Grilled: Dan Roan, BBC News sports editor

The BBC News sports editor talks about paranoid football comms people, what makes a good PR pitch, and tells PRWeek UK what's meant to be in his lunch box...

Dan Roan reporting live from the Etihad stadium in Manchester
Dan Roan reporting live from the Etihad stadium in Manchester

What did you want to be as a child?

A journalist. My dad was a photographer and did press work, so from an early age I was immersed in stories. I was also curious, so I think that helped spark the journalistic instinct.

What are your feelings as you come into work?

I reflect on all the news stories from the previous day and think about whether we did a good enough job. I also think about how I will react if a big story suddenly drops. That does happen.

What makes a great story for you?

One that results in the BBC being credited and named in other reports. When I hear "speaking to the BBC" or "as reported by the BBC", I am delighted. It means we have done our job.

What do you think makes a good PR pitch?

One that immediately grabs my attention and tells me something I don’t already know. Often, the PR I am speaking with will be more of an expert on a topic than I am, which means I sometimes need to be educated and helped to understand the story. I am always grateful to speak to a PR who can put themselves in my shoes, invest in the relationship and become a good person to speak to.

Do you have a favourite PR?

I think Leicester City FC handled their comms perfectly last year – especially when they could have gone into their shell. The club’s head of media, Anthony Herlihy, really impressed me, as did former manager Claudio Ranieri. He did so much for the club and for Leicester as a brand during last season’s title-winning campaign.

What is your view of PR people as a whole?

I know a lot of great PRs and they are a crucial and valued element of my work, and an essential source of information, assistance and ideas. I do encounter PRs who seek to punish journalists for simply doing their jobs, and who seek to restrict access for asking proper questions.

How do you challenge that attitude?

I would always urge the communications industry to engage with journalists and be as transparent and co-operative as possible, rather than to withdraw or put up the barriers.

What’s the biggest thing that gets in the way of you doing your job?

In football, you do encounter quite overprotective and, at times, paranoid comms people. What you often see is that rather than making a player available to the media, the in-house TV channel will conduct the interview and present the story. Sadly, over time, trust between the media and football clubs has been eroded and that can make life difficult.

How has your job changed in the past 10 years?

Sport is full of incredible human interest stories and I think comms people have done an exceptional job, particularly with Paralympic athletes, of informing the media about their stories, pressing them home and getting them publicised. In the past decade, that has been a major step change for me.

What’s in your lunch box?

My lunch of choice would be a wholesome, healthy, protein-based salad. Whether it is that or not is up for discussion.

Do you ever get recognised?

Like most TV reporters, I sometimes get recognised. People have wrongly identified me as ex-England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio and property expert Phil Spencer – both of whom I’m pretty happy to be mistaken for.

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