MEDIA ANALYSIS: Targeting the early morning listener

The breakfast show is the main focus of any radio station, which is why top DJs such as Chris Moyles attract the best celebrity guests. Harriet Marsh looks at the ups and downs of pitching a client to a morning show.

When David Gest – currently a judge on ITV’s Grease is the Word – arrived late for Chris Moyles’ morning show on Radio 1 earlier this month, Moyles let rip both at his celebrity guest and what he termed his ‘moronic PR’: ‘Don’t stand me up, you freaky little man,’ he said on air about Gest. ‘Get your ass in my building; I don’t care how many of the bloody Jacksons you know. That dude better come crawling on his hands and knees.’

In reality, as any publicist knows, it is rarely the celebrity client that has to do the crawling, although Gest made a good start. The following Saturday when Grease is the Word host Zoë Ball asked him how his birthday the previous day had been, Gest responded that he’d spent it in Chris Moyles’ waiting room and that Moyles had sent him an alarm clock. ‘I love you, big buddy,’ Gest said on air, a comment duly picked up by Moyles’ production team and used on the show.

Blame it on the traffic
His publicist, Neil Reading – founder of Neil Reading PR, whose other clients include French and Saunders, Lenny Henry and Peter Kay – diplomatically lays the blame on ‘early morning traffic in the West End’ and says that this is the first time he has ­delivered a guest late.

‘I’ve put a lot of people on that show and am aware that because of the nature of the programme you need to get people in on schedule,’ he says. ‘It is a great show, not only in terms of the number of listeners, but because you’re up for an hour, you talk at length and
it is fun, plus any product being promoted gets massive exposure.’

The incident certainly underlines both the opportunities and pitfalls of pitching a client into a breakfast show.

'The breakfast show is the biggest show of any radio station. I’d always advocate a client to go on,’ says Alexandra Heybourne, account manager at Brian MacLaurin Associates and formerly LBC Radio PR manager.

Not only do breakfast shows deliver a big audience, but they also capture listeners at the start of the day when they are alert, so messages really get through. It is not only the public that is listening carefully; so are fellow journalists, hoping to pick up snippets that might set the news agenda for the day. ‘Journalists on the way to work are often listening, so these opinions end up round the table at morning conference,’ says James Herring, joint MD at Taylor Herring, who says he always tries to make sure breakfast radio is high up the agenda in a campaign.

Radio stations’ in-house PROs generally monitor the programme and pull down the best lines to email to the newspapers. Which is why, when Moyles had a rant about Gest’s time- keeping, the story quickly hit the tabloid media. ‘You’re PR fodder for the station,’ observes Herring.

When David Cameron went on LBC 97.3FM, he called UKIP a ‘bunch of fruit cakes and loonies’ on air. Heybourne, then PR for the station, spotted a good line. The media storm lasted a week and generated great coverage for her show’s presenter, Nick Ferrari.

To ensure a client gets the best out of breakfast radio, it is vital that they ­arrive prepared.

While a no-show is ­obviously the worst crime, breakfast producers get notoriously disgruntled with guests who sound tired.

Publicists report that a breakfast ­radio guest should have half a dozen new anecdotes up their sleeve, be familiar with the show they are on and know the presenter’s style well enough to ­develop a rapport. Producers on breakfast radio will never invite back a guest who only manages to come up with what one described as ‘audio wallpaper’. Among the PR community, Moyles’ show is the main target ­because it reaches the biggest youth ­audience and offers a great national platform. Moyles, however, is notoriously picky, preferring guests that he likes and respects.

Opinion divided on rivals
When it comes to Moyles’ rivals, opinion is divided over Capital Radio’s Johnny Vaughan.

Although his show can offer a great vehicle if he likes the celebrity, there is a feeling that Vaughan is not always comfortable with guests. ‘It is more the Johnny Vaughan show – and that is how he likes it,’ comments one publicist.

Christian O’Connell is ­admired, but Virgin, with its older target audience, might be less appropriate for the youth-driven agenda of many cele­brity clients than O’Connell’s former station XFM. LBC and Radio Five Live are also popular, ­although Five Live, in which celebrity guests are brought in to discuss the issues of the day, is deemed ‘high risk’ for any celebrity not up-to-date with current affairs or confident enough to have an opinion.

At breakfast time, personality is the big factor – both that of the presenter and the celebrity. Ensuring the right fit is vital as was demonstrated when Jeremy Clarkson walked out of the Galaxy Radio studio because the presenters failed to mention his DVD on air.

‘Not every radio show is right for every client,’ says Reading, who is back in discussions with the producers on Moyles’ show and hoping Gest will get a second chance. ‘It might be better to look at other shows. You need to target carefully as there is no point pitching something that won’t work,’ he adds.


DJ Johnny Vaughan

Looking for...
‘Music, film and TV celebrities in the news. Key criteria is how lively they will be and how well they will interact with Johnny and the show.’

Gareth Roberts – Producer – E
Gemma Shepherd – Producer – E

DJs Jamie Theakston and Harriet Scott

Looking for...
‘Guests who are topical or entertaining – or ideally both!’

James Williamson – PR manager – T 07841 288827

DJ Chris Moyles

Looking for...
Anyone Chris is interested in who can entertain for an hour. ‘We want people who won’t treat the show as one of many interviews in their day!’

Contact Aled Jones– Producer – E

DJs Nicki Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty

Looking for...
‘Guests range from politicians and academics to show-biz personalities and the agenda is news-led.’

Richard Jackson – Producer – E

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in