On the 18th of February, we attended the live Broadcast Revolution event with ITV Granada reporter Anna Youssef and BBC Radio Tees Journalist Adam Clarkson, discussing how brands should talk to the regions. Anna and Adam sat down with Sarah Cann to explain what they look for in stories and how brands and agencies can best complement their requirements. Fundamentally, they stressed the importance of relevance, with stories that are close to their audiences coming out on top.
Engaging with regional stations
It is essential to understand the issues that people care about from specific areas. Local news should be there to tell people what is happening in their area and how it affects them, with Anna explaining that people watch and listen to local news because it is relevant to them and their loved ones’ lives. For example, when will their parents get the Covid vaccine? What are the waiting times at my local hospital? People want the information that is relevant to their community.
Regional news stations are challenged to find specific angles on national stories
The angle has to be specific but the story must be rooted in the region. For example, a story about Brexit. They would want to speak to experts, businesses and individuals from that given region on the matter of Brexit and how it may affect local issues.
Covid has created new challenges and pathways for generating stories
Adam explained that Covid has changed the way stories are created and its effect will likely be permanent; finding such stories and individuals is as easier than ever before. This is a direct result of the pandemic affecting almost everyone in some shape or form, supplying a multitude of spokespeople on each issue relating to Covid. The real challenge has in fact been giving something that isn’t covered in the national news – it is important to be different. Anna added that due to the use of Zoom, stories can be churned out in an hour or two.
Viewers want to relate
Viewers want to hear from every day, authentic and relatable people who represent their area. Considering the current situation, it can be easy to slip into a negative news cycle, with people sitting through several hours of misery. Anna outlined that she always tries to balance both positive and negative stories, ensuring the tone of news is also appropriate for the audience. As an example, Adam mentioned that a story of his virtual wedding ceremony went viral, purely because people thoroughly enjoy these uplifting stories.
Brands, businesses and charities need to know why their story will matter to the given area
How does this story affect the area in question? Does it involve spokespeople from that area? Or a business or institution from the area? Does the research target this area? Anna advised to bear the question in mind: “Why do I care?” when reporting locally.
The importance of diversity and issues with spokespeople
Adam revealed that they have a tough time getting Conservative MPs on, could the Tories be avoiding the North?! Anna added the importance of diversity, stating that stories must reflect the audience. This includes a host of qualities, namely gender, ethnicity, religion and sexuality.
Regional stations appreciate flexibility when scheduling stories
There are times when perfectly planned schedules are scrapped due to breaking news – something that is simply unavoidable when broadcasting. Of course, this can be frustrating for both sides but they appreciate understanding, preferring agencies and brands who aren’t too rigid and respect the unpredictability of the news cycle.
Overall, it is clear that both ITV and BBC regionals want to keep stories relevant to their respective areas. Whether this is through research, spokespeople or experts, remembering the relevance of the story is paramount when trying to get coverage. Considering the region as well as being flexible and understanding is essential in developing the client relationships required to get coverage.