Editorial: Lead role for PR in play for BBC fees

News that public relations has emerged as a core component in the battle for the contract to run the BBC licence fee should be music to the ears of PR strategists.

News that public relations has emerged as a core component in the

battle for the contract to run the BBC licence fee should be music to

the ears of PR strategists.



In a bold move, Ogilvy PR has teamed up with direct marketing

consultancy Ogilvy One, French computer company Bull Information Systems

and the Post Office subsidiary which has been collecting the licence fee

since the 1920s in a bid for the estimated pounds 100 million contract.

The consortium, appropriately dubbed Envision, is the only contender to

have incorporated a public relations consultancy into its bid.



It is uncertain how much of the estimated pounds 100 million budget will

be allocated to PR, but it is the structure of the consortium that is

groundbreaking.



For once, communications has been built into the business plan from day

one.



As part of the consortium, Ogilvy PR role is to advise on the

communications challenges posed by the privatisation of licence fee

collection. These are not inconsiderable. There is likely to be public

opposition to the notion of a state-owned operation being run by a

private contractor. In addition, an estimated 1.6 million people

currently manage to evade paying the fee, and a campaign to turn around

this deficit will undoubtedly form part of the consortium’s remit,

particularly in the face of the enormous competition promised in the new

age of digital television.



If Envision is successful in its bid, Ogilvy PR will take on its

increasingly familiar role as strategic consultant and manager,

effectively co-ordinating the 13 in-house PR staff already responsible

for issues relating to the licence fee.



Ogilvy PR’s entry to the equation at the policy making level together

with this marriage of administrative, technological and communications

roles - whether the bid is successful or not - is indicative of a real

recognition of corporate communications as a key business function.



The winner will be under tremendous pressure to show an increase in

revenues from licence fees, and by placing itself centre stage, Ogilvy

would be called upon to prove its contribution to the coffers along with

its business partners. Its success, or otherwise would be immediately

evident and quantifiable, but is unlikely to be measured in column

inches.



The onus is now on the BBC to recognise that, if it is to maximise the

potential of its licence fee operation, managing its corporate brand

and, crucially, its relations with its fee-paying public, effective

management of its communications must be a prerequisite component of its

business strategy.



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