BBC Local radio had its moment in the sun last week. Ahead of Liz Truss’ hour of back-to-back interviews, critics were scathing of a comms strategy that dodged the big beasts, opting instead for – in the words of writer Paul Mason, “a bunch of sleep-deprived non-expert presenters (who) will throw her soft questions”. Well nobody likes to be patronised, so naturally some of those presenters gave the PM an absolute mauling.
I often hear comms people say, “I’ll probably start them on something easy like local radio.” There’s nothing easy about it. For a start there are some excellent journalists kicking around, easily as good as the nationals and armed with a forensic knowledge not just of their patch but also what their audience want.
But – and this is where I might get a bit of flak – there are also some fairly average local radio presenters out there too, without the luxury of a team of producers to brief them. What this can lead to is an awkward and uncomfortable experience for an interviewee having to navigate through an exchange with someone who isn’t across a subject.
“They seemed totally obsessed with X, which I don’t know anything about…” is something I’ve heard a couple of times from delegates over the years.
Treat local interviews like any other. Take time to prepare and do your homework on the presenter as well as their patch.