On the 18th February we hosted an event with ITV Granada reporter Anna Youssef, and BBC Radio Tees Journalist Adam Clarkson to discuss how brands should talk to the regions. Anna and Adam sat with our very own Sarah Cann explaining what they look for in stories for their respective areas and how brands and agencies can best complement their requirements.
Fundamentally, Adam and Anna stressed the importance of relevance. They want stories that are close to their audiences. If a brand or agency has a story for a region, they must ask the question “why will this region/station care?”
When engaging with regional stations, it is essential to understand the issues that people care about from specific areas. One must also remember why people watch local news.
Anna explained that people watch and listen to local news because it is relevant to them and their loved ones’ lives. Local news should be there to tell people what is happening in their area and how it affects them. For example, when will their parents get the Covid vaccine? What are the waiting times at my local hospital? Adam highlighted the point that the cares of the North aren’t especially different to anywhere else, especially in a post-Covid world, rather people just want 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. 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 for generating stories, it has changed the way stories are created and its effect will likely be permanent.
Adam explained that finding stories and individuals is as easy if not even easier than before. Covid has affected everyone which means there are always 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. Covid has created new pathways of creating news.
Viewers want to relate to the people they see on the news. It is also a challenge to balance the tone of the news for the audience.
People want to hear from everyday, authentic people who represent their area to whom they can relate, explained Adam. Considering the current situation, it can be easy to slip in to a negative news cycle, Anna stated. The last thing she wants is people sitting through several hours of misery leaving them depressed. She always tries to balance the stories with positives and negatives. Adam mentioned a story of his about a virtual wedding ceremony going viral as an example, people thoroughly enjoy these uplifting stories.
Brands, businesses and charities need to ask themselves why their story will matter to the given area.
How does this story affect the area in question? Does it involve spokespeople from the 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?”
On the importance of diversity and issues with spokespeople:
Adam rather bluntly revealed that they have a tough time getting Conservative MPs on, could the Tories be avoiding the North?! Anna added the importance of diversity. She always looks for a variety of people for stories. It is important that stories reflect the audience. This means different genders, ethnicities and she even mentioned her interest in stories representing the trans community too!
Regional stations appreciate flexibility and understanding when scheduling stories
There are times when they have put a lot of work in to schedules but then breaking news hits and they have to scrap the whole schedule – of course this can be frustrating for both sides but they appreciate understanding. They prefer agencies and brands who aren’t too rigid and respect the unpredictability of the news cycle.
Overall it is clear that our friends from ITV and BBC regionals would like us to keep our 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. Bearing the region and mind as well as being flexible and understanding is essential in developing the relationships required to get coverage.