Whether it's because Justin Timberlake grabbed Kylie's backside or because Chumbawumba threw a bucket of water over John Prescott, the annual British Record Industry Trust (Brit) Awards are notorious for attracting a wealth of media attention.
In recent years the controversial acts of drunken celebrities have dominated coverage instead of the music. Last year, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) attempted to turn this around by banning alcohol, a move panned by journalists and scrapped this year. LD Communications was tasked with changing the direction of exposure to concentrate on the music, particularly fresh British talent, while maintaining the reputation of the event as a controversial celebration of celebrity.
To sustain credibility of the event as the biggest popular music bash of the year. To bring back an edgy, rock-'n'-roll atmosphere. To raise awareness about the success of young British bands and increase the number of younger viewers. To raise the profile of the event as a charity fundraiser for the Brit School for Performing Arts and Technology.
Strategy and Plan
The motto of LD Communications' team throughout the campaign was 'more music, less chat'. The team decided that while it would play up the celebrity angle of the event to the tabloids and regional press, it would attempt to reach the broadsheets and broadcast media by promoting discussion of the Brits as a reflection of the status of the British music industry.
To achieve this, the team offered regional papers tickets to the ceremony as promotional prizes for their readers, drip-fed the tabloids gossip about nominees, and encouraged DJs to write articles about the event for magazines. Conversely, it pitched stories about MPs and top record industry professionals who would be attending the event to the broadsheets.
In its bid to project the eclectic mix of the awards to a variety of different audiences, the PR team assembled a hit-list of journalists it believed had a diverse and intelligent overview of the music industry. Each journalist was targeted individually and invited for evening drinks and discussion.
The team also achieved widespread coverage by offering to let the audiences of TV and radio programmes vote.
In the run-up to the awards, the team attempted to build up a sense of momentum in the media with a series of publicity stunts. The campaign kicked off with a nominations ceremony where journalists were treated to performances from three nominees.
LD Communications also promoted the awards as a charity fundraiser by setting up publicity events at the music school it finances. Duran Duran were persuaded to have a question and answer session with students at the school in front of broadcast media, and four students were hand-picked to be photographed dressed up as pop stars from various genres.
During the ceremony, 12 PROs were assigned to work as runners for photographers, with 28 other PROs on hand to help broadcast crews. The team had its own reporter working backstage to get celebrity gossip for the tabloids.
Measurement and Evaluation
Over 200 media companies came to the nominations announcement, and approximately 350 journalists from across the globe, including 15 TV crews, ten radio reporters, 15 online reporters and 20 international media companies attended the ceremony. Every national paper covered the event, including the Financial Times in its creative review.
Photos of the event dominated front covers the next day. The Sun, in particular, ran extensive coverage over a two-week period and BBC Radio Five Live held debates on the British music industry. The awards themselves were reported in 25 countries.
The event achieved double last year's pre-event publicity record. Approximately seven million viewers tuned in to the ceremony, similar ratings to 2003. The coverage this year was also far more balanced, concentrating on the music as well as the celebrities.
'We decided to cover the nominations ceremony because nominees were performing live,' says BBC Radio Five Live entertainment correspondent Phil Williams.
'Having the executive producer of the awards readily available also encouraged us to do a live debate on British music. We also did live inserts because LD Communications arranged interviews with winners.'
The Sun assistant editor Victoria Newton says: 'The PR team was proactive and professional. We got lots of good exclusives and the night was a success.'