There is a story behind the story in the Brian Williams false-reporting scandal. Crisis PR has played a role. NBC's credibility and the viability of the news anchor's return after a six-month suspension is the main story we're all seeing and hearing.

This is especially important for the network given the news division's troubles with Meet the Press (which has been disastrous since the death of longtime moderator Tim Russert and worse still after Chuck Todd replaced David Gregory) and Today (the perennial morning show leader until surpassed by Good Morning America a couple of years ago). Let's not forget that we are approaching an extended presidential election season, and chaos around the anchor chair is most unwelcome.

But marketers need to be wary as well. Any advertising agency on top of your business should be looking at what, if anything, can be done to protect your investment. Crisis PR is key.Here's why:


  • Last Friday, the NBC Nightly News ratings plummeted 36 percent in the key 25-54 demo and 16 percent overall, falling behind ABC, according to Nielsen overnights.

  • Media research firm, The Marketing Arm, reported that Williams slipped from 23rd most trusted person in America to 835th. (I may even be ahead of him now!)

  • Network news ratings can impact local affiliates, particularly programming into which they lead (syndicated shows and local news). This means money lost.

  • Marketers who purchased spots in the upfront are locked into those costs for the rest of the year. This means you will be paying for viewers who said bye-bye to Bri.

  • Those who purchased spots during the year get their rate cards adjusted, but there is a lag time, and don't expect a discount to be automatically handed to you.


Some marketers and crisis PR experts, in particular those in industries such as hospitals and health care that rely on trust and confidence, may not be best served aligned to this controversy and its credibility issues. If you have marketing money out there, make sure your advertising agency knows this stuff and is positioned to fight for your cash. Otherwise, it'll disappear as fast as an imaginary helicopter.

"And that's the way it is."