Keren Haynes: A Journey from Broadcasting to Leading a PR Agency

29 mins read

We at PRNEWS.IO continue to work on our project, Her PR Journey, where we publish interviews with amazing women in PR. Today, we are excited to introduce you to Keren Haynes. Keren is a former broadcast journalist who transitioned into the world of PR. She is a mother of two and the co-founder of Shout! Communications, a video and broadcast agency. Beyond her professional achievements, Keren enjoys mountain walking and Thursday nights out.

Meet Keren Haynes as she shares her journey from journalism to PR, her insights, and her experiences in this dynamic field.

Transforming Broadcasting Expertise into PR Success: Keren Haynes’ Story

Could you please introduce yourself and share your experience transitioning from broadcast journalism with BBC, ITN, and Sky to founding Shout! Communications?

I trained as a radio journalist straight from leaving university and had enjoyed a great career in radio and television.   I reported, produced, and been a news editor….I even read the news, although I don’t miss those days, getting up at about 0400 to straighten my curly hair!  My last job as a journalist was with the BBC in the Business Department, reporting on business and economic news for Radio 5 Live, Radio 4’s Today Programme, News Channel, and World TV.  

I’d worked in broadcast news at senior levels and felt ready for a new challenge.    It hit me one day when I was in the 5 Live studio, about to go on air and I looked at the clock thinking “Oh good, a few more minutes and I can go home.”  I knew then it was time to move on!   

When I first left the BBC I worked for another PR agency, Firefly Communications.   Whilst I had reported on business news I wasn’t really business-minded in a commercial sense; I learned a lot at that agency about running a business, an education I’m so glad to have had!  I left there to co-found Shout! Communications with a friend of mine, Catherine Bayfield who I met when we trained together to be journalists.

with Catherine Bayfield
  1. As the co-founder of Shout! Communications, how do you blend your broadcast PR expertise with managing video production projects for your clients?

The most effective campaigns combine broadcast media relations with video.   We use video in a number of ways, particularly useful is B-roll for television.   B-roll is 6 to 8 minutes of roughly edited footage produced on behalf of a client and distributed to television, and sometimes online, news channels free of charge and any copyright issues.   

Television newsrooms have had so many cutbacks in recent years that B-roll has become invaluable.   If you are a news editor, as I was back in the day at ITN, you’re going to love a B-roll.   Very few PR stories are “must-have” stories, but if one comes with pictures and the other doesn’t then you will take the former.   

Obviously, B-roll has to be shot in the right way.   We have two golden rules, and every client who has followed these rules has seen their footage used on UK television and beyond.   The first rule is to film the footage in a news style – so nothing too fancy and enough wide, medium and close-up shots that can be edited into a sequence.  The second rule is to film something that broadcasters can’t easily do for themselves – perhaps because it takes too long to do, is too far away…the reasons are endless.   

B-roll can also be an asset to website content providers.   Some still take an already edited package but these days most journalists taking PR footage prefer to have editorial control and edit it themselves.   We will, however, edit short video packages for social media.  Often these can be more branded than the other content we produce and give clients more value for money. 

  1. What inspired you to specialize in broadcast PR, and what unique advantages does it offer compared to traditional PR methods?

As a former broadcast PR journalist, it seemed the obvious thing for myself and my business partner to do.   We see ourselves as poachers turned gamekeepers!   Having worked in broadcast for so long we know the industry inside out – we understand what journalists look for in a story, what they need from a spokesperson, and all the different ways you can promote a story.   And – should we need to pull in a favor – we have a contacts book to die for!  

Clients want to broadcast PR for a number of reasons.   First of all, there’s the reach.   An opportunity on national TV can reach several million people.   For a radio day, we guarantee a minimum reach of a million, although in practice it’s more likely to be 3 or 4 million.   So you can get your key messages heard a lot of times.   

Conversely, you can also segment broadcast audiences.   ITV’s Good Morning Britain, for example, has an audience made up mainly of women, aged 45 and under.  But Radio 5 Live is more male-orientated.   BBC regional radio enjoys an older audience, often of 55 upwards, and larger commercial, music-focused stations, such as Capital, attract younger listeners.   Or you can still find influencers and decision-makers, particularly government ears, on Radio 4’s Today program.  

Whilst there’s been a big growth in people getting news from social media, when a significant story breaks the public goes to radio and television for confirmation and analysis of what the story means.   That enhances the credibility of the broadcast above any other media.   

Then there’s the glitz.  Clients are impressed with television.   Television opportunities are hard to win, so maybe it’s their rarity that makes them so desirable.   

  1. In your opinion, how has the role of women evolved in the PR industry throughout your career?

To be honest I always thought it was not bad, compared to journalism.   When I left the BBC I had a one year old and I had had to pay for childcare 5 days a week, even though working full time involved just four long days.  That’s because they would never agree to me having a regular day off.   When I moved into PR, working for Firefly Comms, I thought it was brilliant because they gave me a parking space – meaning I could drop my child off at nursery before driving to work.   

I think however not all of the PR industry was as good as my employer. However, over the last decade or so the industry seems to have got more supportive when it comes to women juggling a career and children.  Flexi and remote working help – not that you can work with a child alongside you, but those stolen hours when you might have had to travel into an office can be a godsend!  

I think organizations like Women in PR have had an impact on the industry. Initially, I felt that such a body was a retrograde step, did we really need to cut our male counterparts out of the equation. But actually, it’s the only organization that truly has the promotion of women at the heart of its mission.    

I’ve been to events run by other major PR organizations and sometimes they’ve felt like a rugby club outing – all male tables, compromising of the board executives of said organizations. I feel that model has, thankfully, started to change.  

That said, there are still proportionally more men than women at the top of the PR tree in agencies and in-house comms teams.  That still needs to change in my opinion.  

  1. How does Shout! Communications utilize articles in media as a strategic PR tool to enhance client visibility and reputation?

At the heart of our specialist PR agency is our media relations service – primarily we secure opportunities for clients on radio and television, in the UK at the national and regional levels, but sometimes further afield too, especially in the US.   

Most of the coverage we secure is pro-active, meaning a client has a particular campaign to promote, for which we seek broadcast interviews.   We do have some clients though who are reactive and for these we find a story in the news agenda on which they can comment.   We call that news-jacking and most of these clients are on a retainer with us.

Clients have different motives for wanting broadcast PR. For many, it’s to positively promote their brand to as many people as possible.   A radio and/or television campaign can reach millions of people, therefore is marvelously effective at reaching this goal.   

Broadcast is a trusted media.   Unlike social media, audiences have reason to believe what they hear and see on radio and television.   They understand there are standards to adhere to and that claims are verified and facts proved on the broadcast.  All broadcasters in the UK must follow Ofcom guidelines and the BBC ultimately has to answer to the government.   By association, therefore, a PR story heard or seen on broadcast is going to be considered equally credible.    

Broadcast opportunities are hard won and maybe that makes them more valued too.   Unlike social media, there isn’t endless space for a story to land.  Most of our stories land on news bulletins and daytime programming and they have tight time schedules – that means there is fierce competition to get on air.

Articles for Talent Visa
  1. Can you share a memorable success story where your firm’s media relations strategies significantly impacted a client’s brand or campaign?

We’ve been in business for 21 years so there are so many examples!  A recent campaign that comes to mind is a story about potholes! We worked with James Reed PR and their client, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) to secure broadcast coverage for their annual ALARM Report which revealed the perilous state of our roads.

The survey of councils in England and Wales has now been running for 29 years and we’ve supported them for the last 7 or 8; our task was to secure regional and national broadcast coverage.  But beyond that, this year was key for the AIA as they were keen to reach the ear of the Government, local authorities the Highways Agency as well as the general public ahead of a likely General Election.

The result of our campaign was an impressive 38 interview opportunities, including GMB, Sky News Radio, LBC, and Times Radio. This gave a total reach of 32 million listeners and viewers. The campaign though, went beyond just securing media relations coverage. The Alarm data was used as part of a question asked by the Shadow Transport Secretary in the House of Commons to the Secretary of State for Transport. The ALARM report was also promoted by the Shadow Transport Secretary on his LinkedIn giving further credibility. 

Another of our clients is P&O Cruises, who we have supported over many years.  Last year we were in Barbados with them, to launch their latest cruise ship Arvia.  Their overarching goal is to be positioned as the go-to voice for the cruise industry.  As well as this they want younger audiences to be encouraged to take cruise holidays.     

Working with, and sometimes suggesting brand ambassadors really helped with the latter, allowing us to position P&O Cruises on radio and television stations that reflect their desired demographic.  Sometimes we support with ad hoc campaigns on radio and/or television, but every few years we get involved in a much bigger project such as a new ship launch.   Over time I feel confident in saying PR has helped P&O Cruises reach their goals, the average age of passengers has come down and the company is a go-to for broadcasters looking for comment on the industry.   

  1. Managing both media relations and video production can be challenging. How do you ensure seamless integration and top-notch delivery for your clients?

They say you’re only as good as your last story, so our strategy is to make sure every campaign we work on is as high quality as possible.   Over the years we’ve become more process driven and it really helps that we employ people who, like us the agency founders, have also come from a broadcast background.   

That means if we’re working on a story for television, and we’ve also been commissioned to produce B-roll, we understand exactly what needs to be filmed in order for broadcasters to use the video.   You have to think like a journalist – so in terms of pictures, we’re asking ourselves what opening shot would a journalist at the BBC or ITN or Sky want to use at the beginning of the story.  Then what would come next, and third….

When it comes to television, media relations and video production are tightly knit when you have the mindset of a producer.   

I also think it’s important to make sure that the filming is perfect, in terms of pictures and sound.   It doesn’t matter what platform the video is going to be placed on – whether it’s the BBC’s News At Ten or a burgeoning YouTube or TikTok channel, it needs to be the best quality possible with no technical glitches.     

8. With your extensive background in broadcast journalism, how do you navigate the shift towards digital platforms and online media in today’s PR landscape? 

There has been a massive shift towards digital platforms and online media. The media landscape is continually evolving – that’s partly because of advancements in technology but also a shift in listener/viewer behaviour.  Just in the last couple of months Talk TV has moved fully online and broadcaster Piers Morgan has taken his show from its terrestrial weekday evening slot to being solely online. Currently more than 2.4 million watch his ‘Uncensored’ show.

The change towards digital platforms has been really rapid and without a doubt content is king.

The way audiences listen to the radio has changed too.  Online listening, via browsers, apps or smart speakers has now overtaken FM and AM platforms for the first time.   77% of the population tune in to digital radio every week.   And on average we’re listening to radio for 20.5 hours a week.

BBC Sounds has transformed how we listen to audio digitally and C4 is also spearheading change; they plan to be a ’ digital-first public service streamer by 2030’ and this marks a significant milestone for the direction the broadcast industry is headed.

The rise of digital media has significantly impacted the PR industry including broadcast PR. As traditional broadcast media outlets adapt, we like many other broadcast agencies are shifting our focus to digital PR, including social media, online news outlets, and other digital channels like radio on online. This shift requires a greater emphasis on creating digital content that engages audiences.

Creating exclusive video content – particularly behind the scenes for news online websites, is one way to do this.

9. What advice would you give to aspiring PR professionals looking to specialize in broadcast PR and media production? 

It is extremely beneficial but not essential to have had a first career in radio and or TV. This gives PR professionals a real insight into how newsrooms and programming work and a head start when you are selling into broadcasters. You’ll understand more than most how to write a press release which will get noticed and have the news judgement to be able to be able to pick out a strong angle.

My other advice is that you don’t need to study media or PR as a degree in order to secure a job in broadcast PR and media production. A degree in the arts or science is just as useful.

The biggest requirement is to be genuinely interested in news and current affairs and to be passionate about listening to radio and watching TV news /lifestyle programmes.

Media production is a completely different skill to broadcast PR and it is so important to keep your standards as high as possible with production – flawless, creative audio editing if you’re producing a podcast and mirroring the production standards of the broadcasters for video content. B-roll for example needs to be shot in a news style.

10. Looking ahead, what trends do you foresee shaping the future of broadcast PR, and how is Shout! Communications preparing to adapt to these changes? 

More people are listening to the radio than ever before and that is a trend we’re confident will continue. In the UK we listened for over one billion hours in the first three months of 2024. That’s according to RAJAR, the organization that measures radio audiences in the UK. Its latest quarterly figures  (for Q1 2024) show that 49.9 million people tune into radio each week – that’s 88.6% of the adult population in the UK.  Therefore, incorporating radio into any PR campaign has never been more important! 

For this reason, we will continue to recommend radio as a cost-effective way of reaching a mass audience. There’s also a proliferation of independent local stations – ( community stations) that are desperate for engaging content even better if you can offer them a celebrity or engage a third party. We fulfil that need with a syndicated interview which is produced by us at Shout! Communications and ensures key messages are communicated

The biggest takeaway for broadcast PR is that radio is definitely here to stay in.  in 2024 we see it as the biggest broadcast PR opportunity. Stations are facing more and more competition from the likes of social media, podcasts, and other digital channels, but just as video did not kill the radio star, technology is even less likely to do so.

Fitting seamlessly next to the radio are podcasts.  This is a trend that has seen huge success over the last few years and its star is still ascending.   We have clients wanting to do interviews on podcasts belonging to other brands, but there is also an appetite for clients to produce their own podcast series.  As audiences embrace on-demand content like never before,  podcasts will get ever more popular.   From a consumer’s point of you,  you listen on the move, when you want to, so podcasts are so convenient.  From a brand’s point of view, there is more available airtime than you could ever find on radio and TV.  There’s also the potential to talk about niche or sensitive subjects that might be rejected on more conventional channels.   Moving with the times we have moved for most of the time out of our original studio and have invested in a portable pop-up audio studio that can be used for radio days and the recording of podcasts.    

TV news too is here to stay but will evolve. In the future, the TV audience will already know the headlines and will be looking for something new from an evening news bulletin. There will therefore be a need for expert commentary and insight to explore the story in more detail. This is where broadcast PR can support the news agenda. Shout! Communications has recently launched a Directory of Expert Broadcast PR Speakers who can comment on a wide variety of topics. This is particularly useful when there is a breaking news story.

Finally, the broadcast industry says the next big trend will be a Personalised Viewing Experience: 

The Digital TV group predicts “linear TV now will be different to what we call linear TV going forward, it will be more personalized and AI will play an important role and even in FAST as well.” FAST TV for those who’ve not heard of it is Free, ad-supported television a form of streaming that delivers programming similar to cable, satellite, or traditional TV. You can view FAST TV content on virtually any device at no cost; the only trade-off is that you have to watch commercials.

Personalisation will play a crucial role in the future of broadcasting AI and machine learning will enable broadcasters to deliver highly personalised viewing experiences. Viewers will have access to curated content playlists and interactive features. 

From a broadcast PR perspective, this means there is a big opportunity to discuss more niche topics sensitive health issues for example or delve deeper into personal finance for example.

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