Now Ukraine, another big crisis, has completely disrupted the news agenda, once again causing people to be glued to their screens to hear updates on the dire situation. In terms of broadcast, this has had varying degrees of impact depending on the type of news outlet. At the start of the conflict – as expected – the media landscape was back-to-back Ukraine coverage across the board. Now four weeks into the invasion of Ukraine, we are seeing some movement in the ways that the media are covering the conflict.
Our clients are asking us daily ‘what does this mean for the role of PRs and brands when a conflict or crisis breaks out?’. Fundamentally, tone, timing, and relevance remain incredibly important for brands trying to navigate this complicated media landscape. But we thought we would share our insights of what we have learned over the last 4 weeks. Through our daily newsroom, our team has been in constant contact with producers to make sure we are on top of this fast-paced situation. Some conversations have been as expected, having heard this from a producer at Sky News on the second week of the conflict “All of next week will be wall to wall Ukraine.” Across the national news landscape, there has been and still is a heavy focus on Ukraine, while conversely, the regional outlets have said that while Ukraine is still a focus, “on morning and afternoon shows, we still want a real mix of things.” Despite this, there is still huge scope for PRs, and we continue to place daily coverage for our clients, despite a challenging media landscape. Delving into this further, there are differences in the ways that media outlets are covering this unprecedented crisis, which as PRs, it is important to keep on top of. As mentioned, the national TV news landscape is still heavily focused on Ukraine, albeit in different forms. Having spoken to producers on the breakfast show at GB News, they highlighted that there is still very much a focus on the conflict, however, they are looking to explore “how this is affecting us back home” here in the UK, and what impacts it’s having on Britain. Additionally, they also noted that they would like different voices in relation to the conflict such as “military experts, authors, historians, and former ambassadors.”
From the other side of national news, we also had feedback from The Head of The One Show who said they are also focusing on Ukraine, but want “personal stories that you wouldn’t hear on the news” such as “Tik-Tok coverage of the war, Ukrainian community in Wales, or aid efforts – not reports directly about the conflict.” It is evident that the national news still has a large focus on the story, however, they are looking to cover it through different lenses depending on the outlet
From a national radio perspective, there is some variation in content A Senior Producer at BBC Radio 5 Live said, “it feels somewhat jarring to put lighter stories against this landscape… we are looking for some other stories but very much in keeping with this tone.” They are looking for major stories in the news agenda now, not necessarily looking for the lighter relief. In contrast, the national commercial outlets are looking for some lighter content.
Similarly, to the pandemic, we have seen a pattern where regional outlets and some national radios are looking for diversity in tone and therefore some lighter stories.
We do also see this trend differ on a regional level, as there is an appetite for a mix of stories. A producer at BBC Radio London highlighted that while “the majority of the breakfast show is Ukraine related, the mid-morning show is covering stories providing some light relief.” The regional commercial outlets, however, who generally only dedicate small bulletins to news, may be less affected by the crisis when it comes to changes to their entire programming.
Unsurprisingly, cost of living has also been a major theme in the news agenda, as Rishi Sunak released his Spring Statement this week. Across the board, cost of living is a huge focus for outlets on a regional and national level and a prime focus in the current news, which was reflected in conversations with all producers that we spoke to. Guests who can speak about this, from case studies to experts – offer a genuine point of view to media who need guests who can comment on the cost of living.
With this constantly changing backdrop of Ukraine, we must be mindful that the news agenda will reflect this. Every outlet is different, and it will continue to adapt depending on the direction this conflict takes next. Staying on top of the situation is essential so that we understand the requirements and layers broadcast media are looking for in their programming. By doing this we can ensure our clients stories resonate and connect with the news agenda.