Opportunities in new-look drivetime

As Chris Evans prepares to slip into the Radio 2 hotseat vacated by Johnny Walker, Alex Black tunes in to the drivetime radio shows to discover who they are aimed at and how PROs can get their clients involved

Drivetime radio shows have become as coveted as their breakfast counterparts. For PROs they provide an equally captive, and probably more alert, audience, tending to broadcast from around 5pm.

'People pay more attention to drivetime than the morning show,' says Resonate creative director Gavin Lewis. 'They are also thinking about entertainment when they get home. We've got coverage for the FX Channel on these shows, which is perfect for the brand because they flag up what's going to be on TV that evening.'

Drivetime is usually personality-led. Launch Group chief executive Johnny Pitt says taking this into account is crucial when approaching production teams. 'Each station is different, so think about the presenters and the producers and make the story bespoke,' he advises.

PROs also need to ensure they understand the needs and stress points of production teams.  'Get to know them and find out how the process of putting the show together works,' says Cohn & Wolfe account manager Nicky Law.

Audience participation
Drivetime shows are interactive and often interspersed with sponsored competitions. They also tend to involve more than one person in the studio, which allows for debate on products and issues.
As Henry's House account manager Rachel Moule says: 'Drivetime worked very well for our FHM High Street Honeys campaign because people could ring in and talk to the girls in the studio about the competition.'

The national stations's shows carry the most weight in terms of audience reach, the major ones being Radio 1 (Scott Mills) and Virgin (Martin Collins), but regional radio offers equally valuable coverage. For instance, Van Communications co-founder Matt de Leon is currently running a campaign for the Walkabout pub chain to build awareness of its live music events.

He explains: 'Alan Fletcher – aka Dr Karl Kennedy from Neighbours – and his band Waiting Room are playing at nine Walkabout venues in May. We're setting up interviews on drivetime shows in areas that he's playing.'

Contacting presenters directly can be a sneaky way to bypass the production team. 'Do a bit of digging and get direct emails for the presenters,' advises Jackie Cooper PR account director Ruth Warder. 'They'll check emails during the show, and if you have a good relationship, they'll often pick things up without it coming from the producers.'

But as Frank PR MD Andrew Bloch warns, the plethora of drivetime shows – and the fact that PROs appreciate their value – has made it trickier for clients to  stand out. The days of 'rocking up and sitting in reception', he says, are over.

Radio 2
Drivetime presenter Chris Evans (from 18 April)
Slot 5-7pm
Listeners Five million
Synopsis After seven years of Johnny Walker, a new presenter and production team will aim to retain the show's feel but open it up to new listeners
Producer Helen Thomas
Contact helen.thomas04@bbc.co.uk

How is the show going to change?
We are keeping some elements because drivetime has a specific audience. Business and travel news will stay, but we'll be beefing up the sports coverage, as Chris is a massive sports fan. In the second hour we'll have a guest with live chat rather than music. Saying that, if Bono wanted to come on with his guitar and strum a few tunes, we'd allow it.

Who makes up your audience?
The core Radio 2 audience is aged 35-45. Chris is 40 now, but younger people will obviously remember him from TFI Friday etc, so we expect to gain a younger audience. Johnny's audience was slightly skewed towards men, but more women tend to listen to Chris, so that should even it out.

What is the show's editorial agenda?
We want people to say 'I learned something today'. It's going to be a feel-good listen, packed with topical information that fills people in on the day's events.

What do you want to hear about from PROs?
Things that are topical and fit in with the show. Not a story about a psychic horse, which was genuinely pitched to me once! We'll be finding our feet a bit, but we want to hear about potential guests with something to say. Sport is a strong hook. Freddie Flintoff would be a no-brainer.

How do you want to hear about ideas?
An email with a top line on why the guest or story is topical. Make sure you get my email right. There are five Helen Thomases at the BBC.

Capital Radio
Drivetime presenter Richard Bacon
Slot 5-7pm
Listeners 750,000
Synopsis London's most listened to commercial drivetime radio show. Sponsored competitions include a chance to visit Thorpe Park's new ride, Stealth.
Producer Kerry Reece
Contact kerry.reece@capitalradio.com

What is the show's editorial agenda?
The show aims to keep listeners up to date with
travel and news as well as stories from the day
that they may have missed while at work. We cover a range of news and entertainment across London and endeavour to put a smile on our listeners' faces via Richard's irrepressible humour.

Who listens to it?
Mainly women aged between 24 and 44.

Which PR agencies do you deal with?
I get around 15 press releases a day via email and post and a further five to ten calls a day from PR firms. I don't have any regular companies that I use, but I try to maintain contact with Shine
Communications and Wired Electronic Media for competition  prizes.

What do you want to hear about apart from ideas for competition prizes?
New products, surveys, celebrities and events. It's never about what is being pushed, but about how it will fit in with Richard's style and the aims of the show.

How should PROs get in touch?
Email. I don't really have time for phone calls and even when I do manage to answer the phone, I always ask for an email anyway.

What sort of lead time do you have?
Lead times for the programme are short. The show's content has to be current, so it is very rarely planned any more than a day in advance.

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