Last week, Broadcast Revolution hosted Ben Monro Davies, editor of Sky News in Manchester. Describing Sky as a "disrupter", having been the first channel to do a 24-hour rolling news programme, he outlined the importance of Sky as a platform and how PRs can be ahead of the game and work with him to fight his "challenge as a journalist to get stuff out there that is not just noise."
"Digital is increasingly important."
As Ben asked the room whether they have the Sky News app, he explained that being the "dinosaur in the office," one of the biggest "revolutions" since the start of his career is how Sky News is becoming "a platform-neutral content provider". He outlined how digital is "increasingly important" with "more and more consumers coming from different platforms", and advised that PRs need to adapt to this accordingly.
"If you're talking about television, you need pictures, and you need something to film."
Ben highlighted the importance of visuals as part of a campaign for Sky and added that PRs are not doing enough to show visuals early enough in the pitching process. He also stated that people "have to adapt" their pitch to "circumstance" and even went as far as to say that campaigns should be planned with areas and ways their stories can be moulded based on potential news events. Ultimately, this is because as Ben explained.
"News is a construct."
Ben frankly shattered perceptions as he revealed that there is a "degree of artificiality to news" because just like many other things "news follows fashion". Importantly, Ben explained how he is always looking for stories that are "current" which should inform ideas of stories sent to him. He highlighted issues to do with "environment" or "gender" as examples of hot topics of the time that people should consider when designing their campaigns. He also emphasised the need to consider the audience of the outlet being targeted as in his words "old people watch TV" and it is them and their real issues who we should be considering. He outlined mortgages, pensions or other stories that affect real people, (and the royals of course), as the topics which are most likely to be picked up. In conjunction with this, spokespeople were of course a discussion point with Ben identifying that.
"Pitches I delete the most are experts."
As Ben explained "everybody is a b****y expert these days", although linking an expert or CEO with a celebrity is a "trick he has swallowed many times". Though his example of offering up "The Head of Lloyds and Eminem" might not be the combination in any of our future pitches.
"The days of the email pitch are gone."
Ben was also very clear that he doesn't have time to read his colleagues' emails, let alone those from PRs, so the best way to reach him is to have a working relationship with him. He claimed that the PRs he gets to know, he's "much, much quicker to respond to." This also applies to phone pitching, which he described as "a chicken and egg situation." He informed that while better than email pitching, you still need to build a relationship with him for that to work, which you can achieve through "regular conversation", "persistence" and "networking". As part of this Ben also emphasised the need to;
"Know your customer."
As a rolling news show, they have time to fill, though to get on the evening programme is very hard unless "you've got… that thing that hits the news." Conversely, he added that they are always looking for guests for the weekend breakfast show. In fact, he brutally added that.
"If you don't get on the weekend breakfast programme, you've got a bad product".
As the discussion came to an end, Ben explained how Sky News and TV as a whole is transforming and PRs should be aware that.
"There's more campaigning and opinion journalism."
As "social media thrives off disagreement", Ben alluded that stories which create a debate have a good chance of exposure. In particular, he explained that the agenda is seeing a considerable increase in politics despite the fact that;
"Boris Johnson has essentially decided not to engage in the media."
He, therefore, called on brands and PRs to ensure spokespeople are prepared to give their opinions on relevant political content. To conclude Ben explained that
"in a way, the story of Sky is the story of the industry"
and that building relationships, reading the news, being aware, avoiding pitfalls and having stories in August are the key to getting coverage on Sky and therefore the industry.