Television can be a fickle business driven by the ever changing appetite of the audience. A show or personality that is a hit one year, can become tired and unpopular as new tastes and trends emerge.
In the summer of 2016, Megyn Kelly’s image was solidified when she asked the candidate Donald Trump about his history with women. In one moment, she doubled down on her brand of being a tough, but fair former attorney, who was unafraid to ask the hard and pointed questions. Her moment in the media spotlight led to a tumultuous year which included death threats, 24-7 protection, a highly elevated persona, and finally a best-selling memoir Settle for More and a reported $17 million dollar contract with NBC.
The enforced gap between her last day at FOX News and her first day at NBC gave Megyn Kelly a rare opportunity to take stock and plan her next move to expand her audience and her appeal.
However it was there that cracks began to emerge. In her first major NBC appearance, an interview with Vladimir Putin on “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” her reputation as a tough questioner took a hit when the Russian leader refused to directly answer her questions, even dismissing one by condescendingly asking, “Do you even understand what you’re asking, or not?” While the ratings for the interview were strong, the reviews were not.
Things got worse when her show “Megyn Kelly TODAY” made its debut September 25 and she took a radical turn away from the traits that made her a star, even going so far as to say “I am kind of done with politics for now.” In ensuing shows, at some moments she asked questions that were too tough to celebrities like Jane Fonda and at other moments appearing too soft, including an unfortunate dancing episode.
Megyn Kelly’s example has lessons for anyone considering changing their brand.
- Evaluate your audience – President Donald Trump’s time in office has increased the public’s appetite for talking about politics. Megyn Kelly possibly chose the worst time to reject political discourse. Another example of misunderstanding the audience is when British Petroleum changed its logo to one resembling a sun. It creates an unintentional link to solar energy, which is as far from British Petroleum’s brand as you can get.
- Don’t abandon what brought you success – When you stray too far from your brand, it can alienate your fans. Megyn Kelly’s radical change in tone and insistence that this is the real her, makes people question her personal integrity. If she was playing a role for the audience of FOX News, who is to say she’s not acting again for the sake of improving her ratings? Kentucky Fried Chicken had to bring back the folksy Colonel Sanders after its fortunes dropped when it changed its name to
- Figure out who you are and be that – Instead of trying to channel her inner Oprah / Ellen, Megyn Kelly is better off celebrating what makes her different from them. She’s a working mother and attorney who put herself through law school teaching aerobic classes. Many people (including the all-female team here at Teak Media) can relate to the work life balance challenges she faces each day. She could also capitalize on her knowledge of the law and politics to build meaningful, yet fluff-free segments. LL Bean is currently winning kudos for its “Be an Outsider” campaign that celebrates the company’s outdoorsy image instead of trying to change it.
Megyn Kelly’s show has been on the air for less than two months. By going with her strengths, showing she understands the market and embracing the qualities that made her a star, there is still time for her to turn things around, if she is wise enough to realize it.