How to contribute stories to Radio 4’s Today programme
The Today show is Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme. With an audience in excess of 7m listeners per week, Today is one of the BBC’s most popular Radio programmes. Content for the show focuses on regular news bulletins, high-profile political interviews, in-depth reports and a daily, scripted slot ‘Thought for the Day’, which offers a religious perspective on a current affairs issue. Show times run from Monday to Saturday, 6 am - 9 am weekdays and 7 am - 9 am on Saturdays.
As with many BBC programmes, there a few ways you can get your story on Radio 4; the most straightforward being to go via the Business Unit Planning desk. The other option is to pitch your story directly to one of the programmes; this is usually best done through the Radio 4 planning editor.
Radio 4 producers and editors are most interested in stories that are currently on the news agenda; all programmes will be looking for commentators, making this a great PR opportunity.
However, the feedback from producers is that many PRs are not prepared or are too slow to reacting to the day’s events. Having a relevant guest ready and willing to comment on a current news story will put you in good stead with the Radio 4 team.
Guidance for PRs
“Radio is a conversation” means the Today programme needs a constant supply of guests. This provides you with countless PR opportunities but some key criteria that need to be met. To ensure your story hits the mark it’s important to consider the following:
Is my company known well enough to the audience listening? Don’t try and pitch a company that is not well known or has little real news value. Presenters such as Dominic O’Connell want to speak with CEOs of major companies.
Have I over prepared? Over-preparation does not make for a good interview. Your guests should let their personality come across so stay away from overly-prepared content, such as press releases or a list of key messages.
Have I set the right tone? When it comes to content the Today business team won’t rule anything out. They want people who are interesting and tell their story well, so know your relevant facts and numbers before coming on air.
The Today guest
There are two business slots available each day on the Today programme at 6:15 am and 7:15 am. Each slot has a slightly different focus.
Slot 1, (at 6:15 am) focuses on the financial markets with a guest commentator; the slot runs for approximately 15 minutes and will also include two further guest interviews depending on the news of the day.
Slot 2, (7:15 am) is a much shorter segment usually a guest interview with a leading business, finance individual.
There are also two categories for the Today guest, the Market Guest and guests relevant to the current news agenda. The market guests are booked around a month in advance. In order to join the Market Guests rota, you will need to contact the Business Editor who will want to meet your potential new guest and allow them to shadow a few times before they debut.
Credibility is important, so if the potential new guest runs a big fund or major financial institution that will help in your pitch. Guests from boutique firms are much harder to get on the air.
Who to pitch to?
The Today show has a rota with two producers assigned per programme. Producers and those preparing the show meet the day before at 11:30 am to discuss the options for the next day’s show; potential guests are ideally identified here. The key BBC colleagues to pitch to in advance are as follows:
• Dominic O’Connell, the Business Presenter
• Mark Broad, Business Editor for Today and Digital
• Rob Young, Business Reporter and Presenter
• Lucy Burton, Business Producer and Presenter (covering Katie Prescott on maternity leave)
• Julia Pittam, Business Producer for Today
• Catherine Snowden, Business Producers for Today
• John Shields, Planning Editor
Get an overview on the Today programme here.
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