For years, Karl Stefanovic’s loveable larrikin schtick ensured he was one of Aussie TV’s most bankable stars — until it all came crashing down.
Now he’s gone from Today, the show that made him a household name — and the departures of brother Peter and sister-in-law Sylvia Jeffreys as well mean the once all-powerful “team Stefanovic” has all but crumbled.
According to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, whether or not Karl can claw his way back will depend on a crucial window he now faces.
“The next six to 12 months will be extremely critical in terms of what the next step for his career is going to be,” she said.
“In this time, he needs to completely change tactic and not make any big decisions regarding high-profile roles in the visual media — it will be about taking low-visibility positions and still building his career, but understanding he needs to expect to make sacrifices.
“He is in a position where he could be sabotaging his future by the decisions and actions he makes now.”
Ms Pollard said there was “absolutely” a chance Karl’s career might not recover if he failed to tackle the situation appropriately.
“Some people don’t come back from these sorts of situations — there is absolutely the potential of not coming back to the same level he was at, so he has to be really careful not to sabotage himself and to take responsibility,” she said.
She said Karl needed to resist the urge to dive into a new high-profile TV gig and instead lay low for a while and consider a new career in print or radio.
“Taking time out can be the hardest thing to do. Especially when you feel the public is against you and you feel like a failure, it’s human nature to want to prove you are a success, but there needs to be some big changes,” she said.
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And when it comes to rebuilding his tattered personal reputation, Ms Pollard said it was essential to be the “bigger person” and avoid any public outbursts against either the paparazzi, his ex-wife or anyone else who gets in his way.
Karl blew up on Christmas Day when a photographer took a video of him and his new wife Jasmine Yarbrough.
“Outbursts just fuel the flames and even though that kind of behaviour is human nature, he needs to remain calm because any potential outburst can perpetuate negative press,” she said.
Karl also needs to keep his private life exactly that — private.
“Don’t do a Barnaby Joyce and get paid for a high-profile story with your wife,” she said.
“And he needs to not say anything about his ex-wife — his private life got mixed up with his professional one and that’s one of the reasons why it all combusted, so he needs to separate them again and start building his professional life.”
But fellow PR guru Nicole Reaney said the reputations of Peter, Sylvia and Jasmine would be easier to repair.
Provided Peter avoided future controversies, his long, successful career would probably ensure he bounced back in a role away from his famous brother, Ms Reaney said.
She said the scandal where Peter and Karl were overheard slamming Today show co-host Georgie Gardner in an Uber was a low point.
“I think the Ubergate chat tainted Peter a bit — he was always seen as more of a serious reporter, and it caused people to see a different side of him,” Ms Reaney said.
She said Sylvia was likely to emerge completely unscathed from the fallout as she’d managed to separate herself from the Stefanovic saga and build a reputation as a likeable, competent professional.
“Sylvia was in the car at the time (as the Uber chat) but has managed to remain largely unscathed,” she said.
“She has a positive following and is genuinely adored by the public.”
And in Jasmine’s case, the relentless media speculation could end up helping her.
Ms Reaney said if the relationship continued to flourish, the public would probably stop viewing it as a “midlife crisis” and the negativity would blow over with no lasting damage to her brand.
“No doubt it has been stressful for her seeing the headlines, however I believe she’s been able to raise her profile as a result and she has not commented publicly about anyone, so she has held her own and maintained a positive brand,” she said.
Now Karl was gone, Ms Pollard said the decision to install two female co-hosts in Georgie Gardner and Deborah Knight at the Today show was a “risky move” — but one that was also a “stroke of genius”.
“With the right dynamic and new hosts, there is real potential for Today to bounce back from this,” she said.
“The decision to remove Karl absolutely had to be made.
“The shake-up was really the only thing to do to save the show and considering the whole Me Too movement and how the media has been over the last 12 months, having two female hosts is actually a stroke of genius if the dynamic works. Quite often smart moves are also risky moves but shows like Today are steadfast and formulaic and have been that way for 30 years; they need to shift along with the expectations of the public.”
Ms Reaney said there had always been clear differences between Today and its archrival Sunrise, with the Channel 7 breakfast show priding itself on “pushing the envelope and their agility”, while Today covered news “while appealing to a family audience”.
She said the survival of Today would depend on the chemistry between Gardner and Knight, with the new-look team starting on air on Monday.
But Ms Reaney said the groundbreaking decision to form an all-female hosting team could be key to the show’s recovery.
“What the public likes to see is authenticity between two hosts — a genuine friendship where they have each other’s backs, not just a friendship for show,” she said.
“Nine selected their host not by design, but on merit. Having a female duo might help capture the female audience because there might be authentic commentary on issues women relate to.”
She stressed that changes to the line-up at Today were not necessarily directed at Karl, even though the timing of the announcement seemed personal.
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