Could internal comms have averted BBC diversity criticism?

Could internal comms have averted BBC diversity criticism?

April 11, 2014

The BBC has been criticised for announcing plans to adapt to a diverse audience by changing the way it presents itself.

Could better internal communications have saved red faces?

In February, the Beeb banned all-male panel comedy shows – a move that was condemned by one of its own presenters Dara O’Briain, host of the political satire quiz Mock The Week.

O’Briain took to Twitter to tell his 1.68 million followers that Auntie had made a mistake with the public announcement.

He tweeted: “I have no problem with a policy of no all-male panel shows. I just wouldn’t have announced it.

“The same very funny women will be on all these shows and don’t deserve anyone to regard that booking as being because of an edict.”

Danny Cohen, the BBC’s director of television, disregarded O’Briain’s criticism, citing Match of the Day as a big-name show that needed an overhaul.

He said: “If we have five people on a panel show, it shouldn’t be five white men.

“I think the same thing of Match of the Day. It’s a very diverse sport and it shouldn’t be like that when we make that programme.”

Perhaps Cohen could have been saved from the public denouncement from O’Briain.

A change in personnel, values or direction in any business can cause disruption and unsettle colleagues, making it vital businesses ensure employees understand and believe in the new approach.

So how could BBC comms chiefs have handled the situation differently?

“It is always best to make sure that people within the organisation are informed and consulted about changes before sending out any message externally. Some people thrive on change; some people will relish it and other people are frightened by change so you have to try to reach a balance,” says Diane Jamieson-Pond, internal communications manager at Buckinghamshire New University.

Mrs Jamieson-Pond, a former PR manager at the British Heart Foundation, believes the BBC’s approach should not isolate colleagues.

In fact, they should feel rejuvenated by Cohen’s modern outlook.

She added: “If a much wider range of people are watching, they may want representative views – not just pale, male and stale.

“Surely it’s in everyone’s best interest to have new views, new energy and to keep things fresh. By finding ways of extracting the positives and involving people in the change, you can remove the fear.”

The BBC’s aim to strengthen engagement with its audience isn’t a bad thing, but getting colleagues like O’Briain on board first could have saved a few red faces.