Our final speaker at the Shout! Communications Big Talk was the charismatic editor of BBC One’s The One Show, and stalwart of the BBC’s current affairs programming, Sandy Smith.
Make sure to also catch our blogs on Matt Williams, Head of Home News at ITV News, and Richard Gaisford, Chief Correspondent at Good Morning Britain, before reading ahead.
Sandy began by playing a fascinating example clip of what The One Show would view as a perfect story, and this was the main focus for his talk. The story was the excavation of the dancefloor in a popular nightclub in Manchester. The Reno, one of Manchester’s seminal soul clubs in the 70s and 80s, was the perfect backdrop for a local, relatable story that would start conversations on sofas, both in the studio and in viewers’ homes. This is what Sandy is always looking for in a story, but just exactly how you get his attention in the first place is a little more tricky and greatly different to our previous two speakers!
Sandy described The One Show as a somewhat “linear, dinosaur programme”, but it’s worth championing the ‘old-school’ methods when you receive an average of 4 million viewers a night! Of all the three speakers, Sandy impressed upon our audience that The One Show is a great place to sell. The show is still hugely influential in certain sectors, sending albums and books to the top of charts on a regular basis. He happily admitted, however, that the problem is always getting on the show in the first place! Even he couldn’t quite put his finger on what made the perfect story for his show, but here are some guidelines and considerations to consider when pitching to The One Show:
Avoid London and other big cities
Perhaps the most surprising of the facts about The One Show was that there was only one forward planning person based in London. All of their features are commissioned and filmed by external production centres from all around the country, including Belfast, Salford, Glasgow and Cardiff. This makes it quite hard to get their attention for a London story. Sandy even went so far as to say that they would often run a reasonable story from Northern Ireland over a better one from London. They always want to represent the whole of the UK, so basing your film outside of big cities will make the story more appealing for the show, both logistically and editorially.
Things need to happen!
As broadcast experts we are constantly placing spokespeople for interviews on TV and radio; this won’t cut the mustard for Sandy. The One Show needs something original to watch on screen, and for it to be a story that hasn’t been broken by other programmes. They need more than just an interview with a spokesperson.
Strong, relatable characters
Sandy’s example clip featured ordinary, local people, with a genuine attachment to the former nightclub. Features on the show have to engage the viewer and touch them on a personal level. The reporter’s mother was herself a regular of the club, and the footage of her reuniting with old friends on the site of the dig makes powerful and heart-warming viewing that was perfect for the show’s tone.
Sandy apologised that it’s so difficult to pin down exactly what makes a perfect One Show story. Sometimes even the stories that followed his guidelines won’t make it to air – that’s simply the prerogative of being the editor of the most popular magazine show on the BBC. The underlying criteria, however, like all good stories, is: “educate, inform and entertain”, but not necessarily in that order. If your story can do this, as well as tick some of the show’s specific boxes, you stand a much better chance of being featured on the big red sofa.
Check out Sandy, as well as our other two speakers in the full recording of the talk here:
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