Campaign: Report into BBC's future avoids link with Tories - Issues Management

Campaign: Launch of Beyond the Charter Client: Broadcasting Policy Group PR team: Luther Pendragon Timescale: February - March 2004 Budget: Less than £10,000

The Broadcasting Policy Group was commissioned by the Conservative Party in early 2003 to write a report into the future of the BBC. The group, chaired by former TV executive David Elstein, asked Luther Pendragon to help it develop a one-off campaign to ensure the Beyond the Charter report gained impact with media, political and regulatory audiences.

Objectives

To ensure decision-makers and opinion-formers involved in the debate about the review of the BBC's charter felt the report contained a coherent argument. To demonstrate that the group was independent, despite the report being commissioned by the Conservatives.

Strategy and Plan

Luther Pendragon was aware that given the interest in the BBC following Hutton, the radical findings in the group's report would be newsworthy. The proposals included abolishing the Board of Governors, splitting the BBC into separate units and abolishing the licence fee. The campaign focused on broadcast and opinion pieces penned by members of the group. The team blended media relations and public affairs, talking to key stakeholders and reinforcing the messages via the media.

Elstein was the main spokesperson of the campaign for most of the target media, including the daily national newspapers and the broadcast and media trade journals. On the day of publication, the story was sold to the media sections of the Financial Times and The Independent. Sunday papers were avoided to protect the impact of other media.

The broadcast media were also targeted, with an emphasis on key bulletins and agenda-setting programmes, including Today and Newsnight. A press conference was held, to which journalists rather than politicos were invited, to ensure that the report did not become a party political story.

Measurement and Evaluation

The campaign hit all the main media targets. Elstein appeared on Today, BBC Breakfast, News 24, Sky News, CNN, Radio 5, the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show, and others. The only problem occurred when a live slot on ITV's lunchtime news was pulled due to a satellite failure.

Opinion pieces appeared under Elstein's name in The Daily Telegraph and The Sun, providing an opportunity for the group to rebut criticisms. The broad thrust of the group's findings was also covered in the other broadsheets.

David Cox, another member of the group, was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland and Wales. The report was also covered in trade journals such as Broadcast, MediaWeek and Campaign.

The group has not formally evaluated the campaign but the findings reached its target audience and the story didn't drift into party political dog-fighting.

Results

Although many disagreed with the report's findings, the logic of the argument was recognised among the media.

The campaign could arguably only be described as a full success if elements of the report are ever implemented. Media Guardian writer Maggie Brown said the story was extremely important for the publication: 'I knew the report would be radical and controversial, and it was a big issue for us. The report was being published on a Tuesday so I had to write a story for the Monday media section without seeing the report.

'The PR agency offered me a conversation with Elstein on the Friday before publication, and although he couldn't go into detail, I was able to work out what would be in the report. One of the difficulties from a PR point of view was that the report was pure theory and the language didn't translate into the public domain very well.'

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.