Media Analysis: Waking up to breakfast coverage

Jamie Theakston joined Heart 106.2's breakfast show to much fanfare earlier this month. Sarah Robertson investigates how PROs can best tailor their material to breakfast shows and get among the morning gossip.

Listeners to London's Heart 106.2 FM last week woke up for the first time to the 'bad boy of children's TV' Jamie Theakston, who has taken over as host of its breakfast show.

Theakston - who was splashed across the tabloids in 2002 after being snapped in a Mayfair brothel - is expected to re-establish the station's breakfast programme after a difficult period. Listeners deserted the show towards the end of predecessor Jono Coleman's reign - 223,000 lost in the second half of 2004 alone - taking the audience down to 748,000.

Significantly, Theakston's arrival was accompanied with a strengthening of the show's production team, providing more opportunities than ever before for PROs, according to programme controller Mark Browning.

'We have more resources to throw at content and forward planning than ever, with celebrity interviews and guest bookings being where we rely on PROs,' he says.

Product placement

News comes from the wires and Heart's own showbiz and newsgathering team. However, if companies want their products featured, the best way is to stick to promotions, advises Browning.

For Heart, competition is fierce from rival London station LBC. But that station, which is also owned by Chrysalis, does declare itself open to quirky and original gifts for the team to trial, according to producer Hannah Knudsen.

LBC's breakfast show, fronted by Nick Ferrari, is based around interviews and phone-ins. Ideas for the content derive from the morning's newspapers and the team's 'real-life experiences', says Knudsen.

The show focuses on current affairs which are pertinent to its many parent listeners in the capital - issues such as crime and schools. 'We need spokespeople ready to drop into the news agenda,' she says.

Different again is Capital FM, whose breakfast show is presented by Johnny Vaughan. Capital head of PR Claire Berry says: 'Even if we cover your story we are extremely unlikely to feature a spokesperson from a brand. Ideally, we want fun, topical London-based stories.'

PR-driven items are also difficult at Radio One, as Will Kinder, producer of The Chris Moyles Breakfast Show, explains: 'We are controlled by BBC producer guidelines but we do have the option to deal with PROs when it is in the interest of our audience.'

Sky's recent competition to get a Radio One listener onto drama series 24 as an extra is a classic example of where promotions can work well, says Cake board account director Greg James. Companies that give charitable donations to causes such as Comic Relief are likely to get airtime, but other than that, they have to be creative to get a mention. PR approaches have to be designed specifically for Moyles' show, says Kinder.

'PROs have started to realise that if one of the show's team is involved, it will be covered. At the moment the big thing is movies. Chris is being asked to do a lot of voice-overs because people realise he will then talk about them on the show. He was in Wimbledon, providing the voice of the radio DJ, and animated film Robot.'

Lads' magazines can also be the topic of some shows, with 'top babes' surveys providing a prompt for some of Moyles' banter.

But as HBL Media head of broadcast Hilary Jeffs points out: 'Traditionally most commercial stations target women, particularly those in their mid-30s because this is where most of the advertising revenue comes from. The exception is Virgin Radio, which is predominantly male-oriented.'

Commercial stations' news is dressed up as light social commentary and based on the tabloids, she adds.

Easy listening

Shout! Communications director Keren Heynes agrees, and therefore recommends keeping material for breakfast shows light, quirky and simple. 'People are listening while they are getting ready, and their full attention is not on the radio,' she says.

As well as the breakfast stations using the newspapers as a source of gossip, celebrity interviews on radio can make the news, as they are frequently picked up by the tabloids.

'The radio breakfast shows and the papers pick up material from each other,' says Heynes.

One final piece of advice comes from Karen Brooks, director at broadcast specialist markettiers4dc. Any pitch to a breakfast show requires commitment and sharpness of wit at an anti-social hour, she says.

She advises having spokespeople available from 6am. 'You would be amazed at how spokespeople are unprepared for a 6am start, yet they all still want breakfast coverage.'


- BBC Radio One The Chris Moyles Breakfast Show, 7-10am: 7.7 million


- Virgin Radio The Pete and Geoff Breakfast Show (presenters Geoff Lloyd

and Pete Mitchell), 6-10am: 1.1 million listeners

- Capital 95.8 FM The 95.8 Capital Breakfast Show with Johnny Vaughan,

6-9am: 1.1 million listeners

- Heart 106.2 FM Breakfast with Jamie Theakston, 6-9am: 748,000


- LBC Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, 7-10am: 281,000 listeners

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