’Never lie to journalists. Never tell a journalist they have just
written a really good article ... they hate thinking they’re a soft
touch.’ Where was I reminded of these tricks of the trade? For the first
time in its 25-year history, the Edinburgh TV Festival held a big
serious session on PR.
’Love it or hate it, these days it’s a vital part of the production
process, from programme promotion to corporate spin doctoring’ the
It’s a long overdue admission by the creatives that they need help
pretty badly. PR standards in the TV sector are extremely uneven and
could do overall with a big boost.
Or, to put it another way, those who screw up on PR, or do it badly, are
placing themselves at an all too obvious competitive disadvantage.
At its simplest, perfectly decent programmes can be overlooked in the
multi-channel blur, because no one puts the appropriate PR effort and
support behind them. This is a point of growing importance as digital
arrives this autumn. If programme promotion is done intelligently, in a
targeted manner rather than indiscriminate hyping, journalists will
appreciate honest PR effort.
As for direct consumer advertising: one of the smartest marketing moves
recently has been Channel 4’s launch of text-based screen advertising at
commuter stations reminding home-bound passengers of what’s on, say,
Brookside, that evening.
At a corporate level, if a network sends out confused or clumsy
messages, or does not carefully select the key programmes which are
judged to encapsulate its brand then its standing is eroded. The issue
goes to the heart of the TV sector, which as an entertainment medium
operating under strict rules needs to engage with audiences and the
It’s a fact that those with serious PR problems, in both regulatory and
programme areas - Carlton TV and ITV - are facing a PR crunch this
In many ways Carlton, awaiting the verdict on its Connection drugs
documentary, does not fully deserve its negative image which unless
reversed could even affect its City standing. It has a good track record
in children’s programmes, regional programmes and tries hard in
entertainment and drama.
If it can rehabilitate its dismal documentary area and reverse the
negative PR, it could recover.
ITV is also effectively relaunching itself. The integrated approach of
Channel 5, which sees PR, advertising and on-screen programme promotions
all in one department has hugely influenced its plans. From this week,
all on-air programme promotions are being made centrally, homing in on
25 or so programmes which ITV wants to push. Time will tell whether
regional ITV companies will really let power be centralised and whether
journalists will follow the lead and write about the favoured