INDUSTRY PROFILES

Jessica Ridley - Media

Jessica Ridley - Media
Q. Give us a snapshot of your career to date and an overview of your current role?
I’ve been at Channel Seven for the past 6 years. I’ve been in a shared role between Sunrise and 7NEWS for the past 3.5 years, which keeps me busy. I’m contributing to both shows (and everything in between) on a daily basis. I also fill-in host The Daily Edition regularly and enjoy presenting longer format feature stories for Weekend Sunrise. I’ve also been involved with Seven Sport for the Sydney Spring Carnival. I emcee sport events and corporate functions, and dabble in media training for execs and spokespersons.

No two work days are ever the same! I rarely know what I will be covering, until I turn up. It’s normal for me to be reporting on a state parliament story for Sunrise, swap to a breaking traffic story, then duck into a grimy court case for news, before putting together a health package, while getting frocked up for a live cross on a red carpet… all in the same day. You have to be versatile and adaptable, because news is a moving feast. What might start the day as lead story, is buried in the bulletin by the afternoon.

Prior to Seven, I was a news reporter and reader at 2GB. I’m originally from Perth and studied Broadcast Journalism at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. I hold a Communications Degree with majors in PR and Advertising.
Q. What are you looking for from PRs – and what kind of pitch would get an immediate response?
Our newsroom gets constantly bombarded by PR groups every day. Hard truth, but our chief of staffs have figured out how to filter their emails, just to cope with the constant stream of media release notifications (according to my COS, it’s 2000+ a day).

I would say the most successful PRs tend to be the ones that have been journalists themselves and understand the intense pressure that we’re under to deliver, with limited resources. They know instinctively what a news story is, and equally what isn’t a news story. They’re also not afraid to push back on their clients’ expectations for coverage, rather than have a busy journalist tell them they’re not interested. It is after all, better to have one great story make it on the telly, than burn a relationship with a journo by pitching ten duds.

The winning pitch formula for a TV story hinges on:
  • New facts that would interest a mass audience.
  • Decent pictures (animations, graphics, corporate broll is a Christmas present to a time-poor newsroom).
  • Ideally, a case study to make it real for the viewer (not sourced off Airtasker..!)
  • A onepage, easy to read media release.
  • Pitched at the right time.
  • Pitched to the right show and audience.
Q. Do you prefer email or phone pitches, and what is the best time of day/day of the week to catch you?
I always prefer an email pitch, because this gives me time to read it, consider it and respond. I work some weekends, so my days off vary and often fall mid-week. I used to answer the phone and emails on those days. But I’m trying to break that habit, because we all deserve a breather from work! So in short, there’s never really a right time. But know I always try my hardest to answer them in a realistic time frame.
Q. During your career, what has your experience been like working with PRs?
I’ve developed some great ongoing relationships with many fabulous PR groups in Sydney and Melbourne. Some of them I count as dear friends.

I’ve covered fashion week over the past few years, which is a great way to get to know a lot of the main players in beauty and apparel. I also have former TV colleagues that have gone across to government and corporate communications roles. It’s been handy having studied PR and advertising. I do have a solid handle on what goes into the strategic planning behind the scenes.
Q. Do you attend many media events and if so, what kind?
Less than I used to! It’s very flattering to be invited to different events around town, but with the gruelling work hours I’ve had to be careful with what I commit to mid week, so I don’t burn out!

I love theatre, art and music. So I enjoy attending premieres in this great city of ours! I’m passionate about health, food and fitness, so tend to say yes to those kinds of events too. Every so often I get invited to an event with a great inspirational speaker, or a great panel discussing issues that matter, particularly to women. They’re my favourite events, where you meet some movers and shakers - and walk away feeling challenged.
Q. What do you love about your job?
The adrenalin of live TV, the variety of content, the art of a good interview and writing to pictures. No other job gives you a front row seat to world events and it’s a privilege to meet so many interesting people every day and tell their stories.
Q. Describe a typical day:
  • 3.15am: Wake up and check emails to find out where Sunrise is sending me.
  • 4am: Meet my cameraman at the Martin Place office and drive to our destination to set up.
  • 5.30am: My first news cross. There’ll be several to follow throughout the morning, possibly radio crosses too. Also Morning Show and Morning News contributions.
  • 7am: Find a coffee somewhere in between!!
  • 9am-1pm: Setting up interviews for a different story for the 6pm news. Recording pieces for 4pm and promos too.
  • 2-4pm: Writing and voicing 6pm story.
  • 4.30pm: Walking Rocket the Labradoodle.
  • 5.30pm: Try to get to a gym class.
  • 6.30pm: Dinner with the hubby.
  • 8pm: Lights out. Phone on silent. Ready to do it all again!
Q. If you weren't doing what you do now… what would you be doing?
I could sing before I could walk or talk. So perhaps in another life, I would have pursued a musical theatre career in Broadway! But who knows, there might be a way to storm the stage one day.
Q. Your Socials: