netmagInterview

Profile: Telegraph Hill

Barry Pilling, Garret Keogh and Jack Simcock of social television production company Telegraph Hill share their experiences of working on some of UK TV’s biggest brands with Tom May

This article first appeared in issue 231 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

.net: How did Telegraph Hill come about?
GK:
The traditional TV industry wasn’t reacting fast enough to changes in how users were watching and using social products. We felt there was an opportunity, so set up Telegraph Hill to take advantage. Barry and I worked on Being Human at RDF/Zodiak and were responsible for making it a massive online brand. Barry and Jack had been together at Mentorn and the BBC on TV development and the three of us had aspirations about working where social media, digital content and TV programming come together. We started talking early last year but didn’t get up and running until autumn 2011. We’re now 10-strong and doing the biggest TV social media campaigns in the UK.

.net: What is the ‘special sauce’ that makes Telegraph Hill stand out from other agencies?
JS:
We understand TV as well as social media so when we talk to broadcasters and production companies we speak their language. We’re at home talking to a range of clients and can explain technology without scaring non-technical partners. We treat social media as a creative process – we get great writers to create our tweets and FB posts.

.net: What’s the secret to a successful web-based campaign for a TV show?
BP:
Understanding your audience and their relationship with your show. What do they need between episodes? What do they want to see after the show? What content best suits which platform? Thinking like a fan is key. We’re fans of our shows as well as part of the production!

.net: You tripled Hollyoaks’ website audience with a pioneering live TV event – tell us about that
GK:
We joined with 4Music on #Wretch32Invasion: a free exclusive gig featuring rapper Wretch 32. Hundreds turned up, not realising the stage was about to be crashed ... by Bart from Hollyoaks! He played out a scene from the show, confessing his love to Sinead as Wretch played along as if it were real. Bart was bundled off by security before Wretch revealed to the audience they were part of a new Hollyoaks storyline and would be in Friday’s episode. Online it exploded. We published photos and videos, adding to the buzz around #Wretch32Invasion until it trended globally on Twitter. Viewing figures rose by a third and Wretch 32’s album jumped three places up the chart. The event reminded fans that Hollyoaks can still take them by surprise, even after 16 years.

.net: How did you win the contract to work on The Voice, and how’s it been working with the BBC?
JS:
We were hired by The Voice UK’s production company Wall to Wall after being recommended by the BBC. Our five full-timers are based in the production office, so they’re part of that team and can be responsive and on-message. We work closely with our team, Wall to Wall and BBC on getting the tone right, and ensure our schedule is in tune with audience habits and moods. It’s been incredible to work on such a big show and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved; the numbers on all platforms have been massive.

.net: What’s been your proudest moment?
GK:
It’s great to see The Voice breaking records, but we knew it was going to be big! A smaller project we’re proud of is BBC Three’s Free Speech. Working with Mentorn Media, we’ve built a community of political activists who debate topics daily online, as well as contributing massively to the monthly live TV show. We were blown away when Sway (a former guest) namechecked the show and his Twitter trending experience in a song: how many social media campaigns get a rap mention?!

.net: How do you source talent, and do you rely mainly on freelancers or employees?
JS:
We are always looking for great people. In the office we have the Wall of Awesome: a board with names of everyone we want to work with on it. If clients want us to put together a team, we use it to help us assign individuals. We also work with Canterbury Christ Church University on finding digital and media students to work for us.

.net: What are you excited about at the moment?
BP:
The way the industry is heading; building our own company at the heart of it – and bringing the social media conversation into live events. Whether it’s a TV show or a sports event, what does social media activity look like at the event and beyond? And live TV is exciting again ... who knew?

.net: UK TV formats are popular around the world now; do you see the company expanding abroad?
GK:
We’ve started talking to agencies in Singapore and beyond as well as a few secret projects that could see us developing technology around big sporting events and concerts on a global level. .net: Where do you think the future of TV lies?

BP: Platforms may change but there’s always a place for a curated schedule. If a company with such an amazing heritage as the BBC can adapt and deliver some of the most socially enabled programming, then all broadcasters can.

.net: What’s the most bizarre request you’ve ever had from a client?
JS:
On live TV show days, people sometimes think our team is responsible for everything ‘digital’ – even internet connections and cabling. Actually, we often can help – and do have a lot of cables!

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