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