At her Who cover shoot in Sydney in late March, Lisa Wilkinson was “charming, warm, chatty and uber-professional”, says a source at the magazine who spent time with the TV host on the day.
“Like the longtime magazine maven she once was, she was interested in every aspect of our exclusive photo shoot, from the stylist’s fashion wardrobe to the choice of poses, making suggestions and animatedly praising the results.”
Meet Lisa Wilkinson, PR gun.
Nearly five months after her sensational defection from Channel Nine to Channel Ten, The Sunday Project co-host is doing much more than sitting behind a desk. She’s on the road – to Las Vegas to speak to Celine Dion – and on the front foot.
During her Who interview, her first real sitdown since she switched networks, Wilkinson defended and praised her high-profile new job.
“In the end I just want to do good work and the rest will follow,” Wilkinson, whose pay cheque is been reported as being $2 million, said.
“There was always going to be a lot of scrutiny because my change from Channel Nine to Channel Ten drew a couple of headlines and so I expected that.”
What she may not have expected are falling ratings. According to television news site TV Tonight, Wilkinson’s debut in January attracted 481,000 metro viewers compared to The Sunday Project’s most recent episode which drew 254,000.
It was the night’s 15th-placed program behind NCIS episodes, Grand Designs and a comedy super show.
Wilkinson, 58, told Who her new show is still a work in progress, while also claiming it is already the most “trusted” interview show in the country.
“We’re bedding down particularly The Sunday Project at the moment and working out the best mix for the show,” she said.
“One of the wonderful things about going to The Project is the trust that people have in the journalism.
“They trust us in my experience more than any other interview program on Australian television.”
As for reports that co-host Carrie Bickmore, 37, is unhappy with Wilkinson’s arrival on set, she insisted: “Everyone has been so ridiculously welcoming that I’m just so thrilled I made the change.”
Despite the ordinary ratings, Ten told The New Daily that under Wilkinson’s stewardship, the show’s audience is up 18 per cent in total viewers on 2017.
“We are very pleased with the growth in The Sunday Project’s audience since Lisa started,” a spokesperson said.
“She is clearly resonating with viewers.”
Wilkinson has thrown everything at her new role, including spruiking her job on her social media accounts.
On Easter Sunday, Wilkinson posted to Instagram a photo of herself beaming on the set of the show: “Tonight’s smile is brought to you by waaaaaay too much chocolate.”
Two days earlier, the Sydney star had also posted a shot of herself on set, giving details of her earrings, Camilla and Marc top and the fact she had “gone a curl” instead of straight hair.
In between the two selfies, she posted a promo shot for The Project, angling for Logies votes.
The soft-pedal PR push continued in Who. She didn’t comment on reports she left Nine when bosses refused to bring her salary in line with that of her Today co-host Karl Stefanovic but said compared to 30 years ago, “women are really ruling the airwaves”.
Wilkinson got personal speaking about the trauma of losing her homemaker mother Beryl in March at the age of 89 and her perspective about life and death.
“Look, I miss her terribly, what can I say?” she said.
“But that’s life … We’re all walking around with an invisible date on our forehead. And you never know when that date is going to be yours. So it’s just a reminder.
“Live every day with love and kindness and keep challenging yourself, keep growing.”