Blog Post

How to get PR coverage on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme

Our latest Small Talk event featured the Executive Editor of the consumer team, at BBC Radio 4, Pete Wilson (below).   This blog is a summing up of what Pete said, as heard by Shout! Communications director, Keren Haynes.

Pete Wilson

A little bit about our speaker Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson is a stalwart of the BBC, celebrating his 25th anniversary with the corporation last year, in 2023.   He actually began his professional life in commercial radio, as a news reader and a reporter before switching over to BBC local radio in Guildford, Birmingham and London.

Radio London, Pete says, was lots of fun – probably the most fun he’s ever had in a job.

Having made the move to national BBC radio, Pete produced Radio 5 Live presenter Nicky Campbell, before moving to BBC Radio 4 You and Yours as first a producer, before being promoted to Editor.

Until a couple of years ago, being Editor meant overseeing  Radio 4’s flagship consumer affairs programme “You and Yours”.   Today Pete’s role also involves looking after three successful podcasts:  “Sliced Bread”, Toast” and “Dough”.  As Pete said, there’s a bit of a bread theme going on in the department!

You and Yours today

As has been widely reported, the BBC is going through corporation wide changes – and Radio 4 hasn’t escaped this.  Having had to pitch to bosses to keep the programme going, BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours survived, but the remit has been extended to include two successful podcasts too – all of which are overseen by Pete.  In essence he heads up the consumer team for Radio 4, including the series Show Me The Money, a show where presenter Declan Curry speaks to entrepreneurs about who is making money.

 Let’s have a look at the podcasts first.

Sliced Bread logo

Sliced Bread

As in “the best thing since sliced bread”, the podcast reviews products that it’s claimed are superior to all others.   The podcast is listener led.  Anyone can get in touch and ask the team to check out a particular thing.  The most popular podcast to date reviewed air-fryers and currently boasts around 3-4 million downloads.

Toast podcast logo

Toast

Pete describes this podcast as being about things people thought they wanted – but actually didn’t, therefore the product failed commercially and was “toast”.  Yep you get it.   The official description of the podcast is that it’s: “A study of the spectacular failures of brands which had promised so much to consumers.”

One episode in January 2024, for example, was about the much-maligned soft drink Sunny Delight.  The drink, which contains just 5% juice, was marketed as a health drink and flew off the shelves until The Food Commission declared it “a con.”  It’s manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, insisted on putting it in chilled cabinets to preserve all the supposed vitamin inside it, suggesting to buyers it had a nutritional value that needed to be preserved.

The Toast podcast featured the man who had developed the product, alongside the Food Standards Authority.   According to Pete, the latter still has a bottle of the drink on her desk, in an experiment to prove its shelf life, and it’s only now just slightly discoloured.

 

bottles of sunny delight drinks

 

The Toast podcast featured the man who had developed the product, alongside the Food Standards Authority.   According to Pete, the latter still has a bottle of the drink on her desk, in an experiment to prove its shelf life, and it’s only now just slightly discoloured.

you and yours logo

You and Yours

Having survived the internal process, requiring the programme to compete to keep going, BBC Radio 4 You and Yours has had a revamp. Unusually for Radio 4, which is generally more policy led, at the centre of each story is a real person.

As Pete says, they care less about a man in a suit explaining a story, they much prefer to hear from someone who has first-hand experience of it. And they stay in touch with these guests, revisiting them again over time.

The programme doesn’t want extreme guests though.   A person unable to get dentistry for her children is preferable to one pulling their teeth out with pliers.   Nor does the programme want drama. Looking at a problem like Parkinsons, for instance, Pete says they don’t want tears, they want a first-hand narrative from the relatives.

BBC Radio 4 You and Yours

You and Yours doesn’t slavishly follow the news agenda, but stories do tend to be topical.   As a consumer finance programme, the cost-of-living crisis is the biggest ongoing story.  But any story will have a financial angle.   For example, a health or social service story might look at someone struggling to get a relative into a care home, or a person choosing to go private for health treatment rather than NHS.    It’s about the practical rather than the political.

News to our PR ears was that BBC Radio 4 You and Yours quite likes a PR generated survey, as long as the sample size is substantial enough and truly represents the UK.   They might not use your spokesperson as well, but they will credit the brand who has funded the research.

Holidays has apparently been a controversial topic in the past.  Listeners have sent in angry emails screaming for other listeners to vacate at home, not go abroad.  Heat pumps has also been a (excuse the pun) hot topic.  You and Yours focused on the hidden cost of heat pumps, caused when they fail to work with your central heating.  The programme will be revisiting this topic!

The team like a green story, but they won’t tell listeners how to spend their money and they refuse to take sides.

How the programme is structured

Over the course of the week there is a set structure to the programme.   Monday and Wednesdays feature 5 or 6 stories per show.   Tuesday has a phone-in programme, again, another break with tradition for Radio 4!    The phone-in will focus on a particular subject of the moment, such as people struggling to get on the housing ladder.  This might start with an individual telling their story – perhaps, Pete says, they’re living in a caravan because they can’t afford to move into a house.

On a Thursday the programme, sub-titled Gapfinders, is more flexible.  It tends to be one person talking about living their dream, a dream that fills a gap.   An example of this is someone setting up a food depot.   Pete says they’ve been criticised for creating an advert, but he says it’s much more than this – it’s the back story, alongside plans for what might come next.

Half the content goes to the BBC Radio 4 You and Yours podcast, which you can find on BBC Sounds.

Call for experts

You and Yours is always looking for experts, to speak on a diverse range of topics.  On the day of our Small Talk with Pete, the topic was home car chargers.  Once on air, it’s a great opportunity.   If for example they’re taking calls on the Tuesday phone-in,  your expert will be on air for the hour.

Gapfinder, on a Thursday, meanwhile, prefers experts who are first in their field.

Who is listening?

Historically the You and Yours audience has been typical of Radio 4, across the board, namely in their sixties, female, ABC1 or retired.  The new programme format has brought the average age down to 58, although Pete says lower 50s “would be nice”.

What about Money Box?

Pete says the relationship between You and Yours and Radio 4’s Money Box makes them cousins!  Sometimes they speak, but not always.  In terms of topics there is an obvious cross over, but how each programme treats the story is different.  If the story was interest rates, for example, Money Box will talk about savings rates but BBC Radio 4 You and Yours will focus on how interest rates effect spending.

Interested in coming to any of our free broadcast PR events?

Our monthly Small Talks and occasional Big Talks feature some of the most senior experts in the world of radio and television.   Programme Editors, station controllers, senior correspondents and producers – across the BBC and commercial sector – have all addressed our audiences.

The events are sometimes online but when we can we try to hold them in person.

By being part of this community you will gain some fantastic insights into a huge variety of radio and television programmes – and the possibilities these hold for broadcast PR. Our events are always free to attend and are open to anyone working in PR.

 

online audience

 

To get your name on our mailing list, to receive invitations to events like this one, please email Keren@shoutcommunications.co.uk.

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