This Morning faces future with cheer

Despite dramatic cost-cutting at ITV and the shock announcement that popular presenter Fern Britton is to depart in July, it is business as usual at This Morning.

This Morning's Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield
This Morning's Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield

The message from bosses at the weekday lifestyle show is loud and clear. This Morning, with its vast and often quirky range of PR opportunities, is not going anywhere.

'We will be having a scheduled summer holiday this year, as we have done previously,' says editor Helen Dower. 'This break will be used as an opportunity to refresh and plan for our autumn return.'

For PR professionals, especially those working in consumer and healthcare agencies, the show is an ideal home for celebrities with a story to tell, alongside story items that range from naming breasts to lawn mowers and hearing aids.

'The show prides itself on having the right mix of topical discussion, celebrity and lifestyle features,' says Dower. 'PR agencies are indispensable when dealing with new products and guests. Because we have good relationships with them, they are vital when we need to turn something around quickly.'

PR professionals who have worked with the show advise being brave with suggestions. Resonate creative director Gavin Lewis had Britton and presenter Phillip Schofield laughing for ten minutes about a Nuts glamour model who had named her breasts after the presenters. 'While the presenters descended into one of their classic fits of laughter, they held the magazine aloft,' he says.

Product coverage is not simple, however, as founding director of Brazil PR Richard Leonard, who secured a slot for Honda's ride-on lawn mower, explains: 'The rules on product placement are quite strict, so aim to have a wider angle than just your client's product.'

Health is a big topic for the show. Resident expert Dr Chris Steele is 'extremely influential on medical matters', says Pegasus PR account manager David Greenwood, who successfully pitched a hearing aid to This Morning. 'The show has an important role, not only in influencing purchasing decisions, but also recommendations viewers make to their friends,' he adds.

This autumn the show will celebrate its 21st birthday. It will do so, however, with a new face accompanying Schofield, after Britton's departure over an alleged pay row. 'The team and I will miss Fern hugely,' says Dower. 'I have worked with her for nearly nine years, so I am gutted. But every show has to evolve and I look forward to an exciting return in September.'

One thing is for sure, whoever steps into Britton's shoes has a challenge ahead. 'This Morning is an institution and there will always be a daytime audience to entertain,' adds Kerry Milliken, deputy MD at health agency Tiger White PR.

Time slot Weekdays 10.30am to 12.30pm on ITV1

Series ends on 17 July, returns in September

Viewers 1.5 million in March (ITV figures)

Contacts firstname.surname@itv.com

Jessica Gray head of entertainment

Lisa Armstrong news editor

 

A minute with... Helen Dower, editor, This Morning

This Morning editor Helen DowerWho watches This Morning?

Mums and the over-fifties make up a big part of our audience, but it is also watched by men and students. Those most likely to watch the show are aged between 16 and 34.

Who is an ideal celebrity for the show?

It helps if a guest is happy to talk about a personal issue to which the viewers can relate. We recently had Ulrika Jonsson and Paul Gascoigne talking about issues they have dealt with and offering advice to viewers who may be suffering from the same problems.

How much contact do you have with PR agencies?

We speak to PR agencies on a daily basis. A lot of agencies are of huge help when we focus on special weeks and specific case studies. They offer ideas and guests and are of great help in putting the show together.

Any PR peeves?

Do not be too persistent. If someone sent the same email or left the same message again and again I am sure that would annoy most people.

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