PR Discussion with Sky News on the 2021 News Agenda
PR Discussion with Sky News on the 2021 News Agenda
At Broadcast Revolution we always talk about the need to facilitate the news agenda, and when planning the event with Ben Monro-Davies it was clear that facilitating Executive Producers for news channels is also key, as Ben began by apologising for changing the date of the event due Joe Biden's inauguration. Though despite the date change, and January 2021 not necessarily easing PRs into the new year as it might have done in previous years, almost 800 PRs and brands tuned in to hear Ben Monro Davies, Executive Producer for Sky News chat to Broadcast Revolution's Sarah Cann about the secrets behind Sky News. Ben, who runs Sky News from 7 pm to midnight, explained that his shows aim to provide "a considered take on the days' news" through mainly curated reports from correspondents with guests. He reminded listeners that "Sky will always have the USP of speed and the latest news" but also highlighted that breaking news alone is not sufficient.
“The changing news agenda before Covid-19”
Early on, Ben addressed how even prior to the pandemic the way news ran was changing, and the use of multiple platforms for news outlet had a huge impact. Whether it's the separate digital team they now have in place or following through with the "surge of the moment"- podcasts, it is key for Sky to be consistent across their platforms and continue to be the most considered outlet.
“The impact of Covid-19 on the news” ?
When the pandemic hit, there were some noticeable changes, and interestingly Ben discussed Sky's Q&A as going back to broadcast roots given that the likes of 'phone-ins' have been "a staple of broadcast journalism since the beginning." Though, unsurprisingly the most drastic change he shared had been "the proliferation of zoom" and while Ben admitted that he "was very hostile to Skypes", and pre-pandemic was keen to ensure that Sky didn't become a "YouTube channel", he admitted it does make it "easier to get people on-air".
“Can celebrities help to achieve broadcast PR coverage?”
Who? Well as usual celebrities are a good way in, but he was unequivocal that whoever is speaking, would need to have "something more" to say, bringing a new perspective to a story. This includes experts, who in general Sky have an abundance of, leaving the "bar pretty high" to get them the show, unless they are offering information that stands out and that cannot be retrieved from someone else. Inclusion is also key for spokespeople on Sky, as Ben outlined that it is something they "keep a very close eye on".
“Navigating your way into Sky’s programme
When discussing techniques on how to find your way into Sky's programme, planning was a talking point, but this alone is not the ticket to Sky news as Ben clearly stated that one should have "Advanced knowledge, get to know planners, be very aware of the news agenda". Just planning is not going to get you a ticket onto Sky News as he explained there is a need to "focus on the best way in". Target specific correspondents, get to know the planners and importantly, timing is key as if you choose to pitch on a day like the inauguration, your story won't get a look in.
“The value of light relief news”
With Sky's evening shows, Ben implied that important real news stories are the main focus in potentially a different way to other outlets as Sky has "fewer casual viewers" and most people that watch "are interested in news in the first place". As a result, light news at the moment is often good steps in the route out of the pandemic. There is the colour for them which comes through art, sport and entertainment, and Ben was clear that they're "always looking for variety and something that is not utterly miserable." While "it doesn't have to be hilarious", Ben suggested that something which "inspires", shows "endeavour", "endurance" or "heroic achievement" has a chance at seeping through.
"The post-Covid world is the trend."
Though, when thinking forward as to what to plan for, when it comes to your brands and clients life coming out of Covid is what Ben expects for 2021. While the "green agenda" for Sky and "climate change" is still something that they are planning to focus on over the next year, there is no real fixed, other plans because as always the news agenda is central to activity. The expectation for Ben is that "it's going to be a long road out" and the likes of hospitality re-opening will be something that will be heavily reported on. Travel too will make up a massive part of the agenda, relating to both the money in the industry, as well as it's the effect on the environment leading up to COP26. Interestingly Ben also addressed how there will be potential new interest in the pharma/vaccine industry moving forward and therefore, this might continue to take prevalence in the news. "Will we become obsessed with clinical trials?" he even asked.
“The thirst for data-led news stories”
Though it's not pharma and vaccine information alone that's interest has peaked through pandemic reporting. Ben was clear that as numbers have become so central throughout coronavirus reporting, this is something that will continue to be "a big push for Sky and other organisations". Data-led stories have a real opportunity as Ben is clear on the aim that he has to know "what the facts are and translate" them to his audience accordingly. There's even a growing data team as part of this, allowing the real opportunity for brands and businesses.
“The media take its cue from the news agenda”
Still, when it comes to 2021, there is one aspect which is the same, and that is the dictation of the media based on the news agenda. While there are some key things to look out for as Ben advised one should never underestimate the news… it's like fashion, and things change. What might not get through today, could get through tomorrow.
"There's a lot of luck as well as brilliant PR skill."Ben has also always stood by the value of relationships and getting to know people. He explained that "hearing from someone you have a relationship with is so much better than a cold call" and sticking with it is also key. "If the conversation doesn't work out the first time, explain some of the things for the next 6 months", think about the sell-in.