Hughes PR

Battle of the brands – Top Gear v. BBC

Catherine Bauer writes…

Living in a house with four males as I do, I am keenly aware of the hugely popular and internationally successful British TV motoring program, Top Gear.

It’s a multi-million dollar brand for the BBC and despite my personal lack of interest in cars, over the years I’ve come to enjoy the format and its trio of presenters – James May, Richard Hammond and the just sacked, widely described as “colourful” and often politically incorrect, Jeremy Clarkson.

My family and I sit down regularly to watch the program and we all get something different out of it. That’s why it’s been such a hit – it has very broad appeal.

However, despite the show’s generation of $93 million in revenue for the BBC, its executives have sacked Clarkson, who went too far earlier this month and allegedly had a physical altercation with a program producer over lack of hot food at the end of a long day’s filming.

While the BBC clearly had no option but to act, it surely spells the death of the Top Gear brand? A bitter pill for the BBC – as well as Clarkson and his co-hosts. (No doubt they will cry all the way to the bank.)

The issue raises a variety of important questions and when it comes to PR and brand-reputation management, you can bet the BBC comms staff have being doing loads of overtime together with the legal and executive team.

Will the show go ahead? How can it without a key part of the team? Should the BBC continue with the brand after such a degree of damage? Has the BBC killed one of the geese that laid the golden egg and will any demise of the show lead to even more lucrative offers for the show’s presenters from a rival network?

Clarkson may have elements of the “lovable larrikin”, the slightly eccentric rogue who speaks his mind and won’t be censored.

But at the end of the day, the BBC as an employer and broadcaster had no alternative than to cut him loose, even though the program is a valuable commodity and Clarkson, a valuable star.

And, in my view, it was the right decision. The BBC’s brand – like any brand – relies on the values and culture of the whole organisation including its people, products and behaviours being aligned internally and consistently projected externally.

To condone behaviour which conflicts with that brand position not only undermines all those who work for the BBC but also those who interact with it – not least of all its audience.

It’s a valuable reminder to us all that a brand is much more than a logo – it’s a reputation earned over a long period of time by a set of behaviours which deliver consistent experiences. It is the therefore the responsibility of all leaders to demonstrate and protect their organisational values and imbue their team with them.

Sorry to see the “car crash” Top Gear has become – but in the end, the BBC’s decision is one we at Hughes would endorse.

Hughes PR

Beyond the findings of market research

This month our guest bloggers are UniSA marketing graduates Sam Lim and Olivia Aitken. Late last year, the pair conducted a research assessment with Hughes PR to ascertain ‘Who holds the balance of power in the current marketing and media landscape?’ Their blog about learnings from the project and the process is below…

Having staff with the skills and experience to conduct effective research is vital to any organisation. It can make or break the direction and strategy pursued by an organisation.

As part of our final year project of UniSA’s Marketing and Communications degree, we were assigned to investigate shifts in dominance of different types of marketing service agencies and the value added by each in managing a brand’s reputation.

During this project, we learned a number of key lessons that were just as valuable as the findings of the research itself.

1. Planning and preparation isn’t everything

Effective research begins with knowing the scale of the issue, the tools within your reach to gather the data, and setting realistic goals. The weekly seminars with Dr. Karen Nelson-Field – our coach and supervisor enabled us to understand this.

We understood the primary and secondary research required, and had a plan to obtain it. We also knew to allow plenty of time to prepare our survey questions. We didn’t understand that things will not always go as planned.

Not procuring the appropriate respondents for face-to-face surveys; errors in the wording and structure of our surveys; and technical issues with our online survey software, were all hiccups that we encountered along the way that prompted a big, fat headache!

The contingencies we continuously developed were even more crucial than our research plan.

The contingencies and opportunities that we seized included:

• Use LinkedIn as a key tool to engage targeted respondents when existing networks are not enough;
• Attend industry events along the way with key clients and other agencies to meet the right individuals to aid in making the research more effective;
• Play by the rules of ethical research, but take advantage of the position that you are in, as a student or inexperienced researcher.

2. Build trust at every stage

Working with the Hughes PR team was close to a breeze. From Tim as the Managing Director to Graphic Designer – Luke, each of the staff had a thorough understanding of what we were trying to achieve and assisted us to reach our goals.

It was important for us to remember that Hughes was our biggest stakeholder, so we had to share our thoughts and ideas with the team and get their input as well, in order to bring about confidence in our work.

3. Trust your data and findings, and pitch your recommendations with conviction

It is easy to doubt the numbers on the survey dashboard and the audio from interview recordings, but the data does not lie.

It was important for us to understand the limitations of the research, but also to have faith in the findings.

We prepared for our research presentation and considered a number of different ways to make the audience more receptive to our findings. We included a group task and a delicious treat for the audience!

I believe the extra effort to involve the Hughes team in our research project up to and including the final presentation was the major reason we were able to learn so much about the industry in such a short space of time. It was also a critical factor in leaving a high quality impression on the team.

And, for those of you wondering how we did on the assignment… we got a High Distinction!