Peter Capaldi was revealed to be the 12th actor to play the lead of Doctor Who last Saturday and boy did it create a frenzy. If that wasn’t enough, the way in which the BBC went about making the announcement was also unique and quite surprising. I was onto my mobile phone straight away, tweeting about how charming Peter Capaldi was for the role. There was of course a subset of the population that tweeted leading up to the announcement in pure excitement, and that is exactly what the BBC wanted to achieve as part of a pretty successful PR strategy. An article on thedrum.com was a great piece addressing how the communications team at the BBC nailed their PR plans and got the likes of myself tuning in and tweeting.
The article made some really interesting points, which hammered the point home as to the strategy behind the timing of the announcement. Firstly, the event was a great tool to create a buzz and engage with audience. In this case, having a live event telecasted on TV on a Sunday when most families would get together was perfect timing.The clever part was taking into account that the show had grown in popularity in America, hence broadcasting it simultaneously, making the whole announcement more ‘credible’ for the audience, to spark international excitement. Michelle Osborn, head of communications for the BBC, explained how the BBC is traditionally a channel that ‘brings the nation together for big moments’ so the rationale behind the announcement was spot on.
She really made a good point talking about how Matt Smith’s departure gained media coverage. I guess in the end, the character of Doctor Who is so popular and synonymous with British TV that whoever enters and exits the show, will undoubtedly make front-page news. Following on from the media coverage angle, the announcement of the show itself resulted in the metro.co.uk leading with the story and intense speculation as to who would step up to the plate and carry on the legacy. What really stood out for me, is that even though bookmarkers closed betting on Capaldi, it was never a given that he was definitely the next Doctor. That is confirmed by the fact that only 10 people knew ahead of Sunday that it was Capaldi, with another great tactic used by the PR team to have the codename of ‘Whodini.’
Just to emphasise how much planning went behind this announcement, Osborn went on to describe how an audience needed to be brought in on the pretence that it was a show looking at Doctor Who’s 50 years! One of the reasons why this PR strategy was so effective was because social media was at the core of the hype. Fashion photographer Rankin sent out the picture of Capaldi through Twitter and to the media to use, whilst the programme itself attracted a peak audience of 6.9m viewers. The BBC website ended up crashing because BBC iPlayer live would have been viewed by thousands.
I ended up tweeting #PeterCapaldi on my twitter page and that was one of the 800m tweets sent in total around the world. That just goes on to prove how successful the PR team at the BBC were. Nice work.