Strictly Come Negotiating

Published: Dec 03 , 2015
Author: David Bannister


Here in the
UK in the Autumn and the first part of Winter a televisual phenomenon hits our screens on a Saturday night.  It’s called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or just ‘Strictly’ to the real addicts.  A number of so-called celebrities are partnered with professional dancers and week by week they compete against each other in a knockout competition where viewers’ votes decide which contestant will be eliminated each week.  Almost ten million eager followers tune in to this programme in the months it is on our televisions.  I am not usually one of them but my wife is an aficionado.  So I find other things to do when this programme is airing.  Except for a little bit of the programme this year when Jane calls me and says: ‘Katie’s dancing!’.  This refers to one of this year’s contestants, Katie Derham who I really want to win (and so do lots of others, some because she is partnered with a male dancer of great good humour and demeanour who has never managed to progress far in the contest).

Ms Derham first came to the TV screens for most of us when she became the youngest newscaster on British television at the age of 27 (she is now 45).  Since then she has broadened her career in radio and on television and presents programmes of classical music in both media.  She is remembered by some for the way in which, at age 27, she was attacked verbally by some older and more established television figures who did not seem to be in favour of young (and let’s be honest, attractive) people broadcasting the television news bulletins.  One of them somewhat uncharitably remarked that you didn’t need to be intelligent to read the news from a teleprompter – he went on to suggest that the substantial salary associated with these over-rated talents was not merited either. 

Why do I tell you all of this?  Well, the salary which Ms Derham was paid was never, to my knowledge, a matter of public record although newspapers following the tirades from the grumpy old (usually) men complainers set her income variously at between £125,000 and £250,000 back in the ‘90s.  What she was paid is not material here; the manner in which she achieved it is.  In a recent newspaper article recording an interview with her, Katie Derham was inevitably asked about that ‘huge’ salary.  She said to her interviewer that when she was asked to move from minority interest programmes to the high profile newsreader role, she had to decide what sort of salary package to ask for.  She pointed out that there were no published salary rates for such positions and that there was no known precedent  or job evaluation on which she was able to base any claim for her pay.  So, how to pitch her position in this important negotiation?  Simple, said Ms Derham: you consider what you think you are worth to the potential employer – how much they want you, how good you will be at the job, what you might do for the viewer ratings and you pitch your salary proposal accordingly.  Evidently, she did get a deal she found acceptable and read the news for some years on two networks.

The lesson for me here is a simple one for the negotiator: when you make a proposal, consider what you want, marshall your supporting arguments and facts should you need to use them and say what you want.  No doubt there were other features to the deal done – everything these days from contract length to image rights - and no doubt elements of these will have formed her wish list but the key decision is ‘what am I worth and how badly do they want me to do the job?’.  That determines your negotiating position and gives you power to bargain.  It seems that Katie may be almost as accomplished in negotiating as she is in dancing the tango - almost!  Roll on Saturday night!

David Bannister


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About the author:

David Bannister
My background is human resource consulting, I am a former KPMG consulting partner and head of global HR development with the firm. I began my interest in negotiating as an industrial relations specialist in the early part of my career and have spent many hours with trade union representatives practising what I now preach! I am also a coach and use these skills in my work with Scotwork’s clients.

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