4 Ways Brands Can Break News Better Than the Today Show

By Jenna Lebel By now you’ve probably heard the news of Ann Curry’s departure from The Today Show. To recap, ratings of the Today Show were down so NBC decided to relieve Curry of her co-hosting responsibilities. After her short one year tenure greeting America every morning alongside Matt Lauer NBC is transitioning her into a national and international correspondent role. Rumors leaked weeks (maybe months) ago, but the news came unexpectedly on air yesterday in an announcement made by Curry herself.

The social media space debated the move, with critics saying Curry never really meshed well with the more upbeat morning news show while Curry supporters were claiming she was the unfortunate scapegoat for NBC’s ratings trouble (for the record, I’m of the latter group). But feelings aside, NBC did a poor job of handling this situation. And this isn’t the first time they’ve mishandled something like this (did they learn nothing from the Conan situation?). Even though NBC is known for breaking and delivering news stories from around the world, they really struggled in breaking and delivering their own news. Here are 3 lessons brands can learn from NBC.

 

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Get Your Story Straight

All statements from NBC made it seem like Curry chose to step down from her lifelong dream of being the Today Show co-host. However, Curry’s sad goodbye monologue and subsequent interviews with USA TODAY and others don’t share that same story. This is a lesson NBC should know well—get your story straight. Ensure that everyone communicating with the public has the same position. Determine your key messages and be consistent with those.

Plan a Strong Delivery

The delivery of the news was likely the only thing worse than the unexpected news itself. NBC had a tearful Curry bid her own farewell on yesterday’s show. No tribute. No warning. It was an extremely awkward announcement while Al Roker, Natalie Morales and Matt Lauer sat on a couch next to her watching. The lesson we can learn here is simple. If you have big news to share, plan a strong delivery for sharing that news. Use the same effort and planning you would put into product launches and other big announcements. Think about how and where your audience would like to receive the news and try to anticipate their response.

Be Prepared to Respond

The Today Show tweeted snippets from Curry’s announcement. They also posted the video announcement (above) on Facebook with a short message: “Ann Curry announces new role.” The 20,000 (mostly negative) comments on the announcement video on Facebook, 2,000 comments on Todayshow.com and thousands of tweets expressing outrage at the move were met with radio silence from the Today Show social properties. At Likeable we always talk about being responsive in any situation, but it’s even more crucial when you have an angry audience lashing out across the web. It’s unlikely that a brand will be able to personally respond to every comment in a time of crisis, and that’s ok. Instead, post something saying you hear and understand them. In this situation, the Today Show could have posted that they understand and they’ll miss Curry too or they could have asked the community to share their favorite memories of Curry. Your community just wants to know you hear them. A simple response will show them that you are listening.

Shift Conversation Appropriately

A few hours after the announcement, the Today Show Facebook page posted what they called a “midday distraction” of a cat giving a sleeping pug a massage (a segment from the show that morning). The Facebook community obviously saw right through their attempt to distract them from the earlier announcement. The Today Show could have continued to share the day’s top stories instead of their obvious attempt to sidetrack the community. The lesson here is not that the world could use one less cat photo, though that is a good a lesson for them and everyone (and possibly why their ratings are down).  The lesson is that it is important to shift conversation, but shift it appropriately in terms of content and length of time. Use the audience reaction to help guide you through this.

How do you think NBC handled the situation? How can brands learn from it?