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  1. 1. scm FEATURES 1 2 3 4 5 Lights, camera, action: A fresh start at ITV Communicating a major leadership change under the scrutiny of the public eye BY PENNY LAWSON fter receiving heavy criticism from the media and A up and down the country. As well as permanent employees, there’s also a large body of freelance public alike, ITV, the UK’s largest commercial writers, artists and technical staff. television company, hired new executive chairman, Whilst the majority of our staff are UK based, Michael Grade to change its fortunes. The internal we also have a worldwide presence with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Sydney and Cologne, as communication department, explains Penny Lawson, well as some smaller offices in Rio de Janeiro, played a key role during this time in managing the Hong Kong and Beijing. We employ a wide range of people with a wide transition and changing how the function was perceived by range of skills: from journalists and news ITV’s demanding internal audience. presenters to producers, craftspeople and highly skilled technical operators, such as camera, sound In television, we expect to see ourselves written and and lighting crews. Around 15 percent of our staff talked about daily in red-tops, broadsheets, pubs, base can be out on location at any one time and clubs, in the playground and around the many of our production crews don’t have regular watercooler. We can feel very – perhaps too – access to PCs. important; as a new joiner from advertising said Our office-based staff include the revenue recently, “television matters” and that’s one of the driving customer relations, sales, international reasons so many young people want to join each distribution and marketing teams, together with year and so many of our employees indicate, year the commissioning teams, shared services after year in opinion surveys, that they’re proud to operations (HR, finance, legal etc.), and our work in the television industry. But what happens to rapidly growing new media arm, ITV Consumer. employee sentiment when the praise turns to To ensure we reach everyone in the company, we censure and the pride to embarrassment? When deploy a wide range of communication methods. your company is never described in the press without the adjectives, “beleaguered” or “troubled”? The cloud of pain This article describes 18 months in the life of It’s January 2006 and we’ve just re-branded all ITV, the UK’s largest commercial television our channels, our online services and the ITV is the biggest commercial company and a growing force in the online world, employer brand. We’ve already had a difficult few television network in the UK, and some of the actions we took to help manage, months after a summer of the reality show broadcasting a full range of and then change perception internally. “Celebrity Love Island”, which was critically genres, including drama, panned externally and internally; many regarded entertainment, news, current Our target audience it as a sign that our 50-year reputation for quality affairs factual, sport and Let’s start with our people. ITV has almost 6,000 programming had gone south. However, after a children’s programming. permanent employees in more than 85 locations huge employee engagement exercise involving 28 scm Volume 12, Issue 1 December/January 2008 © Melcrum publishing 2007.For more information visit our website or e-mail
  2. 2. around half the company in workshops and 2. Educated people on our programs surveys to nail and re-create a brand and set of Next, we focused on giving people something to company values for the digital age, there’s more help them through the dispiriting conversational optimism – and some cautiously positive press attacks on ITV: better understanding of our comment. programs. A short weekly e-zine was launched. Internal communication has been centrally Have You Heard? summarizes a must-watch Penny Lawson is director of involved as partners with marketing and HR to program on each channel and on the internet, internal communications at bring the process and the new brand itself to life with a short explanation of the kind of audience ITV. After a spell in the City for everyone in the company. We have completely it’s aimed at, and the job it’s there to do in the and then TV journalism, redesigned our intranet to embody and reflect the schedule. Lawson worked as a change new brand and values. Internal feedback has been and communication exceptional, with high scores for recognition and 3. Invested in new CSR initiatives consultant with private and approval (76 percent) and a flow of comments Then with two major charity-related events coming public sector organizations such as, “I feel excited about what’s ahead”. up in the summer: the Prince’s Trust benefit ranging from the Metropolitan Then, not long after the champagne bubbles concert and Soccer Aid, a charity football Police Service and the BBC to have settled, we receive the first of two hostile tournament, we drew attention to a great tradition Norwich Union, Sainsbury’s and ultimately unsuccessful takeover bids. The of the company: using the power of the camera and and British Airways. fragile recovery of our reputation is swiftly of entertainment to help effect social change. undone; our CEO, Charles Allen, is frequently From the previous staff opinion survey, we and increasingly under fire. Almost regardless of knew that belonging to a company that cared the viewing figures, our schedule is dismissed as about social issues mattered to some 90 percent falling behind that of the BBC or our commercial of staff. We’d taken for granted and underplayed competitors Channel 4, 5 and BSkyB. this emotional capital, and now encouraged Employees read, or have quoted to them by people to be aware of the range of corporate friends and family an almost daily diet of negative social and environmental action taking place comment on the company, its leadership, its across the organization. products and prospects. Added to that there’s a We ran an awareness week on the intranet, with downturn in advertising spend in the media and competitions to win tickets to Soccer Aid and the the schedule is not performing as it should; the Prince’s Trust concert. We also ran features on recently appointed director of television in charge carbon-offsetting and added a carbon calculator of commissioning new UK material, buying to the homepage in the run up to the summer imports and scheduling will take another 12-18 holiday season. This wasn’t simply a tactical months to make his mark, as the lead time for distraction from larger woes; we continued with new TV material is considerable. focused moments, such as the rollout of payroll What our current executive chairman Michael giving and the creation of a charity fund-raising e- Grade calls “ the cloud of pain” had well and truly Christmas card. settled over ITV. This program of reinforcing affiliation with ITV’s core traditions helped, if it could not Stay open, build knowledge, increase affiliation greatly boost, morale. Staff awareness of ITV’s What could we do as internal communicators? As social commitments rose and remained high when a FTSE company, we had to take the greatest care reassessed towards the end of the year. with comment and rebuttal and couldn’t be seen to make any form of forecast. But of course that’s 3 exactly what people craved. We did three things. 1. Kept communication flowing KEY POINTS First of all, we kept all channels of communication as open as possible, including • In 2006, ITV, the UK’s largest commercial television company came senior management briefings and full strategy de- under fire from the media and public, accused of failing to meet the briefs for all employees. Via electronic broadcasting standards set by its competitors. newsletters, our daily intranet news service – and occasional e-mails when external noise became • Prior to the appointment of new chief executive Michael Grade, only very extreme – we explained and explained again 29 percent of staff felt confident with the existing leadership team that we would give staff the facts first; but that taking the broadcaster forward. anything else they read or heard had to be regarded as rumor until we could confirm it. This • The internal communication department spearheaded a successful commercial reality wasn’t always fully understood campaign to restore employees’ pride in ITV and foster an open and but the flow of comment was appreciated. honest dialogue with the new leader. scm Volume 12, Issue 1 December/January 2008 29 © Melcrum publishing 2007.For more information visit our website or e-mail
  3. 3. Lights, camera, action: A fresh start at ITV HQ in London. “MESSAGES ABOUT CONFIDENCE, BOLDNESS, • Create and capitalize on moments which would become stories embodying the new RISK-TAKING AND THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR optimism. REGIONAL SERVICES WERE ALL LANDING AND • Deploy citizen journalism – make local staff rather than internal comms the mouthpiece THE EXCITEMENT WAS PALPABLE.” of change. • Involve a critical mass of 30 percent of employees. • Continue to use TV/film as a key medium for communication throughout the campaign (to 7 The low point remind everyone we’re a TV company). In the summer of 2006, chief executive Charles • Harness the rollercoaster of goodwill that Allen announced he was stepping down and there accompanied Grade’s appointment. was a period of nearly three months of rumor and uncertainty before Grade’s surprise appointment It should be said that our strategy was aided by was announced in November. some gradual but significant improvements in on- Prior to Grade’s appointment, confidence and air performance and this has continued. readiness for change were at an all time low. In the staff opinion survey we ran shortly before Summary of our approach and methods Grade’s appointment, only 29 percent felt that deployed ITV’s leadership was clear about how to take ITV A campaign was built around some key facts forward in the changing broadcast marketplace. about the incoming executive chairman that Our people had lost sight of the company’s correlated with the destination he was driving underlying strategy so it was vital that we towards. We drafted and repeated, in different re-energized the entire organization to get forms, a set of lines on his: everyone behind it again. • Background • Personality Communication objectives and desired • Vision outcomes • Personal credo Internal communication was ready with a planned campaign to address this and achieve the Using each of the elements at our disposal: playing following objectives: to Grade’s sociable strengths, TV, intranet, staff • To make people feel more positive about the skills and innate curiosity, we created as complete an future. experience of the new man, new era as possible, for • To foster their bruised pride in being part of the maximum number of people. ITV. • To develop confidence that communication Speed with and from the new leadership is open and On the morning of Grade’s appointment, the honest – an essential pre-requisite if Grade announcement e-mailed to all employees was was to turn the company around and bring accompanied by photos and a detailed biography people with him. on the intranet, emphasizing his pedigree as a • To spread Grade’s key messages early so that program-maker. Within an hour of his arriving, people felt better-informed. we had Grade’s approval for a message to all employees and later gathered some 80 senior Our strategy managers to meet with him for an informal It’s said that the CEO contributes around 50 Question and Answer, audio-linked to the rest of percent of a company’s reputation, so we were the management community around the UK. clear that our task would be to articulate and develop “Brand Grade”. Having spent the inter- Build up regnum encouraging more communication In the two month gap before Grade re-joined ITV, between the leadership team and staff, we had we agreed a plan with him which would include their approval and then the CEO’s to achieve visits to all regional offices in a 100-day “listening maximum impact as quickly as possible to: and learning” period. We also involved all the • Communicate first with employees – not easy leadership team in delivering an informal and in such a heavily scrutinised company. personal end of year video message, picking up on • Make face-to-face contact with Grade the the warmer tone and “we all need a period of cornerstone of the plan – ITV management stability” message that Grade wanted to convey. It had become known for remaining in Fortress was also very funny. 30 scm Volume 12, Issue 1 December/January 2008 © Melcrum publishing 2007.For more information visit our website or e-mail
  4. 4. A new world When people arrived at work, they found a Figure One: Influence of the internal program against objectives and desired outcomes personal letter from Grade, expressing his pleasure at being back home in commercial television and setting out some of his early Influence of the internal program against objectives and desired outcomes % themes, as well as promising to visit each location. 84 On the intranet, eminent news presenter To make people feel more positive about the future Alastair Stewart grilled the new boss to camera To foster their pride in being part of ITV 64 about his pedigree, his views of ITV and his To develop confidence that communication with and from the new leadership is open 75 techno-savvy, asking the questions that we knew and honest our bright, skeptical workforce would want to ask. To spread Michael Grade’s early key messages and make people feel well-informed 72 We were delighted to be asked permission by the Financial Times to quote from this in-house interview and the personal letter the next day (Brace Yourselves by Clay Harris, 9 January 2007). Staff were pointed to a new area on The through a series of focus groups with managers Watercooler (our intranet) called “First 100 days”, and staff in London and Manchester, in which set out the dates for Grade’s visits to each April/May 2007. region, staff blogs, a news section and an In the April/May focus groups, there were invitation to write to him. consistent unprompted comments on the professionalism and impact of communication Visibility during the first 100 days around Grade’s arrival: “Inspiring”, “Breath of The first three months were characterized by visits fresh air”, “We like this approach”, “A new dawn” to each region, where we arranged for local and “Well-handled” were some of them. management to take the CEO on a tour to meet Of course the corporate story doesn’t end there. people in their place of work – on set during The next few months were a time of listening, filming, at desks in the newsrooms, in finance and learning, repeating core messages and then Grade marketing – reaching more than 2,000 staff in the announcing his strategy for the next five years, to process (approximately 30 percent of the total an expectant internal and external audience. staff population). Thanks to a joint communication effort from A Q&A with groups of staff took place in each corporate communicators, HR and internal centre and Grade’s skill in uncovering problems communication, we had helped to create a and announcing a solution were all reported receptive environment for a new and more immediately by staff in commissioned blogs on confident era. What we do from now on will, of The Watercooler – allowing many more people to course, depend on everyone in the company. As track his progress online. Messages about Linus warned Charlie Brown, “There is no confidence, boldness, risk-taking, the importance heavier burden than great potential”. scm of our regional services were all landing and the excitement was palpable. Other key focuses were publicizing Grade’s praise for/comments on programs; publishing “THE CAMPAIGN INVOLVED AND ENGAGED employee letters and personal responses, introducing podcasts (For example, Grade on his MANAGERS; ENABLED MORE THAN 2,000 vision for leadership), starting monthly lunches for a cross-section of managers and staff and PEOPLE TO HAVE SOME DIRECT CONTACT WITH ensuring transparent coverage of the senior management conference and full year results. NEW LEADERSHIP AND MANY MORE TO TRACK HIS PROGRESS.” Measurement and outcome The outcome was a ringing endorsement of the new leader, a new confidence and real understanding of the key messages by a dispersed workforce. The campaign involved and engaged managers; enabled more than 2,000 people to CONTACT DETAILS have some direct contact with new leadership and many more to track his progress. Penny Lawson The campaign was evaluated in two stages. ITV plc Firstly, via an audit carried out in-house across ITV at the end of January 2007 and secondly, scm Volume 12, Issue 1 December/January 2008 31 © Melcrum publishing 2007.For more information visit our website or e-mail
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