Our media relations team had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Green, senior producer and news reader at BBC Radio 5 Live, share tips and tricks for getting guests on the show.
Who is the target audience for 5 Live?
Sarah stressed that 5 Live’s audience is ‘your everyday, normal person’. Generally speaking, they are not professionals or academics and are usually older, male and many work in manual labour. However, the station wants to grow a younger female audience (30-45 year-olds).
What stories should you pitch?
Sarah said stories must be topical or entertaining (comedic or relevant to entertainment media). She noted that a good way to think about this is “what you would hear being talked about in the pub”.
What do they want from guests?
Sarah said experts could be used for a story in the news as long as they are relevant. To approach, you give names of the company/people you want on the show and detail what is good about them. For example, if wanting to jump on the news surrounding the barrister strikes, email the names of two barristers from the same law firm (who you represent) with differing views (one wanting to go on strike and the other not wanting to).
Sarah mentioned that they want more real-world people rather than experts. If you’re pitching an expert, they must be able to talk like an average person and be as natural as possible. They’re also always happy to receive pitches for female speakers and speakers from minority groups – groups who are not traditionally in the media landscape.
Unsurprisingly, she mentioned that they love being pitched guests they would not be able to get themselves. For example, they want the CEO of an airport, not a travel expert.
The biggest lesson? Ensure that the guest you are pitching is available. It is their biggest pet peeve.
When is best to pitch?
For an entertainment-style interview, Sarah says to ring the breakfast team from 11am to pitch a story for the next business day (or the day after). For a longer-form interview, you need to allow a couple of weeks. If it’s for something that you want to work on with them (an investigation, for example), you need to plan around four weeks out.
Nevertheless, the way each team works is not homogenous. The golden rule is to think about which programme you’re pitching to and what time they go on air. This will indicate when they will be at their busiest enabling you to estimate when would be a good time to call.
To phone or not to phone?
Sarah prefers an email pitch and then a follow-up call two days later. She says this gives her time to approach a programme about your email rather than ringing up on the spot.
To contact for a story on breakfast the next day, or something that could go on the drive time slot that evening, it is worth a phone call first because the teams work to tight time scales.
Who should you pitch with business stories?
Sarah explained that, instead of each radio station having its own business team, there is a team called ‘Money and Work’ that serves the whole network. If you pitch them a good story and a good guest, there is potential for both to be used on Radio 4 and 5 Live, for example.
How should you write your pitch?
Sarah suggests writing a short email, stating what you’re looking for. For example, if you have an expert who would be great on the drive time slot, send over:
- The details of who the expert is
- Their point of view / strong opinion
- Why are they credible
- When they’re available
Then, after two days, follow up with a phone call.
What shouldn’t you pitch?
Sarah stressed that being based in Salford, they do not want London stories. They also love it when guests can come to the studio. Ideal for our Leeds-based PR team!
Unsurprisingly, they hate blanket spamming. Instead, you should target a programme and name-drop presenters. They want to know that you’re confident that what you’re pitching is relevant.
Written by: Katie Chodosh, Media Relations Director at Definition.