The dawn of the Jimmy Fallon era on The Tonight Show pretty much went off without a hitch Monday night. Fallon showed deference to the storied NBC franchise, but, as with any changing of the guard, he’s already made some changes to the program with an eye on expanding the audience.
Some the changes could apply to communicators who are looking to revive a brand that’s gotten long in the tooth.
For starters, after more than 40 years in Los Angeles the show has moved back to New York, where it originated in 1954. Moving the show to New York should juice things up in terms of having access to a different pool of celebrities and more interesting visuals than Sunset Boulevard and palm trees.
Fallon’s youth (he’s 39) should also give the show a little more bounce, at least initially. The median age for his predecessor, Jay Leno, was 58, according to MarketWatch, which is a couple of decades older than the sweet spot for national advertisers.
Fallon has also rearranged The Tonight Show theme, while house band The Roots should help to attract a younger demo.
Perhaps most important—and what all PR managers and directors should be cognizant of as we venture ahead in an unpredictable digital age—is that Fallon has shown himself to be social media savvy.
Our guess is that a lot of the content on The Tonight Show moving forward will be tailored to the digerati and reflect the humor that Fallon was known for while hosting Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
For example, a chat between Fallon and Justin Timberlake on what a Twitter conversation sounds like in real life has, so far, garnered 21 million-plus views on YouTube.
Fallon got another major spike in the social sphere when he and New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen parodied Springsteen’s hit “Born to Run” while poking fun at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s scandal concerning the closure of three lanes of the George Washington Bridge (with more than 4 million-plus views on YouTube).
Fallon is patching into a larger trend that holds macro lessons for communicators, particularly those communicators who advise C-level executives who are taking on new roles.
While you need to respect the past, you have to be proactive in carving our a new niche and sending out a message that this is not your dad’s company, or even your older brother’s company. You have to set your own path, but with grace, skill and humor.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1