Fans of the Thick of It will join me in spotting the parallels between BBC director-general George Entwistle’s appearance at the parliamentary Saville inquiry and the last episode of the TV show.
I am typing as Entwistle takes to the gallows, sorry, parliamentary enquiry; the media ready and poised to judge his statements and either release the trapdoor or let him struggle on his job.
Let’s not beat around the bush though, I think many in the PR and Media sector think that this will need a Herculean public relations fix for Entwistle to survive.
In fact, if any one man needs a Malcolm Tucker figure, it is the BBC director-general George.
So what are the tried and tested media options to help Entwistle survive? Let’s take a look.
Apologise and apologise hard – TICK. The first apology from George and Team BBC came on 12 October. He started today’s appearance with several humble words about the gravity of the situation.
Announce an urgent internal investigation – TICK. Again, announced on 12 October. This is where you assure people that no stone will go unturned in your organisation’s attempts to find the root of the problem. The BBC has gone one step further and actually announced two investigations. Boom…
Sack people at a senior level – Operation Scapegoat: NOT YET. George needs to make sure he is not that scapegoat. The buck may well stop at the most senior person within an organisation, but savvy senior folk make sure that there is a buck shaped funnel that points elsewhere. Expect former director generals of the BBC to be dragged into the debate and blame to be directed their way.
Leak a Bigger Story to Divert Attention – NOT YET. Unless pictures emerge of Gary Lineker having some form of sex-orgy with a bevvy of otters (not likely, Gary is a lovely guy) there is little that the BBC can do to shake this. Even the Sunday Times' story about MPs’ second home BuyToLet swindle of this weekend could not budge Savile off the top news spot.
Start a War – NOT YET. Political PR 101 to recover failed ratings is to start a war on or with someone. America and the UK have done this to great effect in the last 30 years. Who can the BBC start a war with? Well, that is the difficult one given it is an organisation riddled with cardigan-wearing lefties. Maybe this is the time where Entwistle starts a war with the BBC DG that was in charge during Savile’s time. If they are still alive.
Female Spokespeople – NOT YET. The PR overlords at the CIPR (stands and salutes) recommends as part of its crisis comms planning that brands in a bit of doo-doo put forward females to front off the media. This is apparently because women appear more sincere. What a shame that the BBC did not heed corporate governance advice and get more women at the top of the tree. Maybe time for George to become Georgina?
Smear the people investigating you – ERM – this is the BBC, they don’t do this. Do they?
So there we have it, anything I have missed? Why not comment below (keep the bosses happy and get on board etc etc).
Fear not, next week we shall return to the corporate PR path of fun and shenanigans.
Along with writing a weekly corporate PR column for The Drum, Andy Barr runs the PR agency 10 Yetis
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