Nothing beats TV when it comes to the thrill of seeing your coverage. Watching your story told through the eyes of a leading broadcaster – complete with spokespeople, case studies, vox pops, filming location, b-roll and/or your stats as on-screen graphics – has an impact that is tough to beat.
Those of you with a purely digitally focused mindset might scoff. You might tell me that “PR has moved on” and that it is all about “engagement, not coverage”. That brands can now create an “army of advocates”, all canvassing “virtual-door-to-virtual-door” in a bid to recruit more “brand soldiers”.
I am not, completely, disagreeing. Social content is a big part of what we do here. I am just saying you are missing an important trick. TV coverage is hugely engaging.
Not only is it highly trusted (it falls behind only our old mate radio), it also provides a direct call to action for the public to participate.
Second, studies and surveys continually show that TV is still the UK public’s main source of news; Ofcom’s report in September this year highlighted that “television is by far the most-used platform for news”.
For those such as me – the storytellers – TV is a tough one to beat as a vessel for awareness building and driving behaviour change. But from my experience, only a handful of PR practitioners “get” how to make TV work for them. This is because they don’t get how to make their content work for broadcasters.
I have always described TV as being three-dimensional, as compared with the two dimensions of other media. It very often needs “something else” to tempt a broadcaster to cover your story. The problem for PR professionals is that “something else” could be anything, from a filming location or a case study to a clever prop or, often, a complete rewrite of the story to focus on what is actually interesting about it (this can also be referred to as filtering out what is bad about it). If you are not fluent in broadcast, it can certainly be tough.
So why might others be getting on the sofas, or making the broadcast agenda, more than you?
Us and them
Think the broadcast media care about your brand and what you are doing? Unlikely. You may have an initiative or new product, and it could be that it is innovative enough to gain coverage off its own back, but mostly it won’t be.
PR professionals need to think about “the story” not “the campaign” – you do that by being on the same team as the broadcaster.
Concepts and content
You may have a great story concept, but if you don’t have the right content (spokespeople, case studies, b-roll, filming opportunity and so on), the media will simply let someone else take centre stage.
Similarly, you can have all the content in the world, but get the concept wrong, and you have no hope of placing it. Content is vital, but it isn’t king –your concept is.
Availability and rapidity
While celeb bookers may tell you they work to two-week to three-month lead times, most news producers don’t. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
BBC Breakfast has often decided to cover our Monday story at 6pm on the Sunday. If that happens, you need to have trained your spokespeople to be ready and willing, because it will mean a journey to Salford that night.
Again, they won’t have much of a problem with letting a competitor comment if you cannot.
Simplicity versus complexity
The first thing to say is don’t wait to get in touch with a broadcast expert. We would all rather we helped you with the story from the offset than pick up a “could have been” later.
That said, when we write or rewrite for broadcast, our goal is to create something with a simple and flowing narrative.
It goes without saying that it also needs to be interesting (although you might say differently after reading this piece).
Anything tenuous or not easily understood, and they have got plenty of other stories to sift through. We have to replace the delete keys on our keyboards most months for this reason.
Whatever field of PR you are in, do not ignore the impact of TV.
Joe Dyble, Co-Director of ON
Originally published in PRWeek on the 14th November 2013