What the Kelly Ripa fiasco reminded me to do.
“Our long national nightmare is over.”
Those were the words Kelly Ripa uttered (to laughs and a standing ovation) when she came back to her “2nd home” of a TV show earlier this week.
In case you live nowhere near a TV, computer, Twitter feed, Instagram account, or carrier pigeon, let me give you a Hollywood-like log line of the events:
Michael Strahan, Kelly’s co-host, gets new job at Good Morning America. No one tells Kelly until 5 minutes before you and I hear about it on our TVs, computers, Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts, and yeah, even some pigeons. Kelly gets mad and has a “sick-in,” and doesn’t show up for work.
Lots of people have taken Ms. Ripa to task for her actions. And while, yeah, I think leaving her apartment holding a book (which she knew would be photographed) entitled, David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants (Strahan was a NY Giant, BTW) is a tad on the dramatic diva side, and calling out “sick,” when you’re just POed is a bit of a childish cry to get everyone to give you more attention . . . she wasn’t the one in the wrong here.
The fact is . . . she’s the star of that show . . . not unlike the star of a Broadway show, right? (I’ve seen plenty of Broadway stars get Ripa-like in their response to news they don’t like.) And stars, especially headliners, who hold up the shows on their shoulders, should be in the loop on major decisions that affect that show. Now, contractually, I’m sure ABC was in the right. They didn’t have to tell her. But sometimes you do things not because you have to, but because you should . . . and because you’ll be better off in the long run for it.
By bringing Ms. Ripa in early and saying, “Hey – look – this is happening, and we were going to wait to tell you but we wanted to tell you as soon as we knew,” would have probably still caused her to blow up, but she might have even appreciated the early notice . . . and the Producers might have earned some trust. Instead, they not only blew up their show for a week, they lost her trust. And I will bet you 10% of Kelly’s contract that they won’t get it back anytime soon. (Oooooh, and I’d hate to be on the Producer’s side of negotiating that contract when it is up for renewal.)
I’m sure there were umpteen strategy conversations at ABC about why they shouldn’t tell her until the last minute. And I guess I should give them some benefit of the doubt because they know her and the situation better than I do . . . but in my opinion, it sounds like what happened is a bunch of suits forgot that show business is a business that involves people, not just products.
Kelly Ripa went on to explain her ordeal was starting a “much greater conversation . . . about communication and consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace.”
She’s right. And it goes well beyond your stars.
It’s hard to communicate. Especially when the news is bad. It takes time. Effort.
But as a Producer of a TV show or a Broadway show, it’s your responsibility to over communicate. You need to keep your staff, your Actors, your creatives and of course, your Investors in the loop as much as possible. They’ll appreciate the information and appreciate you as a result . . . and you’ll prevent morale from going to pot, because without info, all these folks will stir up drama of their own.
When we surveyed Broadway Investors about what their greatest complaint was about investing in shows . . . it wasn’t that they lost money, it’s that some of them weren’t told by their Broadway Producers that they were losing money.
Communication can’t make a business profitable. But it can make it a much more positive experience.
And when people have positive experiences, they are much more likely to want to try it again.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.