BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

At Gorkana’s final media briefing event of 2016, the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme’s business presenter Dominic O’Connell and business editor Simon Hamer spoke about their ideal guests and the type of business news that gets covered on the show, and offered tips for giving a successful radio interview.

Today Programme 1

In a packed room at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London, O’Connell and Hamer gave a breakdown of the Today Programme’s business team, the news they cover and their PR requirements. They explained that they are open to receiving potential news or stories over phone or through email, and that they have a constant need for guests, particularly CEOs of major corporations.

Today is an influential, early morning news and current affairs programme which broadcasts weekdays between 6-9 am and on Saturdays from 7-9 am. It is the most popular programme on Radio 4 and reaches more than seven million listeners a week. It consists of regular news bulletins, high-profile political interviews, in-depth reports and daily scripted slot Thought for the Day, which offers a religious perspective on a current affairs issue.

O’Connell, former business editor at The Sunday Times, joined the Today Programme as business presenter in June this year.

Here are a four top tips to take away from the Today Programme media briefing event, which was chaired by Philip Smith, head of news and content at Gorkana:

The Today Programme needs guests
The Today Programme needs a constant supply of guests because, Hamer said: “radio is a conversation”. Of course, this provides PRs with opportunity but the programme has some key criteria that need to be met. O’Connell wants to speak with CEOs of major companies. He cited Sir Martin Sorrell as an example of a CEO who makes a great guest, since he understands the value of the programme and its audience and is, therefore, accessible.

Business news has grown in importance

The Today Programme introduced its first business editor in 2000 but, according to Hamer: “Business and economic news is getting more and more important.” However, he jokingly compared its listener’s attitude towards business news with that of his children towards vegetables: “They know it’s good for them, but they might prefer something else.”

Over-preparation does not make for a good interview

O’Connell said: “The radio is amazingly good at communicating bulls**t.” With the aid of some audio examples from the programme this year, he advised interviewees to stay away from overly-prepared content, such as press releases, or a list of key messages, and said the best guests let their personality come across. O’Connell also advised that CEOs know relevant facts and numbers before coming on air and that they provide direct answers to the questions they are asked.

Tone is key

When asked what type of content they look for, the Today Programme’s business team is reluctant to rule anything out. O’Connell said: “To me everything is interesting.” Hamer added: “There is no magic formula about what’s going to work. The key is tone.” In relation to guests, O’Connell agreed: “I like people who are interesting and tell their story well.”

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