An audience with Jeremy Vine: ‘Astronauts or astronomers? Every voice has equal weight’




Phil Caplin

Today, Good Broadcast had the pleasure of hosting an audience with the BBC Radio 2 legend, Jeremy Vine. The morning was full of wonderfully witty anecdotes and tales of famous, rib-tickling Radio 2 phone-ins, but beneath this light-hearted presentation there was deep consideration of one important question: astronaut or astronomer? Which simply translates to: expertise or expert?

The TBCLC effect (Trump, Brexit, Corbyn, Leicester City) is slowly taking over as society seems to be taking a defiant step away from the authorities and subsequently, the experts.

As Jeremy phrased it, “we are entering a world of surprises” and it is the uncertainty that is keeping journalists and the media busy. Jeremy emphasised the power of the smallest voice and the coincidental; demonstrating that brands and PRs have to be ever more responsive and adaptive in a world that is seeing the elite upended and the listeners honoured.

We have distilled Jeremy’s rich and vibrant stories from this session into three big changes we are seeing in broadcast PR, and how brands should maximise the opportunities in this new world:

1. Lead with your experience, not your expertise

Experience reigns supreme over expertise in media. Case in point was when the little known Gillian Duffy, managed to derail Gordon Brown’s election campaign when Brown was caught out calling her a ‘bigoted woman’. Seven years on, Jeremy comments that this trend has only exponentially grown, with participation from his listeners who talk about visceral first hand experiences winning every time over expert opinion. Jeremy discussed that the growing power of the smallest voice is resulting in a shift in the power balance of media voices. People are pulling away from authoritative voices, and are increasingly seeing experts as peripheral and unnecessary; one listener telling Jeremy that “the experts built the Titanic”.

For brands, the listeners are now in charge. We have entered a world of surprise where traditional hierarchies and top down communications are defunct. Brands must give every voice equal weight, and relinquish control of their brand.

2. A good interview is in the alchemy

Jeremy told us, as an interviewer, that “you cut your cloth according to who is coming in.” Whether that be starting with an excerpt to fire off discussions, or easing in with a gentler approach, he highlighted that the key to giving a good interview is to remain open-minded and pay attention to the person in front of you. His warning against this approach included a chocolate gateaux, a general election, a David Bowie record, and Tony Blair…

For brands in live interviews, this means acting within the parameters of your brand but having the confidence to improvise in order to truly exhibit brand values, and avoid becoming an over-rehearsed mouthpiece on a mission.

3. Good stories are all about you

The biggest shift in broadcast is from journalists making listeners feel that they are covering ‘other’ peoples’ stories, to covering ‘our’ own stories. Brands must behave like journalists, whose task it is to a place a viewer where they can’t go; speak to a person they can’t meet; and bring back stories that they can’t even fathom.

Consumers don’t want to talk about other lives; they want to talk about their own lives, and brands must tap into their ‘true north’ in order to discover what narrative they should be building.

To conclude today’s talk, in the changing and opportunistic broadcast landscape, brands must be brave in taking that step beyond their comfort zone and forward into new territory. Be an astronaut, not an astronomer.

Jeremy’s top tips for PRs when pitching a story:

• Choose a real voice over that of an expert when selecting spokespeople for his show, as people want to hear real voices.

• Connect with a producer of a particular show to find out exactly what stories are wanted.

• Offer a good guest and a good story. The combination of the two is key.

• Tip: Do not offer stories based around unknown awareness days.

This was published by…

Phil Caplin

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