The textbook definition of good public relations is the managing of internal and external communication to create and maintain a positive image.
So it is no surprise that the able and excellent corporate PR team at ITV used every trick in the book yesterday to downplay news of the record £5.675m Ofcom fine for its phone in scandal. And the sacrificial cow was the British Comedy Awards.
When ITV issued its press release responding to the Ofcom fine, tucked away at the bottom was the findings of the Olswang inquiry into irregularities in the people’s choice award vote for the 2005 BCA event.
Bingo! The sexy names of those involved – Catherine Tate, Ant and Dec, Robbie Williams – deflected attention from the bigger story. And how – today the Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Guardian all ran a picture of Ant, Dec and Robbie from the 2005 BCA event. The Times went with a Tate pic.
I have nothing but praise for the ingenuity employed in attempting to avert this hostile media issue. But I also have to declare an interest in this story as I represented the British Comedy Awards last year when ITV decided not to broadcast the 2008 event while it investigated problems with the 2005 people’s choice vote.
Now as a humble media observer, I marvel at the shameless chutzpah that the ITV PR team has employed to try to take the sting out of the big story before it thrashed the broadcaster’s reputation.
In our celebrity driven times, this was a wonderful piece of flack, serving up a full fat menu of entertainment names.
BCA producer Michael Hurll Television questioned the timing of the release of the Olswang report in its own response to the document’s publication yesterday. MHTV director Paul Pascoe said: “I’m really surprised to see speculation dressed up as fact, ant that it’s taken eight months from when Olswang were first appointed to come out with a report that takes us no further forward.”
However, as any good spinmeister knows, if it is not imperative to release information, it might be useful as collateral later on in the news cycle to refocus a probing journalist’s eye.