The Backup Plan
Image Source: Team Coco/TBS
As marketers, we spend our lives planning campaigns, events, interviews, ads, pitches, posts, press trips, website launches, releases and everything in between down to the millisecond, to try to prepare for every inevitability.
Well recently, an episode of Conan on TBS was a good reminder that sometimes “Plan B” ends up being more successful than the carefully calculated “Plan A” was intended to be.
For those who haven’t been a Conan O’Brien fan since his weird, wacky and wonderful Late Night show days which started airing on NBC in the early-90’s like yours truly, this mainstay maverick of the late night television scene recently retooled his TBS program from a traditional hour-long, multi-guest talk show, to a half-hour one-guest format. The revised formula had been going smoothly until the unthinkable happened: his one booked guest for the episode, Kumail Nanjiani, canceled. Half an hour before the show started. Read: audience seated, hair/makeup complete, cameras ready to roll…and no guest.
Instead of freaking out and canceling the show, making up a benign excuse that likely no one would have believed anyway, Conan and co. took a different approach: they told the truth. And they took the calculated risk to decide that the show would go on, booked guest or not.
Conan started his monologue stating “I’m not sure what kind of show we have tonight,” telling the audience what happened: Kumail got held up while filming Silicon Valley and wouldn’t make it in time for his interview. So, they had to improvise. It was humble. It was honest. It was humorous. In a late night talk show first (or at least a rarity, if it has been done before) instead of a ratings-drawing celebrity guest, Conan interviewed his longtime personal assistant, Sona Movsesian, to hilarious effect. She flippantly kept it real by saying that she was given zero notice that she’d be coming onstage as the guest, and thought to herself, “Oh sh*t, they really ran out of stuff to do.”
What could have been a nightmare cancellation filled with a disappointed live audience turned into a lemonade-out-of-lemons sitch that would have made Queen Bey herself proud. The cherry on top? Mountains of positive media coverage following the show, applauding Conan for the impromptu pivot, and garnering unquestionably way more buzz and attention around the program than had Conan gone along with the originally scripted schedule and guest. The crew was even able to parlay the incident into a traffic-driving boost to Conan’s podcast, featuring Kumail on later in the week to share his side of the story…talk about making hay out of a hiccup!
So the next time you’re faced with last minute client curveballs, unanticipated obstacles, callous no-shows or worse, steer into the skid and remember that with the right maneuvering, sometimes a skillful shift in plans has the potential to reap much greater reward…and maybe even a huge marketing win in the process!
Posted by Karen