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
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
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