The key to pursuing ITV’s News Agenda: Filming opportunities, relatability and good stories such as Christmas turkeys on a diet

Despite a heavy news agenda with the lockdown tier announcements taking reign over the media, almost 500 PRs and brands took an hour out of their schedule to listen to ITV’s Head of Planning, Carol Jordan, chat to Broadcast Revolution’s Sarah Cann for an insightful virtual event.

As founder of Broadcast Revolution Phil Caplin explained in his intro, this period of time is new and different for the PR and News world and “authentic insightful commentary” through the stories we pitch to media is key.

Carol agreed as she explained how across the UK, people currently have a “proactive thirst” for information which has led ITV to put their emphasis on “breaking down issues” to make them “digestible” for the viewers at home.

“ITV has seen a change because of Covid”

Carol explained how it is no longer about reading the news, because “this is extraordinary experience that everyone is in” so it is important to reflect everyone’s perspectives.

Some of the main changes, are around how rather than traditionally planning around fixed politics, consumer, health and education stories, the viewers interests have now shifted to focus on government guidance, rules, affects on business and rights as employees and as a result this is reflected in their bulletins across ITV lunchtime, evening and 10’oclock news.

ITV have created strands around Covid (rights, health, education etc) in order to provide information but ultimately have aimed to “keep people at the heart of all their programmes”. One of their strands “in this together” looks at the good people do in their communities and there are still opportunities for stories round this.

Though despite the Covid-19 stories, Carol explained there is definitely room outside of Covid for stories on ITV. For the News at 10, arts and culture stories do well, the lunchtime news is “fertile ground for non covid stories” for the evening news the bar is high for non Covid stories because “Covid is taking up the oxygen” of their bulletins “ anything that squeezes in has to be of value”.

However, Carol emphasised that a way to permeate the news agenda for ITV at the moment and specifically for the evening news is through data, research and at times working with third parties.

This doesn’t always guarantee brand mentions as Carol made it clear as news network with Ofcom regulations this is not always on the cards. However, she did explain how if it can be worked into the film or picture and that if it “connects with the news agenda” it will naturally be weaved into the piece. So she explained that that while “it’s easy to offer a spokesperson, it’s harder to make them relatable to the story of the time” and within pitches knowing the angle the spokesperson will take is “really helpful” to Carol and her team so they can understand how it facilitates the news agenda.

Pitching in itself was a key discussion as part of the interview as interviewer Sarah plus undoubtedly many of the audience, were surprised to hear Carol say that she reads ALL her pitch emails and is “open to all pitches and open to all voices”.

In fact, Carol insightfully divulged how to create the perfect email pitch for her team, which she eluded to was more important than ever before due to people working from home.

For Carol, “persistence is key” and emailing again and again could give you chance at success especially if it’s a story they will be build, which they sometimes do 2 weeks in advance.

Looking forward to future big events also became an important part of the discussion.

Like many for Carol Brexit “is like hitting the snooze button”.

While acknowledging that “it is incredibly difficult to make good television from Brexit” Carol explained they are going to of course cover it due to how important it is and the affect it will have on our lives. She is keen for fresh takes or angles on the subject around companies taking opportunities from Brexit, changing company practises from Brexit, how people are dealing with practicalities of Brexit and how it’s affecting individuals.

Christmas is also on the cards for ITV though Carol did say “it will have a really different slant to Christmas from previous years”. However they are looking for evergreen pieces (slightly newsy stories which they can bring out at any time) and are keen to hear about “how consumer habits would change for Christmas”. Her example of a recent piece they did on farmers putting turkeys on a diet as Christmas dinners won’t be feeding as many people, was a key indication of the positivity to come.

Climate change is also set to be a big topic for 2021 on ITV. Carol discussed that they are looking for stories around climate change affects in the UK and as always mental health is on the agenda, as well as education and health.

Ultimately for Carol if a story is relatable and is something that “any ordinary punter would be interested in” it has a chance for ITV News.

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