There hasn’t been a truly good morning for NBC’s Today Show in months. Ratings have been slipping steadily, advertising millions have been lost, and the media seems not to tire of reporting both. Then, this past week, a behind-the-scenes feature in New York Magazine threw a harsh glare on the morning show’s troubles.
For PRs reading the article, the dilemma becomes apparent quickly: grant access to a reporter who is starting from a negative place, or refuse access, knowing the story will be written anyway? In this case, access was granted and control of some sort established via the presence of two PRs in the interview with Today heavy hitters.
One can only imagine the amount of prepping the PRs did with hosts Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and, in particular, Matt Lauer. He has been in the media’s sights, portrayed as the architect of former co-anchor Ann Curry’s ouster, and everything from the cornerstone of the program to a controlling tyrant. Also last week, a former Today Show intern tweeted that Lauer was “not so nice,” and a story circulated that co-host Guthrie gave Lauer the finger after he teased her on set. Access or not, Today‘s negative press is turning into a bad dream the show’s PRs can’t wake up from.
THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Today Show publicists. Damage control is being handled, but with the issue of falling ratings and whispers of host changes, PR options are limited.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose battles carefully, and know when to fight. Negative press was inevitable due to the ratings slide, the revelation of Lauer’s negotiations with rival network ABC, and Curry’s awkward departure. In this case what was needed was new news to change the conversation. This article might have begun the turnaround that Today needs, but in the absence of a big bright idea, sometimes a PR just has to hope things look better tomorrow.
To read the New York Magazine article, click here.