It could have and should have been handled better. That’s what I think most of us in the PR profession and millions of TV viewers thought when we watched the tearful departure of anchor Ann Curry from the TODAY show on June 28. As someone who works with a great team to help companies and individuals prepare for and deal with a variety of crisis situations, difficult announcements and more, I found it almost unthinkable that NBC would not have had a well-thought out plan in place to deal with Ms. Curry’s departure should word leak out, which it did. But sadly, NBC’s reaction was not to respond.
So began a very public and agonizing week of wild speculation after news leaked that Ann’s days were numbered on TODAY. Social media lamented, angry viewers voiced their opinions and so did the entertainment and news media. In the court of public opinion, NBC took it on the nose and then some. The network continued to say nothing and Ann continued to return to anchor each day until a few brief minutes were offered to say goodbye before being folded into special project assignments elsewhere at the network.
This was not a long goodbye in TV terms – and unfortunately they left out many facts including Ann being the first female reporter to work at a Medford, Oregon TV station, or how she anchored and reported the graveyard shift on NBC News at Sunrise for five years before making it full-time to TODAY. She paid her dues and while viewers might not have known that, they could tell it by the way she carried herself through this ordeal. In the end, NBC got the change it wanted just before the July ratings period, but Ann was the one who walked away winning over public opinion and the viewers’ hearts. I’m not sure who was advising Ann on all this, but NBC might want to make a business connection with them on LinkedIn for future reference.