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Why have local TV and radio thrived during the COVID lockdown?

Recently I interviewed Simon Enright, director of communications, NHS England and NHS Improvement about The NHS campaign to promote trust in the COVID vaccines amongst Black, Asian and minority communities for a free webinar that PRmoment is hosting.

When I was talking to Simon a theme that kept coming up was the importance of local broadcast media in the NHS’s campaign; local TV and radio remains such a trusted channel.

In an era of increasing channel complexity it is interesting to ask why local TV and radio has retained such a high level of trust, profile and reach amongst the UK public. To discuss these issues I caught up with Howard Kosky, ceo of markettiers below.

Ben Smith: As part of its vaccination campaign how important do you see the role of regional TV and radio in helping the UK government reach audiences that other channels can't access?

Howard Kosky: It’s not that other channels can’t reach audiences but over the past 10 months or so, we have seen a rise in provenance in media consumption, driven by an increase in community and regional variances in how the country has been affected and restricted by the impact of the virus.

These regional differences have meant the role and importance of trusted local media has risen dramatically.

As such, the ability to inform, update and bring together communities is one way in which regional and local broadcast proves highly effective.

BS: Why is regional TV such a well-trusted channel?

HK: Viewers relate to it, it's beyond politics and national agendas and importantly it is there to inform you as a ‘local’. Its presenters empathise, and having a bipartisan news programme, that you view and relate to, builds a strong connection, cemented by the often ‘championing’ of your area.

BS: Which regional TV slots are the most important would you say?

HK: The data shows that early evening regional TV news bulletins around 18:30 have the largest reach, but importantly the data supports that viewers will often view more than one across dayparts.

BS: Presumably, bearing in mind the dominance of COVID, it's pretty tough for PR professionals to get coverage on regional TV at the moment?

HK: No! Regional TV will want and need to report ‘news’ and deliver facts that affect the region, but they are also conscious to report good news stories that put a smile on people’s faces, and lift spirits. With so many companies and residents doing many positive things there are plenty of opportunities for hugely positive coverage.

BS: Radio remains a very trusted channel. I get why radio is more trusted than Facebook for example, but why is radio more trusted than print or digital media?

HK: There are many reasons I could argue and there has been plenty of research into the connection between radio, the presenter and the listener. As you reference in the question, the key word is trust. The role of the presenter is key. We tend to see the presenter as someone without an agenda, working and representing us, that we listen and hear every day often, they’re in our home, and importantly we don’t believe they have any agenda other than to inform, represent, entertain us, and keep us company.

BS: How does the type of content that brands are currently having success with on regional TV and radio, compare to what worked before COVID?

HK: Relating to the audience and ensuring what you have to offer works for programming and the audience remains key.

That said, the disruption in programming and the restriction of travel has meant that if you can support the broadcaster, probably with a controlled remote access set up, you are in a good place.

In addition, you should recognise the role of a regional broadcast and where it wins.

The more you can align your campaign narrative to support that, whether Covid related or not, the greater the opportunity. My observation of the past 11months is that most brands and most PR professionals have pivoted quickly and positively to recognising this.

BS: What impact has remote working had on the reach of regional TV and radio? On the one hand, we're driving less, so we're listening to the radio in the car less - but I'm guessing there are upsides as well?

HK: Absolutely, as supported by data proof points, our consumption of both has risen and in some cases dramatically. A key element of this is hours consumed, for example a recent survey found more than a third of commercial radio listeners tuned in for an extra one hour and 53 minutes each day compared to the period before the lockdown.

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