I’m so excited to share this interview with you all! Recently I’ve taken more of an interest into the world of Broadcast PR, so after a lot of Twitter and Google
stalking searching, I managed to find an email address for Sam Hodges, Head of Communications for BBC Television.
Sam talks about the craziness that comes with working in PR & Comms for the BBC, his advice for aspiring PR pros and his involvement with Strictly Come Dancing…
When were you first introduced to the world of PR & Communications?
“My favourite subject through school and college had always been English but I didn’t know what career path to follow. I chose English Language as a degree to keep learning but also to keep my options open – I was really interested in either copy-writing or journalism and the more I understood it, comms/PR appeared to be a career that embraced the best of both worlds.”
Can you talk a bit about what you did before starting at the BBC? University, previous jobs, etc..
“The truth is I was very lucky. I didn’t have a job when I graduated from Lancaster so moved home to Birmingham and via a temping agency managed to get a few weeks work at Pebble Mill – now BBC Birmingham – working on their IT Helpdesk (I knew nothing about computers). Once in I got to know people who worked in the press office and volunteered to do some cover. Eventually I got a position as Press Assistant for the team.”
What have been your high points whilst at the BBC? Any major challenges?
“After a year or so at Pebble Mill, I went travelling and fortunately on my return, I got a job at the next level up – Assistant Publicist – based in London. I was working in the Entertainment team helping publicists on their campaigns when I was given a show of my own – at that point called Pro-Celebrity Come Dancing. It was one of the first shows I fully owned and after a title change and a brilliant press launch, it went on to become Strictly Come Dancing, one of the BBC’s most globally successful formats.
In terms of challenges, a huge one for the BBC is that not only are we one of the most scrutinised brands, we’re also rightly one of the most transparent so if they’re not happy with our lines or explanations, journalists often submit Freedom of Information requests asking for exhaustive detail (we receive over 2000 a year). As a publicly funded body we also publish a lot of information that commercial companies/other media organisations do not.”
What does your typical working week look like? (If you have one!)
“Comms at the BBC is pretty much a seven day a week role and I speak to journalists every day – even at weekends. We get the cuttings at about 4am, where an agency lists the hundreds of articles written about the corporation and its programming. I always read those over breakfast – or earlier if I’m expecting bad news and it’s keeping me awake. Then at 9am we have a senior team meeting where we discuss the main stories, clarify approaches and decide how to proceed on the most important issues. At around 9.30am, we get the overnight ratings in which can often give us a news story – for instance who got the highest ratings between shows like Strictly Come Dancing and XFactor, or how a well a new drama launched. No day is the same – sometimes I can be in back-to-back board meetings discussing TV strategy, others I can be in crisis meetings where my role is to understand the situation, get as much detail as possible, and work out what we can tell the press. In some situations this can involve balancing legal demands, the welfare of those involved, and agreement with third parties before we can say anything.
I always try to leave work on time so I can see my twin daughters before they go to bed and this normally means doing work on the journey home. My day often ends watching the front pages appear either on BBC News or by following #tomorrowspaperstoday on Twitter to see how stories are playing out.”
Can you share some advice with aspiring PR professionals? How can they stand out from the crowd?
“Remember your career is a marathon, not a sprint – be ambitious but in the early days, be adaptable, helpful and show that you’re keen to learn and can be trusted and relied upon. And always, be yourself. These are the attributes that will help you get more involved, help you learn, and help you progress. This is when you’ll shine.
And never forget that in PR, your reputation is everything. Your principle resource is your ability and your reputation – don’t jeopardise this for short term wins. If you feel something is wrong, challenge it – quite often stakeholders rely on their Comms person to be the most objective member of the team, the one who has to keep calm when others might not be. Rely on your journalistic sense and think at least two or three steps ahead of everyone else when working out how something will look in the media. The wrong short-term win can often equal much worse long-term pain.”
Thank you, Sam!!
I hope this interview gave you guys a bigger insight to the world of comms and TV! Are any of you particularly interested in working in this sector? Leave a comment below and let me know!