The complexity of the new broadcast mediums - such as the internet
or digital TV and radio - are giving specialist broadcast consultancies
even more power and even threatening the roles of some mainstream PR
Those consultancies which demonstrate real knowledge and understanding
of these new areas of opportunity are increasingly finding themselves
cast in the role of strategic advisers and many clients are choosing to
use a specialist broadcast PR consultancy for all of their PR needs.
This means that they have to offer the same high level of skills,
contacts and attention to detail that clients demand of mainstream PR
’Ten years ago broadcast was very much regarded as an add-on and a VNR
was commissioned when everything else had been planned. Now we’re being
incorporated into communications planning at a much earlier stage,’ says
Bulletin International marketing manager, Joanna Hambly.
Broadcast PR companies are now positioning themselves as consultants,
rather than simply as facilities houses. ’Increasingly, clients are
asking for end-to-end solutions. We are able to give advice and
implement it,’ says Stuart Maister, senior-vice president at Medialink
He estimates that about a quarter of Medialink’s work involves strategic
Group Lotus is one Bulletin International client which chooses broadcast
as the main way to disseminate its messages around Europe and does not
employ any other outside PR agency.
Each year the agency plans a PR programme around events such as motor
shows, as well as offering media training for company spokespeople who
will respond to the media agenda throughout the year.
Radio consultancies are also finding a strategic role. ’Clients that we
have worked with for a couple of years are giving us longer lead times
and involving us in creative work,’ says Simon Sanders, head of creative
services at The Market Tiers. Syndicated tapes are largely a thing of
the past in radio and, as Sanders says: ’These days we may develop five
different angles on a story, modifying the approach to individual
producers, researchers and presenters.’
Radio specialist EMR produces a detailed ’Factfinder’ containing
information about target audience, main objectives, key messages, other
marketing activity, USPs of the product or service, and significant
marketing history and achievements for each campaign it works on.
It also conducts a radio audit, checking competitor activity on radio,
presenters’ perception of the client and their position in the
Armed with this information the creative team translates the brief into
a radio-friendly angle.
’Once the creative idea is agreed, EMR is ready to conduct the campaign,
and the client has a very clear idea of what the end result will be,’
says EMR managing director, Darren Adler.
Down-the-line interviews, in which a company spokesman can talk from an
ISDN-equipped studio directly to a number of stations as though actually
there, have become a staple of radio PR.
’Listeners would much rather hear their presenter interviewing someone
than a syndicated tape,’ says Paul Baker, MD of radio specialist
Bulletin Communications in Norfolk (no connection with Bulletin
Like the mainstream broadcast consultants, radio specialists are aiming
to offer a one-stop shop. Bulletin Communications has an outside
broadcast unit which means it can provide facilities anywhere in the
country and, as well as the technical and creative element of campaigns,
will also handle fulfilment for competitions and all other
Digital technology and the development of more communications channels
is another force driving the growth of broadcast PR. The internet has
been around for a few years, but it is only now that people are really
starting to use it. Maister says: ’We see the internet as a big
added-value aspect to what we can do. In the US everyone is webcasting
on every kind of story, to every kind of audience as a matter of
In Europe, Medialink has carried out webcasts for a pharmaceutical
conference in Rome, and for Shell’s third-quarter results. Last year in
the US the agency launched newstream.com, to deliver stories to news web
sites, and this month the service will be available worldwide.
Bulletin International also offers on-line PR alongside broadcast as a
matter of course. ’This means targeting suitable web sites among the
many thousands of sites eager to publish content supplied externally,’
explains Hambly. A Bulletin campaign in the autumn for Lotus shows the
power of the web. The campaign for its new M250 car targeted web sites
matching the profile of typical Lotus customers and generated 80
deposits for the car before it even went into production.
But the internet is far from being the only growth area. ’The explosion
of different platforms is only just beginning, with PC TV, interactive
TV and video on mobile phones. The opportunities for us are enormous
because the visual element is growing unbelievably fast across all
platforms,’ says Tessa Curtis, chief executive of broadcast at Shandwick
Richard Pemberton, who heads the broadcast unit at financial and
corporate PR specialist Citigate Dewe Rogerson, believes interactive TV
and the digital revolution present one of the greatest challenges
He is currently looking at an interactive TV module that will enable
clients to send broadcasters a package containing a corporate showreel,
interviews with company and third-party spokespeople, and links to the
company web site. Viewers can then call up this information while
watching a broadcast.
’A lot of clients are asking when they can jump on this bandwagon,’ says
Pemberton. ’I think in the long-term there will be a single interface
for broadcast and the web.’
As broadcast moves higher up the corporate agenda, agencies are having
to demonstrate its effectiveness, so monitoring and evaluation now have
a higher priority than ever before.
In radio, evaluation is still highly dependent on building good
relations with stations and relying on them to send tapes of material
used. According to Bulletin Communications’ Baker this is really the
only way that clients can get a proper idea of how successful coverage
has been for them.
He claims that traditional monitoring companies cannot hope to monitor
every single radio station in the UK and expense remains a problem, with
clients reluctant to pay for in-depth analysis and evaluation.
EMR has sought to overcome some problems by offering material to
stations on subscription. About 120 stations subscribe to the seven
themed programmes on subjects such as technology and finance it
distributes on CD.
In terms of television coverage: ’One of the problems with broadcast PR
is that monitoring has not been great,’ admits Maister at Medialink.
Monitoring is especially difficult if broadcast information has been
sent to a number of channels around the world. Last year Medialink
launched TeleTrax, an electronic tagging system to monitor broadcast use
of its footage. Medialink puts an indelible code on to every piece of
video it produces and has set up a network of ’listening posts’
monitoring the signals of 66 broadcasters across Europe - this is set to
increase to 100 by March. As soon as a broadcaster shows Medialink
footage, the company is alerted.
Medialink admits that at the moment, TeleTrax merely acts as a
supplement to existing monitoring agencies as it can only confirm that
footage has aired, not the tone of the content. But one of the benefits
of the system is that it works indefinitely, so that usage can be
tracked long after a story has died down.
Consultancies accept that merely monitoring the volume of coverage can
no longer be enough. Some broadcast outlets, such as digital TV
channels, attract much smaller audiences than traditional terrestrial TV
and clients will often still judge success in terms of audience
According to Hambly, evaluation has become more comprehensive as
agencies have pushed for a greater emphasis on evaluation of their work,
through initiatives such as PR Week’s Proof campaign. ’As agencies have
called for more recognition of evaluation of our work, this has created
a groundswell with clients demanding more comprehensive evaluation,’ she
Pemberton has found that some clients can balk at becoming involved in
digital TV projects simply because of the relatively low audience
figures involved, but are very keen to pursue opportunities on
However, he is convinced that the situation will change within the next
two to three years once digital TV takes off.
Citigate Dewe Rogerson recently invested in Peaktime’s Viewtime, a
system which enables the popularity of TV items to be analysed by
showing when audiences switched channels.
’Not only can we provide clients with the actual number and demographic
profile of viewers they reached, but we can also use the system to
establish where and why they gained and lost audience,’ says
It is true that the more broadcast channels arise, the more airtime
there is to fill. But with more channels, comes increased viewer or
listener choice and audiences are more likely to simply turn off, or
even worse, switch to another channel if a spokesperson does not appeal,
possibly damaging the brand in the process.
If broadcast PR consultancies are to usurp the mainstream agencies as
strategists, their challenge in the 21st century must be not only to get
their clients on air, but to change traditional client expectations from
a demand for high audience figures to a greater appreciation for the
quality of the message.
SPREADING THE WORD ON MALAYSIAN ECONOMY
Last year Bulletin International worked for the Malaysian government
organisation, the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), to develop
and implement a broadcast campaign to explain its new economic
Malaysia had decided not to implement the economic measures recommended
by the International Monetary Fund in the wake of the Asian economic
Instead it decreed that no foreign investment could leave the country as
it sought to continue its economic growth.
No proactive communications had been planned to convey the reasons
behind this decision, but against a background of negative coverage the
NEAC hired Bulletin to position Malaysia as a successfully developing
’It was important that Malaysia changed international opinion rapidly.
Television was chosen as the lead medium because it was most likely to
have the fastest impact,’ explains Bulletin marketing manager, Jo
With Kuala Lumpur acting as the lead office, Bulletin’s network of six
offices around the world began a campaign to inform broadcast
journalists about the success of Malaysia’s economic reforms. Over the
course of the year of the campaign this involved 1,750 hours of
conversations with journalists.
At the same time Bulletin identified suitable high-level spokespeople,
both in government and in Malaysian companies, and gave them media
Case studies were developed and background footage shot to help
illustrate some of the stories. The first Formula 1 Grand Prix to be
held in Malaysia was used as a hook to talk about positive economic
messages, and Bulletin supplied the first pictures of the new circuit at
Another case study featured one of Malaysia’s largest companies, the
Renong Group, which had successfully put together a restructuring
package to pay off its debts. The visit of President Clinton to the Apec
summit in Malaysia was also used as a peg for positive stories about the
Bulletin’s work has so far led to more than 700 separate television
reports broadcast in more than 90 countries. Seven international
television networks have run stories on the Malaysian economy, including
CNN, CNBC and BBC World. There have been 18 hours of positive television
coverage on Malaysia.
’Given the scale of the task the campaign worked extremely well,’
comments Hambly. ’As a guide to the level of influence Bulletin
achieved, 42 per cent of the positive reports about Malaysia were
directly attributable to Bulletin and communicated the chosen key