Tag Archives: BBC

Why is PR and marketing a valuable use of journalism skills?

An ex BBC colleague e-mailed me a few days ago to ask me this question.

She’d been asked to deliver a lecture to 3rd year journalism students and wanted  quotes from people who had made the switch. So I sat down to ponder exactly why PR and marketing are a valuable use of our precious journalism skills.

This is what I came up with;

I should start by saying that all the PR and marketing I have picked up since I left the BBC has been of the ‘social media’ variety. This is apparently a good thing! So many industries are being re-made in the wake of social media that it has been an advantage to come in at a time when I really didn’t know what it was like before.

Journalists are needed in marketing and PR right now because we know about creating and curating content.

Social media marketing is all about content – creating original bits and pieces to pull in your audience, which can range from writing posts on Facebook and Twitter to longer blog posts through to selecting pictures and making video. Knowing how to get someone’s attention, story selection, structure, headline writing are all essential for this kind of content creation and they are all skills which I learned as a journalist.

Even when you are picking out other peoples’ work to retweet or re-blog, you are using your journalist’s eye for what works.

I know very little about recruitment, but one of my clients is a recruiter so I often have to sift through trade blogs and websites for interesting stories about the Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector for his LinkedIn group. I know that if a story interests me then it will probably also appeal to the group’s members because however specialized, a good tale is still a good tale.

 Good journalists don’t need to be frightened of the areas that PR and marketing might take them into because it has always been the job of the generalist journo to grasp a brief quickly and make it accessible to a mass audience, however complex.

Other things worth mentioning are the direction being taken by companies like Boden, who are effectively creating their own online communities – online magazines with an interactive element – which should not faze anyone who has worked for a woman’s magazine or supermarket publication. In the same way, other big companies are deciding that instead of trying to get their positive pr stories placed “out there” in the random world of newspapers and magazines, they will write them themselves on their blogs – look at this example from the food company General Mills http://www.blog.generalmills.com/category/life/ which has video interviews and articles.

 I hear some business types criticizing journalists in PR and marketing because we have a rather cavalier attitude towards things like Return on Investment and metrics. It is worth having some kind of smart answer to this but I don’t know what it is!  

So there you have it – journalists really are the best people to turn to when you need some social media marketing and PR and be sure to pick one with a sense of humour.

What’s the Story? How Social Media is Changing the Art of Storytelling


This post first appeared as a guest post I wrote for Daybydan.wordpress.com

The art of good story telling is a vital part of your tool kit whether you work in PR, broadcasting, journalism or sales.

But the way we tell our stories is changing. It’s no longer enough to write a press release or a newspaper article with accompanying photo. Things are getting seriously mixed up and a lot more fun, with the introduction of social media and live elements into the way we present stories.

When I started at the BBC, the radio news package was the standard reporting form and it was an exquisite thing. A series of high quality interviews woven together with atmospheric sound and relevant effects, like honking traffic or twittering birds. It could take as many as three engineers to put it together properly. This type of broadcasting looks like a Caravaggio now – beautiful but a thing of past.

Today we have neither the time nor the money to spend days on a mini documentary. We need to get the news out there fast. Getting the key players in a major story on the end of a telephone is probably still the quickest way to broadcast breaking news, but in a social era when we acknowledge that the journalists don’t hold all the cards, we can be more creative than that.

This is why I am very excited by some of the multi-media reporting I have seen lately from people like the BBC and the Guardian.

The BBC provided an excellent service during that weird period after the election last year when the nation seemed to have no government. Using a live news page on the BBC website they were able to pull together the best breaking news facts, blog posts, expert opinion, public comment via their own forums and Twitter, together with rolling live coverage of press conferences and any exciting comings and goings. It felt as though rolling news had come of age.

Over at the Guardian, reporters have been getting their readers thoroughly involved in things like travel pieces by using Twitter – sometimes in real time. Look at this example of a collaborative piece in which the journalist asks readers to recommend their favourite hidden spots in London. He then checks them out, using photos and videos to add that fashionable “homemade” feel.

Increasingly traditional media is getting into story curation, pulling in diverse elements, including the best of what we have to say. And the punters are steadily moving centre stage in all this. There is a new tool being developed called Storify which makes linking together existing content simplicity itself so that anyone can curate stories as they unfold. It is still largely under wraps but some influencers have had a go at it – here are some examples.

and here;

Since last autumn 10,000 Storify stories have been created, attracting 4.5 million views – they recently got a $2million investment boost from Khosla Ventures so I am sure we will be hearing more about them.

Interestingly the company’s co-founder Burt Herman is a former journalist so he knows what he is talking about.

For me it is not about adopting the new for the sake of it, but about looking at which media people are using, how they like to get their information and what they do with it. Then you can start deciding how to use that to make your stories more relevant.

Why You Need To Act Now In An “Always On” World

Have you heard of David Meerman Scott?

He specialises in real-time marketing and talks about it on his blog Web Ink Now

His main point is that we live in an “Always On” world. We encounter opportunities all day long as we meet people and  interact via social media and as a result we need to be fleet-footed and flexible enough to seize those chances whenever they appear. Waiting to run ideas past the board is going to cost you dear in the “Always On” world.

As someone with a background in 24 hour news, this makes perfect sense. If a story drops on the newswires you need to check it, verify it and broadcast it as soon as possible, because if you don’t, another channel will.

News did not always move this fast. There was a time when a journalist in the BBC Radio Newsroom would be given one story to write first thing in the morning, which would not be due on air until 6.0 clock that night. He or she would literally have nothing else to do all day and consequently could afford to spend a good part of it in the pub.

By the time I came along, news bulletins were every half an hour. This meant that if a story broke we could actually broadcast it then and there instead of waiting until the next major bulletin, which could be some hours away.

In his book “Real-time marketing and PR” David Meerman Scott exhorts us to both live and respond in the here and now. There’s no point sitting around scratching your head about an opportunity that comes your way. You need to respond instantaneously and have the clearance and the confidence of your boss/clients to do that.

This means listening to conversations online to find out what is current  and acting on it – engaging the media about what they are going to write, not what they have already written – and using your social media relationships to make the most of all opportunities.

In a world which is always on can you afford not to be first with the news ?

PR: Should We Be Exclusive?

When I worked at the BBC, journalism was not nearly as grubby as you might imagine.

There was the time I was threatened by a theatrical agent and I once got hauled in front of the boss for playing tough with the Today programme over access to a radio car, but this is small change.

Stories for the daily news show I worked on came from; the world around us, what was on the newsgathering diary and other media, like newspapers. We called this “following-up”, but it was more like lifting other people’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, we would always go back to sources to check it out and take it on and give it a new spin but you get the idea. 

There was something about seeing a story already in print that made some editors feel secure, a validation that this was indeed real.* The fact that it had probably been dreamed up by a PR somewhere didn’t matter because we didn’t have to deal with them, we just worked on the ‘story’. 

On the other hand, nobody wanted something that had already been everywhere, it was a fine line.

Looking  now from a PR stand point you can see how placing a story with just one source might have a positive effect. If it’s good others will want to pile in and organisations like the BBC can follow-up without feeling they are taking the PR dollar – they don’t have to get grubby. 

So it is worth being exclusive if you think your journalist is going to bite, then sit back and let the other outlets spread the story for you.

* I would like the record to show that I also worked with some tremendous editors who had the courage to run original work.

The Art of Brevity

Keeping it short and to the point is something we all need reminding of now and again.

Our local headmaster is guilty of sending out e-mails so wordy that I often hit delete long before he’s got to the crux of the matter.

E-mails, like CVs should fit onto one side of A4

I asked a business leader of my acquaintance the other day, what was the most useful thing I, as an ex BBC journalist, could teach his staff ?

“How to keep it short”, he replied.

The BBC Radio 1 news programme “Newsbeat” expects all its reporters to do this. Their reports last no more than a minute and a half. This apparently reflects the attention span of their audience but it’s no bad thing.

You would think such brevity was a cop-out but it’s actually much harder to do well. There’s no room for fat, the piece has to be reduced to its essentials and the writing must be sharp.

There are lessons here for all areas of what we do.

Ask anyone on Twitter whether brevity is an art form?

How You Landed Your Dream Job

Do you remember how hard you worked to get your first job?

Do you think you will ever work that hard again?

I’ve been preparing some tips for 6th form students on how to get into journalism.

As I go over my own story, I’m really impressed by how hard I worked back then! People told me it was an impossible profession to get into and I was determined to prove them wrong.

First I spent a summer at a local radio station, learning what I could for free.

Then I used my spare time at university to get interviews on BBC Radio Leeds.

At one point I think I developed a previously unknown curiosity about religion  in order to take part in some live broadcasts for BBC Sussex.

I entered a contest run by Cosmopolitan magazine and won a prize for an interview with striking miners wives in 1985.

All this eventually led to a place on a post-graduate course in radio journalism. All that, just to get into college!

When I landed a job with the BBC during that year I was delighted. The hard work had paid off (but in reality was just starting.)

When we switch jobs during our working lives, are we really expected to go through that all over again?

In many ways it must be easier, right? We have a history of achievement and the confidence, of a lifetime in dealing with people.

So many work skills are people skills, which transfer well, whatever you find yourself doing.

But if you’re starting a new job or making a career change, I definitely think it’s worth checking in with your past. Maybe you can get inspired, re- learn old tricks or just remind yourself about the need for hard work.

In short, take a lesson from a younger you.

Let’s hear it for radio.

I woke up this morning to a piece on the radio about the surprisingly healthy state of British theatre. It seems our desire to be told stories has helped recession- proof the industry.

As I was pondering the whole idea of story-telling and why we seem to need it I had to stop and give my attention to the radio again. Fi Glover was interviewing Mark Radcliffe, one of my favourite broadcasters. I love his contempt for all that is fake, fashionable and ‘glamorous’.

Next I came downstairs to make breakfast and was stopped short again by a totally random interview with Elton John. Danny Baker was doing a great job. They talked about his school days and working in a record shop and I was gripped by the story about how Elton came to write for the Scissor Sisters, even his views on Simon Cowell were interesting !

Then it struck me, and I hope you are with me by now. Radio really is the perfect medium for story-telling.

Radio is my first love and was my first career but I think we all forget it sometimes. It rarely comes up in serious discussion about revolution in the media and was often overlooked when I worked at the BBC.

So let’s hear it for radio and in particular, the way it touches the part of us that needs a  story.