BBC needs a better spokesperson, PROs claim

The BBC needs to stop using its most senior figures as spokespeople and instead find the best for the job, industry figures have said.

BBC: PROs believe the corporation needs someone to defend it properly in times of crisis
BBC: PROs believe the corporation needs someone to defend it properly in times of crisis

This week, a PRWeek/OnePoll reputation survey revealed that though far more trusted than other media brands, the BBC’s reputation had diminished over time.

The poll revealed that 51 per cent of respondents thought the corporation’s reputation had got worse over the past 20 years and followed recent criticism of coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

And during a PRWeek podcast, LightBrigade MD Alan Twigg pointed to the BBC's handling of situations like the Diamond Jubilee as reflecting a need for a new spokesperson. Twigg broadly praised the BBC but said that in times of crisis it needed someone who could defend it properly.

He said the broadcaster needed ‘the best spokesperson, not the most senior', adding: ‘They need to cultivate someone who has all the things it takes, [such as] being cool when they need to be cool, being outspoken when they need to do that and being totally encouraging and respectful when they need to be.’

But Twigg warned that the Diamond Jubilee acted as a potential warning ahead of the Olympic Games and beyond for the BBC to focus on maintaining its gravitas. He pointed to the news function of the broadcaster as being central to its reputation, and warned against ‘dumbing down’.

Kelly Walsh, CEO of MSL London, said: ‘They’ve a tendency of hiding when facing controversy. As a publicly funded broadcaster I think they could do a better job of addressing in a more open and transparent and quicker fashion criticism when it comes its way.’

Walsh saw the ongoing digital switchover and the 2016 review of The Royal Charter as being key comms points to focus on in the future.

Emphasising that the issues of trust and impartiality would be key going forward, she added: ‘I would be ensuring that the BBC remains relevant within that debate and that the story that they’re telling proves there’s value in maintaining a publicly funded broadcaster.

'I would be communicating loudly and clearly around innovation and in how they’re developing creative content and also in how that content is being made accessible to the widest possible audience.’

The survey showed that more than 30 per cent saw the BBC as the most trustworthy media organisation, compared with its nearest competitor Sky, which had just over 15 per cent.

A BBC spokesman said: 'We use a wide range of people to discuss different aspects of the BBC depending on the issue and the audience we are speaking to.  In the case of the Jubilee we began by using the executive producer who was interviewed at length about the pageant the next day. Since then there have been a variety of people from the BBC who have discussed the event from the presenters themselves to Director-General.' 

Watch the full podcast here

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