The announcement that BBC business journalist Tessa Curtis is
moving to Shandwick is a sign that the PR community is recognising the
increasing relevance of television and radio.
With the digital television revolution just around the corner it’s time
for some strategic thinking about how to optimise coverage in the new
The fact is, most organisations in Britain aren’t ready. They’ve
generally ignored the revolution in cable and satellite television. They
aren’t up to speed with the broadcasting already in place on the
Internet, and most do precious little to ensure they are well
represented on terrestrial television news. In short, the vast majority
have not developed a broadcast strategy.
Meanwhile, according to data from Zenith Media, 75 per cent of the
population in Europe get their news from television. Viewing figures
from even a start-up cable or satellite service often far surpass the
circulation of many magazines.
Two years after Greenpeace’s controversial television campaign sank
Shell’s reputation - but kept Brent Spar afloat - most blue-chip
companies are still vulnerable to attack from media-aware pressure
groups. Few have crisis-management strategy that specifically deal with
the broadcast media and even fewer are ready to deal with ’virtual’
campaigns on the Internet.
Yet at last year’s CBI annual conference, an embarrassing 30 per cent of
the delegates left the room as the IT seminar began!
The Labour Government is almost certain to allow British Telecom to
develop its video-on-demand, allowing viewers to dial up news and
feature documentaries on their television. The second wave of the World
Wide Web is already giving global, real-time access to television and
radio stations. Organisations must start thinking strategically about
the opportunities and threats they are likely to face and it is up to
company PR executives to take this message into the boardroom.
The process of creating a strategy is straightforward, with five basic
Availability is the starting point and is key to dealing with
Whether it be maximising positive coverage, or minimising the impact of
bad news, company spokespeople have to be available.
Pictures are the oxygen of television. Too often companies send out
everything a press journalist needs to cover a story, but forget the
broadcast-standard pictures television requires.
Speed of response is crucial. An in-house team or consultancy-must know
how to respond and be ready to implement the plan at a moment’s
An international strategy is essential. Unless a business is truly
domestic, it cannot ignore the international media. A business has to be
ready to deal with news agencies and foreign bureaux, or to send
pictures straight to target markets.
The ’new media’ represents the real challenge for the PR
Capital Radio might once have been a London station - now it’s on the
Web, it’s got a significant following in Toronto. New entities like
MSNBC are setting up on the Web as Internet broadcasters.
The cost of implementing a broadcast strategy barely scratches the
surface of an average company’s marketing spend, but the impact, whether
it is at corporate or marketing level, can far outweigh anything
achieved through the traditional print media.
Anthony Hayward is chief executive of Bulletin International and is on
the London Regional Council of the CBI.