What would Katie Couric do?

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When Katie Couric took over as anchor of The CBS Evening News in 2006, media watchers lined up with bats to take a whack at her like she was some sacrificial journalism pinata. The former Today show host was always thought to be too perky, too eager, and not evening news material.  Her arrival at CBS was highly hyped and endlessly promoted while Couric’s salary was rumored to be astronomical. The overwhelming consensus after two months, however, was that CBS had made a big mistake. Her ratings were awful and the reviews were unkind to say the least. So how does a television whipping post like Katie Couric wind up winning the Edward R Murrow Award for best newscast in both 2008 and 2009? Tracking the anchor’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes is valuable seminar in new media marketing, technological innovation, and good old fashioned “never give up” persistence.

Katie Couric’s morning show fan base always admired her happy-go-lucky and friendly demeanor yet this persona simply would not fly in a nightly news format where anchors are expected to be stoic like Walter Cronkite. Instead of abandoning the personality that put her on the map, the newswoman struck gold at the 2008 Democratic National Convention with original web content that featured a relaxed Couric who could be seen clowning with crew members, ribbing politicians, and offering personal insights into the event’s goings on. The popularity of the coverage lead to the creation of @katiecouric, an online news program that allowed her to let her hair down and be the Katie viewers fell in love with. The show features a looser format, frank talk and opinions, and most importantly, original content not to be found anywhere else. This week the show featured a blow by blow of the President’s first State of the Union address.

With @katiecouric, the anchor was reinventing CBS’ longstanding reputation as, ” the old people’s channel” and the makeover didn’t stop there. Couric tapped into the social media craze by supplying more original content on her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Daily updated, her social media sites promote The CBS Evening News as well as her original web content.  Moreover, she communicates directly with her viewers by asking them to send in questions for interviews, suggestions for stories, and photos from news making events.

The most important thing any struggling business can learn from Katie Couric is to never give up. Instead of quitting and opting out of her big bucks contract, Couric rolled up her sleeves and got creative.  When she famously grilled what’s-her-name from Alaska, Katie asked the questions that were on her viewers minds without apology or cynicism. The interview, in turn, has become one of the most famous political train wrecks of all time while the interviewer gained respectability for staying true to who she is.  Producing webcasts, diving into social media marketing, and tapping into your own marketable identity are tasks that virtually everyone can do. So the next time your scratching your head to come up with a new marketing plan ask yourself, “What would Katie Couric do?”


  1. rathered-up says

    Couric was definitely uncomfortable in Cronkite’s seat. In fact, she tried not to sit down at all for a while, as I recall. But the format is dead. Seriously, who is going to watch some old white dude lecturing us in a montone behind a desk? Stick a fork in the nightly news format. Cuz it’s done.

  2. Joe Blow says

    If the news format is dead, then how do you explain Hardball, FOX NEWS, Glenn Beck, CNN, and a whole slew of other old fashioned media outlets. I don’t think they’re going away as soon as you think.

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