This week, we were joined by not one, not two, but three members of Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch, to find out the mechanics behind the programme. Head of News, Emma Creamer, News producer, Fiona Wright and Celebrity producer, Lisa Douglas opened up about what stories are likely to land a spot on the show, the best way to secure a celeb interview, and what pitches would be instantly deleted.
Launching just over 12 months ago, Steph’s Packed Lunch provides an alternative daytime magazine programme, which unlike its competition is based outside of London. It’s quadrupled its figures since series one, and – breaking news – has been commissioned for a third.
What’s the programme about and who are the audience?
As a daytime programme it deals with soft news, Fiona explains, but includes everything from entertainment, human interest, consumer, lifestyle and longer features. However, for most stories to be considered it has to include an ordinary person doing an extraordinary thing.
They want stories that will make viewers stop what their doing and pay attention – it might not be something that directly affects them, but it has to be something that they’d take an interest in.
Unlike most other magazine programmes, the viewers of Steph’s Packed Lunch include a higher percentage of men and also young people – perhaps showing the breadth of its content – and also welcomes a live studio audience.
How does it stand out from the crowd?
First and foremost, it is filmed in Leeds, meaning that it tries to relate to an audience that isn’t London-centric. Emma, Fiona and Lisa all agree that this is something Steph is extremely passionate about.
The show also tackles issues its competition might shy away from. Being ‘the new kid on the block’, it has the ability to push boundaries. Emma recalls a few recent features, including live smear tests, going make-up free and vulvas…
What helps secure a story?
The news production team scour multiple platforms for stories on a daily basis, including everything from TikTok to physical papers.
However, when pitching their advice is simple: you must be able to summarise it in one sentence. And that sentence needs to be attention grabbing. So remember, short and snappy.
With people being at the heart of the programme, case studies are key, explains Emma. Without a case study there is no story – so think again before pitching in some new research.
There are also certain topics which Steph loves to cover, due to her personal interests, including business, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) with an angle on girls and women.
How about talent?
When it comes to talent, bear in mind the following, says Lisa.
Will they travel to the studio? The programme will not take pre-recorded interview and very, very rarely does one down the line. Remember they have a studio audience to please too.
What else do they have to talk about outside of the ‘campaign’? The guest will need to be in a 7–10-minute conversation so will need to have a range of things to talk about. Their personality is also paramount, otherwise it won’t engage viewers.
Is it an exclusive? No, really? They understand that you’ll be pitching to other programmes so it’s best to be up-front and honest, than risk a last minute cancellation. And if it’s not an exclusive, try and time it so that it lands at least one week apart from another TV interview.
- Make sure you can explain the story in one attention-grabbing sentence. If you can’t, neither can the producer
- For human interest stories make sure you have someone interesting to talk to. Case studies are a must, so don’t pitch stats alone
- For talent, think personality and location (Leeds is only 2 hours away from London!)