Supporting ITV Studios announcement of six episodes of Coronation Street
ITV is a producer and broadcaster, operating the largest commercial family of television channels in the UK and delivering content across multiple platforms such as itv.com and the ITV Hub. As the biggest production company in the country, ITV Studios create top quality TV shows for their colleagues at ITV as well as for the BBC, Channel 4, Five, Sky and many more.
Since 2013, we have held a long-term relationship with ITV, initially carrying out our internal communications review and providing interim leadership as well as helping ITV Studios communicate its plans for future growth. As part of our long-term support to ITV, our team member Laura Kingston was embedded in the business, providing flexible expert change communications resource for projects in HR and ITV Studios.
ITV Studios produces one of ITV’s flagship shows, the world’s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street. Running for five decades, Corrie has millions of devoted fans around the world, as well as multiple BAFTAs, Soap Awards, and National Television Awards.
In the summer of 2016, ITV’s Director of Television, Kevin Lygo – a lifelong fan of the show – asked the Coronation Street leadership team to explore the possibility of taking the core number of episodes from five to six per week. After an initial feasibility study, the team confirmed that they could successfully go to six episodes, whilst building on both the editorial uniqueness and high production values of the show.
To ensure that Corrie could be ready to go on air with six episodes in the autumn of 2017, a project team would need to be established and everyone working on the show – cast, writers and crew – would need to be engaged and involved.
This meant the challenge of a multi-layered integrated communications approach encompassing a diverse group of colleagues, stakeholders from across the ITV Group and beyond, and working in tandem with press and external comms. Through our long-term relationship, ITV Studios were able to turn to Laura and the flexible resource we can provide to support large-scale change communications.
Working closely with HR and Production leadership colleagues we quickly got to grips with the various audience needs and considerations, and devised a communication plan based on one large-scale announcement day.
In support of the plan, Laura developed a key messaging document, which would form the basis of all written and verbal internal communications, as well as supporting the external press releases developed by ITV’s in-house team.
In the lead up to the announcement day, we worked with the Coronation Street leadership team, ITV Press Office and Corporate Communications, as well as senior colleagues from ITV’s Broadcast business, using the key messages document to draft announcement scripts, cascade emails, and intranet articles.
On the announcement day, we were on site at the Corrie studios to coordinate and manage the briefing to cast, writers and crew. Senior leaders from ITV, ITV Studios and Coronation Street joined Kevin Lygo and John Whiston, Managing Director Continuing Drama and Head of ITV in the North, in hosting a townhall gathering for all Coronation Street colleagues.
The face-to-face announcement was followed by an email cascade, first to Coronation Street colleagues reiterating the key messages, and then to relevant stakeholders and colleague groups, along with an article on the ITV intranet site so that all colleagues could share in the news. Working closely with ITV’s in-house Corporate Communications and Press colleagues, we helped to ensure that both the internal and external approach were fully aligned and all press releases and social media posts were coordinated with the staff announcement.
All elements of the communication approach were delivered to plan, with messages going to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way. Colleagues responded positively to the news and quickly became engaged in what it would mean for them and how they would be involved. The clear messaging and coordinated approach across internal and external communications meant that the media and Coronation Street’s loyal viewers were also overwhelmingly positive about the news.
John Whiston said of the support, “Normally, you only realise the importance of a good communication plan when you don’t have one and everything goes horribly awry. That danger is magnified when you are dealing with a programme which is picked over in huge detail by the press and where the smallest tidbit can become a page lead. So it was vital that the announcement was properly handled and that everyone went away from the townhall feeling fully consulted and informed. And that is exactly what Laura’s meticulous planning delivered. “