Media: LBC is where Londoners can talk

It is good to talk. So believes LBC 97.3, London's commercial talk radio station.

The station calls itself 'London's biggest conversation' and its content, full of listener phone-ins and interviews, is an ideal target to spark discussion about a product or issue.

In a world gone social-media crazy, it can claim to be genuinely experienced at the new conversation-driven agenda. But despite its credentials PROs feel its influence does not yet match that of rival BBC stations.

LBC has added an extra 190,000 listeners over the past year, according to the RAJARs, and has been shortlisted for six awards in the upcoming Sony Radio Academy Awards, five for breakfast presenter Nick Ferrari.

'There's never been a better time for speech radio - people are fed up with their elected leaders and LBC offers them a soapbox to be heard,' says LBC's programme director Jonathan Richards, speaking just before the general election results emerged.

But while PROs say LBC is a good way of getting an issue to mainstream Londoners, they concede the BBC often has more clout. 'If you get on to BBC London, I would say it was more valuable. But PROs should not overlook LBC because it is still very effective,' says Green Row Communications' director Helen Trevorrow.

Richards agrees that the BBC is a fearsome competitor as it has more funding. 'Its sheer size and ability to throw publicly funded resources at its output is obvious,' he says.

But the upside for PROs is that with a large amount of airtime to fill, and a freer hand, LBC may be an easier station on which to secure coverage.

'The BBC is harder to sell into. It has so many restrictions on what it can and can't say, whereas LBC has more freedom,' says Trevorrow.

Band & Brown board director Mark Lowe agrees. 'LBC can afford to be a bit more irreverent and take a more tabloid approach,' he says.

So, what is the station looking for? Trevorrow was recently interviewed on air about how small businesses could market themselves effectively: 'LBC is great for pressure groups or for a soft business piece if you have an issue that is topical with a local angle,' she says.

There is, of course, a risk for PROs that their products or ideas may be slated in the lively listener debates.

Trevorrow says the risk is no worse than social media. 'LBC is discussion, it's old-fashioned social media if you like.

'You have to be prepared for the negatives in advance.'

She advises PROs to encase a product within an issue or trend to make sure it has a talking point.

Lowe says the stories that work for LBC are often the same that work well for social media - ones with a talking point. He adds: 'If you are making yourself a target, then your content isn't entertaining enough.'

QUICK FACTS

Listeners 1.042 million a week (Source: RAJARs, Q4 2009)

Demographics ABC1s 65 per cent, C2DEs 35 per cent;

listeners are 63 per cent male; average age of a listener is 49 years

Contact

Forward planning: planning@lbc.co.uk (insert date of the event/story in subject box); Newsroom: newsroom@lbc.co.uk

A MINUTE WITH ... JONATHAN RICHARDS, PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, LBC 97.3

- What sets LBC apart from other talk radio stations?

We have no distractions - no sporting events to disappear live to for hours on end, no obscure music to play and no irrelevant documentaries to interfere with our output.

- What is the best advice for PR professionals who want to get their stories on LBC news bulletins?

Relevant and targeted stories - think about the hook and the stations you imagine hearing your story on.

- Any pet PR peeves?

Jumbled, inaccurate press releases that are hard to decipher and do not appear to be relevant to our brand. It is infuriating, as is the press contact being on holiday or in a meeting when you try to call them.

- What are your deadlines?

We are a radio station, so our deadlines are flexible, but do not send a press release 24 hours before an event and then wonder why we missed it. A sensible period of advance notice is advisable.

- What stories/ideas are you looking for from PROs?

We are interested in talking points and events - things that impact on ordinary people and get them talking.

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