Helping to deliver a prime-time BBC programme

When the call from BBC Countryfile arrived, requesting the opportunity to report from our client Clinton Devon Estates’ organic dairy farm, we were ready to pitch an entire programme.

When the call from BBC Countryfile arrived, requesting the opportunity to report from our client Clinton Devon Estates’ organic dairy farm, we were ready to pitch an entire programme.


Having supported the Estate’s communications for just over 14 years, we had a bank of compelling stories and a trusted relationship with them which, coupled with our own experience in television broadcasting, led to both parties agreeing to proceed with this rare opportunity to showcase the work of a progressive private Estate to a national audience.


Naturally, there were some concerns. Estates like Clinton Devon date back hundreds of years and the families who own and run them are typically very private. Clinton Devon Estates breaks the mould somewhat. It is run by a professional team, led by Estates Director John Varley, who committed to being transparent and engaged when he was appointed two decades ago.


Our own appointment in 2008 was to shape and share news of the Estate’s important work around communities, farming, forestry, renewable energy and development projects, in the local press and broadcast media. Over the ensuing years we’ve secured hundreds of pieces of coverage in newspapers, TV, radio and sector publications, locally, regionally and nationally.


Working with the BBC production team, preparing content for a prime-time BBC1 programme, typically reaching more than six million viewers, is a big commitment. The preparation period is short and intense.

We agreed to Countryfile’s Matt Baker filming at the organic dairy and prepared a briefing note explaining the calving operation and how the young stock were cared for by Alice Thomas.


We also suggested a visit to the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) where the mouth of the River Otter at Budleigh Salterton is being returned to its natural floodplain, with the removal of 200 year old man-made embankments, as part of a £15million climate mitigation project. Also, a report from the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, a recently designated National Nature Reserve.


Countryfile were keen to visit two of Clinton Devon Estates’ tenants; the first at Stantyway Farm on the stunning Jurassic Coast near Otterton, with husband and wife team Sam and Nell Walker, and the second at Otterton Mill, one of the few remaining operational water mills where flour is still milled as it was hundreds of years ago.


Every step of the way, careful brokering was required to ensure we not only met the needs of our client, but also that of the production team. A delicate balancing act one might say. We ensured our client’s key messages were communicated and understood, making sure facts were checked and scripts were accurate, thanks to the trusted working relationship we’d developed. This allowed our client to have the confidence to entrust us with the task of ensuring their story was told in the most compelling and accurate way possible.


Ahead of the filming we held media training sessions with each of the Estate team involved, considering the topics they would be covering, the questions they may be asked and ensuring they were comfortable in communicating their key messages.


KOR’s team combines a range of skills and expertise, with ex-broadcast journalists and presenters, as well as a videographer and drone pilot, which enabled us to work closely with the BBC to assist with scripting, research and providing vital background information.


The film crew and presenters Matt Baker and Ellie Harrison had just two days in East Devon to film the programme. Having worked in television news myself, trust me when I say this is a pretty tough ask – it’s a lot to achieve in a tight timeframe. There’ll always be that one shot or sequence that you might miss once you’re back in the edit.


This is where KOR’s videographer was able to step in, providing a library of material for the editors to choose from. Extensive drone footage was contributed and used in the final edit, capturing key moments in some of the stories.


When broadcast day came on January 30th, the KOR team got together to watch the programme go out live, our top priority being to ensure our client’s story was communicated in the very best, most positive way. In this case, we couldn’t have hoped for more – one colleague even joked it was like playing ‘key message bingo’ as the programme unfolded!


As we sit and reflect on it now, it was a great experience. To see the Countryfile crew in action was fantastic and the KOR team really enjoyed supporting the programme and playing its part. Above all, it was a superb opportunity to showcase the work of our client and show the impact that landed estates really can have.


You can watch the programme again on BBC iPlayer: