in the world is obviously important. Deol also recommended researching any upcoming third party news that chimes with your announcement. For example, if one of your clients is developing technology to improve oil drilling efficiency and you discover that an oil company is due to announce its finances for the quarter in a week, it may be worth holding off pitching an interview until that time, as this will give the story a stronger news angle.

Finally, Deol gave her advice on the need for flexibility from both you and your clients when dealing with the BBC. Live news broadcasting can change very quickly, and just because the story you pitched may not be of interest at one point, it may not stay that way. People pull out of interviews at the last minute, and when this happens the story you pitched that was not of interest a few hours ago can become a very news worthy piece. If this happens it is key to you grasp the opportunity with both hands – even if you need to take your client to the BBC studios at five in the morning. The role of the PR here is to ensure your client is not disgruntled about being the backup, or second choice interviewee, but to realise the opportunity for what it is. This is important, as your hard work and flexibility will not be forgotten by the BBC or the journalist, whom you have helped out of a rut, and hopefully secured some fantastic coverage in the process.

When it comes to media, the BBC is a truly unique outlet; with so many branches reporting on all aspects of industry and society. However, as with any large organisation, ensuring you talk to the right people and news or features desk is critical. You need to make sure you have a story that’s newsworthy, understand what part of the BBC it is relevant to, and be as flexible as you can regarding your availability. If you do all of this, you may well find yourself on the way to getting your clients some outstanding coverage.

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