Judge and Jury: ITV’s honest approach to strategy reflects well on Eyre - The ITV Network Centre enhanced its reputation by being open about its audience problems and future strategy, says Martin Loat, managing director of Propeller Marketing Comm

After a 100 days of reflection, the big cheeses at the ITV Network Centre recently presented their strategy for re-invigorating the UK’s commercial TV market leader.

After a 100 days of reflection, the big cheeses at the ITV Network

Centre recently presented their strategy for re-invigorating the UK’s

commercial TV market leader.



I have observed with interest the Network Centre’s struggle to find a

decent PR strategy since its inception as the co-ordinator of the ITV

federation in 1993. All too often inertia from ITV licensees can

suffocate PR plans at the centre.



But ITV has found a new sense of direction under chief executive Richard

Eyre. His ’new approach’ - including targets for increased audience

share and the seven-point plan for success - has been heavily analysed.

But what of the PR?



Eyre’s 100-day consultation period in which he sought to ’turn a vision

into a strategy’ cleverly bought time while appearing

customer-friendly.



Besides turning the heat down while the ingredients for the new recipe

could be prepared, the trick created a focal point and generated

expectation, climaxing in a presentation to advertisers, at which ITV’s

key messages were revealed.



Journalists were not invited to this event. Instead trade press and

selected nationals were given one-to-one briefings a day or two

beforehand by Eyre, marketing director John Hardie and director of

programmes David Liddiment.



It was a fine example of the ITV chiefs’ refreshingly PC - ’publicity

correct’ - new attitude. As the big day loomed, Eyre and his team met

several journalists individually, showing how seriously they take ITV’s

reputation management.



The media relations strategy paid off with extensive interviews and

features providing a series of large canvasses on which key messages

could be painted.



The actual audience share figures were kept back from the press

briefings to provide a strong news story for the media on the big day.

The seven-point plan, which in truth contained few surprises, was

re-printed as bullet points in several titles, illustrating how obvious

information can be communicated effectively if correctly packaged.



Press opinion on the audience targets was mixed. But the heavy exposure

ensured that everyone who is interested now knows what they are and can

see that ITV is making an effort.



ITV appears to be prepared to be open and honest and act like a market

leader. It needs to win back friends and influence people. In that

regard it stands in a better position than it did 100 days before Eyre

joined.



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