Posted tagged ‘BBC’

Appearance on BBC Sunday Politics


I will be appearing on BBC Sunday Politics (North West) as a studio guest to promote Halite Energy Group’s plans to create the UKs biggest underground natural gas facility.

This project will be a major contributor to energy security but faces local objections.  I’d be interested to know what members of this group think as the project supports the national need and national planning energy/gas infrastructure policies, it also attracts major environmental enhancements in the area and has benefits for the local community and economy but, inevitably faces local protests.   Let me know your views (Watch BBC1 North West 11:00 GMT Sunday 5th February the regional section of this network programme transmits about half way through – please note BBC1 HD does not carry the regional output – if you are outside the region watch again via the BBC iPlayer)

Sound advice on a crisis


Roland Rudd, Finsbury Executive Chairman, gives sound advice:

“When you’ve got a major crisis of any kind, the most important thing is to recognise the enormity of it. It’s sometimes better to exaggerate it to yourself. Never try and suppress it. Never try and blame anybody else. Never try and pretend that you’re the victim.”

“The reason people as smart as the Murdochs got it wrong at the start is that it’s easier to be wise about other people’s problems than about your own.”

Advertising – times they are a changin’


“…What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself…”

Abraham Lincoln – former US President

Robert Green’s error will no doubt become the domain of advertisers as the inevitable ‘Danny Bakers 101 goal keeping bloopers’ and numerous other World Cup tosh makes its way onto DVDs and books destined for every boy’s Christmas stocking.  But the biggest advertising blooper ‘ever’ was committed by ITV who managed to switch in an advert for Hyundai cars at the very moment England scored their goal.

ITV have apologised blaming a transmission error.  What on earth does that mean?  Of course there was a transmission error as watching choreographed Hyundai cars pretending to play football with a giant ball, at the very moment Steve G scored, was not what the nation had switched to high definition (HD) TV for.

For Bodyproject. as a communications pundit, there are numerous points to discuss following this match.  First of all, how does commercial broadcasting stand up to licensed broadcasts from the BBC.  Second, whilst HD is technically and visually superior, it does have a significant transmission problem and third, the woeful excuse from yet another major corporate entity, intent on ‘spinning’ rather than explaining honestly why it happened and what it is doing to prevent a reoccurrence.

The fact is commercial broadcast remains a pain.  Watching any sport on channels such as Eurosport and Sky Sports is challenging.  Try tennis when the same idents and woefully painful adverts are shown again and again between every set or between every round in say boxing.  It is almost brain washing and, if anything,serves to put you off the product.

The World Cup of course is ‘big bucks’ advertising and the super brands are in town.  But it doesn’t matter how clever Adidas is combining a classic film with cameos from Beckham, Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown; it is still an intrusion when played just before the teams walk out, just after the national anthems and for ITV, in error,  as the key goal is scored.  For me, there needs to be a balance, and at the moment it isn’t being struck, as most comment I am picking up is that people much prefer the BBC for its uninterrupted coverage – which is not great for the brands sinking all this money into promoting their product!

Equally ITV’s HD switch on has all been to coincide with this world showpiece event, so for them last night was as big a disaster as that of Robert Green’s faux-pas.  Their explanation is woeful and to my communication colleagues at the broadcaster I say wake up and hold your hand like Green and apologise properly.  You are not Toyota or BP shying away from reality – face up to it.

HD is suffering teething problems namely in that it cannot regionalise so I sometimes am sat in Liverpool having to watch London’s weather (yes we are still south east centric in the world of TV transmission).  It also shares channel feeds and so watching Rafa Nadal playing at Queens is suddenly interrupted for fifteen minutes to allow BBC2 to join in, credits and punditry an all, leaving me frustrated at losing the match I was enjoying.   At the moment it is all over the place.

I can say that at this time, I and the rest of England, cannot wait for the Algeria match.  Mainly as it may still be at risk from transmission interruption but it will be certainly free of Hyundai interruption.

Communicators…stay strong


“…That was a disaster. Should never have put me with that woman … whose idea was that?…”

Gordon Brown Leader of the Labour Party

If you are a communications professional, the behaviour of Gordon Brown towards his advisers will come as no surprise.  Many of us have direct experience of the different faces of the leaders we work with.  Every day, we see Chief Executives, Chairs and Managing Directors in ‘victim’ mode seeking to blame and ‘hunt’ for who is responsible.

I remember about ten years ago at an event for a hundred managers, a then Managing Director asking them to be frank, open and honest with him as he welcomed their feedback.  One of the managers took him up on his offer and in the room he thanked her for her ‘challenge’ and promised to respond.  I was then ‘in the car’ with him after the event heading to a meeting with politicians and received the full force of his rant seeking to know who she thought she was, where she worked and how dare she do that to him in public.  But, worse was to follow as within a day or two he called her aside for a ‘quiet word’ and then she moved jobs!  This action was noted by everyone and reverberated around the business resulting in stasis and silence.

The problem comes down to behavioural types and the fact that many ‘in power’ are from more analytical and command control backgrounds.  You will notice that senior leaders are often time served in their profession (ex footballers tend to become managers, nurses become NHS CEOS, engineers run utilities, accountants become FDs/CFOs before jumping into CEO positions).  Many of them hold dearly this ‘status’ track record alongside distinctive qualifications such as engineering degrees or accountancy qualifications.   There are very few who may have made it from a PR or marketing background and the reason is simple in that communication professionals tend to be more supporting and often perceived as ‘soft’.  But in our profession you have to be tough and strong and challenge these behaviours.

I once had a disagreement with a major American consultancy teaching that people can ‘flex’ their behavioural types.  I disagree as a ‘leopard can’t change its spots.’  Of course you can always pretend to flex as Gordon Brown demonstrated yesterday but to use another predatory animal comparator – when in a room with a Brown it will feel to many like being a Gazelle in the presence of a tiger.  Our instincts will tell us what to do – flee!!!

The MD in the story I tell above tried to describe to me that he didn’t mind a push back but hated a challenge.  A stupid statement as what is the difference.  Only he could judge that as I found out to my cost many times.  Of course he surrounded himself with like types and sycophants and branded me a ‘rebel’ and a ‘leftie’ and needless to say eventually we parted company or rather he was shown the door.

Unfortunately for Brown that same door looms large and it is HIS fault and nobody else.  He can’t change.  He can’t flex.  He is what he is.  He is one of the greatest chancellors there ever was, he knows the numbers, he would make a great FD, he is a policy guru but he is not a natural leader and even less a communicator.  The contrast will become even starker when Tony Blair joins the campaign as a consummate communicator who actually, although many people would dispute this, is very honest to what he is both on camera and off.

The message from Bodyproject to all communication professionals is stay strong to your values whichever leader you work with.  Never be afraid to challenge them and above all you can ‘only lead the horse to water’ – beyond that there is only so much you can do.

This post is dedicated to Sue and Justin who will be no doubt receiving the wrath (maybe silent this time) of Gordon.

Behind the Griffin door


“The two pillars of ‘political correctness’ are wilful ignorance and a steadfast refusal to face the truth”

George Macdonald

It has been fascinating to watch Griffin’s odious performance on BBC Question Time and then to listen to the phone debates, read the web commentaries and the newspaper columnists.  The problem is I think most people just can’t get their head around why this vile man and his BNP buddies are becoming so successful.

Bodyproject believes there are seven rules of communication and rule two is that of the rule of opposites.  I call it the “Lennon and McCartney’ rule.  In other words that extremes and opposites are powerful communication propositions but that effective communication takes place somewhere when the two combine.  Lennon and McCartney are fine artists in their own rights but very different and yet put them together and arguably you have the best song writing partnership that has ever existed.  Equally the case when we communicate that take two extremes and reconcile them and then you have true effective communication.

The commentators views that the BNP are successful as they play on people’s fears or that somehow we are a nation of racist, homophobic idiots is plain wrong.  The BNP have managed, however outrageous we find it, to create a dialogue that resonates with a large group of people.  And not one of the mainstream parties or the liberal types that adorned the BBC audience has grasped that and is tackling it.

The fact is a multi-cultured society is difficult to achieve as it takes the rule of opposites and tries to apply it at all levels.  A woman in the Question Time audience said she shuddered when Jack Straw used the term Afro Caribbean rather than African Caribbean.  And herein lies the problem.  We have become so ‘politically correct’ that we shudder at such terminology and what we have done is drive the ‘anti’ view underground.  Watch any sitcom from the seventies to see what I mean.  Whilst I am not advocating we return to such days, I do believe what we have effectively done is played into the hands of the BNP in our mistaken belief that we have a tolerant, diverse and multi-cultural society.  We don’t, it is just no longer on the surface.

It is a problem that needs to be addressed but our society is risk averse, litigious and inherently unable to even use the language to have the debate for fear of vilification – just look at what happened to the Strictly Come Dancing star when he let an unspoken word slip out.  I fear that we may no longer be able to confront the issues that lie behind the BNP’s support.  It will need to take a really brave approach to social marketing but just look at the National Centre for Social Marketing’s website and you will realise that we have little chance.  Their use of photography to try and represent multi culture is so politically correct it is in danger of going the other way by using glamorous models to portray older people, different sexes, people with disabilities, ethnic groupings. And if the NCSM is so running scared, then what hope have we got to use social marketing to take on and defeat the BNP?

Look back…another year over


So this is Christmas.
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

John Lennon

It is that time of year again, the moment when every newspaper publishes lists of the 2008 highlights and lowlights from naming celebrities who have passed away to lists of the biggest movies, books, downloads etc. Every TV station seems to be filling airtime with the 100 best and worse moments of everything from eighties hits to soap opera love affairs.
This got me to thinking what overriding memory would be most remembered in communication terms. Of course the obvious one of recession and credit crunch is on everyone’s mind but for me 2008 will be remembered as the year of accountability and the strange role it plays in our public and working lives.

A week didn’t go by without some major story revolving around accountability.

The most poignant and horrifying was that relating to Baby P, a child that had died in horrific circumstances a year before. But in autumn the ramifications of the case came to public attention and the reputation of a local authority was all but destroyed. Politicians and the media alike led the unseemly clamor for someone to take accountability and in the end regulators, directors, social workers and politicians all took the brunt. What was interesting was that those responsible for the child’s death received less attention and vitriol than the officials caught up in the maelstrom.

By contrast the behaviour of two lewd celebrities also brought about an unseemly few weeks relating to accountability eventually with actions being taken. The biggest accountability faller here was the director of radio programmes, a woman by all accounts who is praised as one of the top in her profession and who, by any observation, was on the periphery of this debacle. But again accountability ruled rather than responsibility and she lost her job. Interestingly, within a few weeks she was snapped up by one of the world’s biggest record companies into a very lucrative position.

Which is why I am concerned. Holding people to account seems to be a very British way of doing things but it fails to hold people responsible. Politicians shouting resign across the dispatch box, and the red top media leading public opinion is as merciless as a Boxing Day hunt. But are those responsible held to account and is taking out those with accountability always the best way forward. It is something that anyone in the business of reputation management needs to think about. Too often communicators are thought of as publicists and promoters or even spin-doctors. Yet we are often about protecting reputation and in this we need to clearly be aware of who is responsible and who is accountable and differentiate between the two. That is not to say that accountability should be ignored as ‘accountable’ behaviour is to be applauded rather than taking a ‘victim’ position.

So for me 2008 is the year of accountability. I just hope it is tempered in 2009 with the balance of responsibility.