The dawning of a new year may signal a fresh start for most Brits: the time when they finally put into place that one resolution that will change their life for the better. But for me, 2014 could not have started in a more typical way. Having started the year full of energy and optimism I turned on my car radio to find that the BBC had committed yet another sin in the eyes of the public and was being heavily criticised on every social media platform. The source of people’s anger this time was the overexposure of musician Gary Barlow, and in particular the two hour long dedication to the singer on New Year’s Eve.
For the corporation, the New Year brings familiar problems. When you are as broad and far reaching as the BBC, not every broadcast will be received with unanimous praise. Social media gives critics almost as big a platform to express them as the BBC itself holds. Usually I find their complaints to be exaggerated, over sensitive and, most of the time, just plain boring. I even remember laughing out loud when I heard that the company’s weathermen were being criticised for reporting the weather too positively during a particularly hot summer.
Generally I am a fan of the channel, and I believe that more often than not their content is engaging, original and neutral. This time, however, I was not surprised by the criticism and for once I actually agreed with it. While I have nothing particularly against Gary Barlow himself, the publicity he has received in recent years is above what you would expect of a non-commercial organisation like the BBC.
Having already been criticised for their ‘Gary Barlow Day’ in early December, I found ‘Gary Barlow’s Big Ben Bash’ a questionable move, and as I watched the particularly cringe-worthy moment where the Take That star performed a duet with a younger version of himself via a video link, I did think the BBC was setting itself up for criticism. Presumably having just one Gary Barlow on screen was no longer enough.
So here’s the PR message: no matter how broadly popular something may be, it is vital to keep your message fresh in order to keep the audience satisfied. Particularly in large companies it can be tempting to repeat ideas that have been successful in the past. While this might work in the short term, your audience will soon catch up with you. For this reason I feel it is important not to confuse broad appeal with being predictable.