Analysis: Strategies to wake up the nation

Competition between the breakfast TV shows is fierce, so PROs must follow the news agenda carefully and prepare a complete package to appeal to producers. Alex Black examines the opportunities for coverage.

Every weekday morning, millions of Britons switch on the TV, cuppa in hand, to catch up on the latest news. But do they turn to Sky News' Sunrise, BBC's Breakfast or ITV's GMTV?

If they are a professional male, the chances are they will want a snapshot of the news, so they will turn to Sunrise. If they are a housewife, there is a 75 per cent chance it will be GMTV. But as BBC's Breakfast holds around 15 per cent of market share, there's a reasonable chance viewers from both groups will tune in to Dermot and Natasha.

The three shows give PROs the chance to reach eight million consumers sitting in front of up to three hours of TV every morning. But it's not an easy task, says Icas PR account director Helen Lawson: 'Breakfast TV is such a popular medium that forward planners are making it harder to get brand checks.'

The trick, according to Frank PR joint MD Andrew Bloch, is to give producers the chance to build a talking point around a mainstream news story.

'Breakfast shows have three hours to fill each day, so there are plenty of opportunities for coverage,' says Bloch. 'But as they follow the news agenda, it's crucial to make life as easy as possible for the producers. That means lining up spokespeople, official bodies, opposing viewpoints and case studies in advance.'

'In the last few years, GMTV has shifted its focus towards soap and TV issues, and picked up some of the younger audience left by the demise of The Big Breakfast,' says The Television Consultancy MD Marc De Leuw.

'Get a previous Big Brother star involved in your campaign, and you stand a good chance of getting them on the sofa when the latest series is on.'

Other things to remember: producers like to use outside broadcast teams, so give them regional case studies; GMTV in particular likes strong, family-based stories. All of them love audience interaction. One agency used a breakfast show's viewers to review products for a forthcoming lifestyle feature.

'Never give up on Breakfast and GMTV,' adds de Leuw. 'Stories get dropped all the time, so it's worth trying them again at 11pm when the overnight producers start work.'

GMTV Channel ITV1 Presenters Lorraine Kelly, Fiona Phillips, Andrew Castle, Ben Shephard, Kate Garraway Hours 6am to 9.25am Daily viewing figures 1 million Email via www.gm.tv

The jewel in the crown of breakfast TV, and the ultimate housewife access point. GMTV statistics say three quarters of all housewives with children tune into GMTV every month, and more adults watch GMTV in a week than read the daily broadsheets put together.

GMTV starts with news, interviews, politics and sport (6am-7am weekdays), then moves on to current affairs with GMTV Today, then Lorraine Kelly's lifestyle show LK Today and showbiz gossip with Entertainment Today.

GMTV has more of a magazine feel than its rivals, and gives PROs the best opportunity to think creatively, because of the range of topics it covers. That said, producers are weary of excessive commercial plugs, so branding has to be low key and relevant to the crux of the story.

Breakfast Channel BBC1 and BBC News 24 Presenters Dermot Murnaghan, Natasha Kaplinsky, Bill Turnbull, Sian Williams Hours 6am to 9.15am Daily viewing figures c. 1 million

Email breakfastplanning@bbc.co.uk Slightly less populist than GMTV, Breakfast follows the day's news and extends it with features, aiming 'to give viewers the full range of coverage they'd expect from BBC News, plus topical discussions and useful advice.' Six business bulletins by Declan Curry give PROs a chance to get corporate stories in front of a consumer audience.

The BBC hired Kaplinsky from Sky in November 2002. Her looks, rapport with fellow anchor Murnaghan and high public profile work well with Breakfast's audience demographic of housewives and professionals.

Breakfast has shifted away from the pure news focus it had when it started as Breakfast Time in 1983, but still cultivates the cheerful feel pioneered by presenters Frank Bough and Selina Scott. Interview slots with viewers provide PROs with another angle to get coverage.

Sunrise Channel Sky News Presenters Lorna Dunkley. Eamonn Holmes will join in the autumn Hours 6am to 10am, but will change to 6am to 9am when Holmes joins Daily viewing figures c. 1.5 million Email news.plan@bskyb.com

Sunrise is populist, but doesn't lose sight of international and political stories, says executive producer Julian March. Producers are aware that the programme broadcasts early when many viewers are bleary-eyed, and have about 12 minutes to get a quick news fix in an easy format. Sunrise's aim is to 'arm viewers with knowledge for the day - be it international affairs or the latest Michael Owen transfer news'.

For a serious international event Sunrise will draw on the resources of Sky News. When the Asian Tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004, it had three anchors in different time zones and ran without commercial breaks.

PROs must make sure their story fits with mainstream news. March says it is crucial to make it hard for the editor to say 'no' - lining up case studies, access, research, whatever makes it easier to pin the story down.

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