Friday, April 16, 2010

O'Brien Is As PR Savvy As He Is Funny

One of the most humiliating things that can happen to a public figure in their career is to be dumped unceremoniously on TV. This is exactly what happened to Conan O'Brien in January of this year, but instead of disappearing into the woodwork, he's leveraged social media to become even more of a household name.

Successfully leveraging Twitter as a platform to connect with fans, he's demonstrated that he's one of the funniest people we've ever heard. More to the point- he's funnier than his rival Leno. The tagline of his page is "I had a show. Then I had a different show. Now I have a Twitter account." With more than 850,000 followers flocking to him within about a month and 1 million fans on his Facebook fan page "I'm With Coco," fans are kept updated with video clips, photos and - of course - the humour we've come to appreciate him for.

Even though his lucrative severance package came with the caveat that he couldn't talk to the media, this hasn't stopped O'Brien from getting his message across.

The situation he was dealt could have easily heralded the abrupt end of his career. Instead, O'Brien leveraged his comedic genius on new platforms to stay connected with fans. It's helped him stay top-of-mind, build support, reinforce his brand and generate awareness for his current tour- the "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour." More importantly, social media has served as an outlet for a sense of humour which is best served when shared with others.

This is a great example of when the medium and the message are very well suited to each other.

Food for Thought: Do you think his social media presence will drive viewers to TBS when he launches his new show in November?


  1. perhaps a little bit, but not significantly. those following him on social media channels are already choosing to follow him, they already like him and will likely watch anyway. But it doesn't expand his exposure to those who aren't interested / don't know about him - and those are the people who he needs to go after to increase his viewer numbers, no?

  2. Hi there- thanks for your thoughts.

    When Conan was let go from NBC, he held an audience of 2.5 million viewers which is a small audience for them but would be a very large crowd for TBS. Through Twitter and his fan-run Facebook page 'I'm With Coco,' Conan is building and maintaining his brand which will ultimately get TBS more attention, help with their branding, and also drive viewers to their other shows leading to an increase in advertising rates.

    Can Conan get more viewers? I agree with you that this is up for debate and unlikely tobe significant. But I don't think he really needs to.

    I think the PR issue here is how his social media presence can help strengthen the TBS brand and drive demand for their other products.

    How does that sound?

  3. yes you're absolutely right, that sounds good. he will drive a lot more viewers to tbs & strengthen the brand.
    of this increased tbs demand, how much is contributed by his social media presence? how much is contributed by his 'situation' (his reactionary show after having to leave nbc)? how much is contributed by traditional media (adverts, billboards, commercials, posters etc)?
    definately social media, in our times of excessive internet usage, will enhance viewing (by how much is not clear), it is another tool to add to the belt. conan is using it well, to his & tbs' benefit.

  4. You make a great point about social media measurement which I will address in another blog post :) Thanks for the great ideas!