In April, Jennifer Valentine-Miller PR Practitioner from Healing Relations PR joined a lunchtime Q&A session and investigated the question “What do you do when a TV company comes knocking at your door?” Firstly, Jennifer found out that if you are for example an NHS Hospital Trust; the best thing to do is encourage the Television company to tell your story. This was an opportunity the Tyne and Wear NHS Trust and Police Force received; and they told a Newcastle story. The results were Georgie Hospital (Channel 4), and Our Cops in The North (BBC 1) alongside Wise Owl Films who are also from the Northeast of England at the heart of compelling documentaries, factual entertainment, and specialist factual television. What are the essentials that need to be laid down and made known when a TV company comes knocking at your door?
Tell a Story
In this case regarding the Tyne and Wear Hospital Trust, it was fundamental to tell a Newcastle story.
The Trust had turned documentaries because they were all done before. The team went back to their Exec Board and said that on this occasion “excellence” will be at the forefront because that is what an NHS Trust do very well.
This resulted in the network showing the realities; like having Tea breaks. Channel 4 was particularly interested in the North; the channel spoke about diversity and the North is diverse. There could be a situation like during the height of the pandemic – with 12% of staff off due to Covid. On the day, basics should continue, like for example looking after patients. Being able to plan ahead with enough time allows for good research to excel. Covid19 measurements and protocols should also be undertaken by the TV crew and that includes being issued with lanyards.
Is it worth it?
The filming and then the 1st and 2nd edits can cause a lot of anxiety. However, feedback for Georgie Shore Hospital was fantastic; 66,000 registered to the Trust’s recruitment page. Although, not sure how many turned into jobs.
Getting PR involved
Local and national radio and print media should be encouraged to play their part. All national TV channels in the UK tend to stick to the Radio Times as their means of programme exposure, and for programme listings. Hospitals would have liked more community digital platforms to get involved.
Press Team must be brought in at the start (not all staff are always happy about that). This can lead to a break down in trust and confidence. The NHS’ Communications team request that they need to be included from the start. Their stringent guidelines are based upon Information Governance and data protection, which also plays a part in the film‘s transparency.
Who should be seen?
Let us not be surprised if a lot of people say that they don’t not want to be on TV – and that is why it was key to connect with those who are most confident to be on screen. Some staff were trolled on social media as a result of their appearance. The TV series (Georgie Shore) on the other hand did not hesitate to applaud their patients. This, according to the Staff Nurses, made the whole thing worthwhile. Being clear from the start with participants about what is really happening provides an award-winning element to all factual documentaries. The editorial control is the issue because a lot is left out. Encourage TV channels to emphasise greatly that people have really played their part.
Know what TV networks want
When a TV company comes to your organisation – of course it needs to be about your organisation. With the story about the Northeast of England, their reason for telling it is that they are so far away from London. There is not enough information relating to why ITV’s “Metro” in Tyne and Ware was both amazing and popular with both Channel 4 and the BBC. It can in some way boil down to the TV network being informed about what is needed to be done – and the message that they essentially get across to its viewers. People want to celebrate the success of everyday life. Handing over the control of your brand is a serious one and that trust must be there from the beginning. Telling stories in television takes time and uses up a lot of resources, that is why it becomes an added plus if a production crew works together with a team like the NHS. Production companies are a risk. Handling media is a good risk if you handle it well.