I previously wrote a blog post about pitching TV producers. While hard to land placements, it’s not impossible.
As college communicators, you have a bit of an advantage over others: Experts are everywhere, giving you the opportunity to offer expertise on a variety of topics.
Six tips for landing the interview
Not everyone wants to go on TV. And not everyone is ready for prime time. Avoid your experts who are long-winded and talk in tangents (save them for print) and look for those who speak in soundbites and are fast on their feet.
Do your homework
You’re likely going to be asked for clips of your expert. So, before pitching your expert, get everything in order. Compile previous clips to send along to the producer to judge whether your expert is good on camera. If you don’t have clips, start by pitching your expert to your local TV stations to get a few clips and give the expert some practice. Or, help your expert put together a short video on several talking points and post on his/her blog or homepage or save to show producers. In lieu of or in addition to TV appearances, blogs can help producers grasp your expert’s point of view.
Make sure your experts know what they are getting into. Yes, you’re going to spend a lot of time preparing for what might be one or two minutes on air. Set the expectation early that it is a lot of work – and that the interview could go in a different direction – but it is worth the effort.
Be quick and pitch smart
When news breaks, the early PR bird gets the worm. Find out availability (even asking if they can leave class or meetings to do a TV hit) of your expert and ask them for a few (2-3) short bullet points with their viewpoints. Pitch (with previous clips as necessary) as quickly as possible. Your subject should be short and sweet, and same for the pitch. For example, the subject could be something like: Expert/Professor on Fed’s Announcement. The pitch should include a one-line introduction of the expert, with possibly another sentence or two (max) to help them stand out. Include clips and talking points. Hit send!
Prepare to be in limbo
Trying to land a news-of-the day hit on a primetime cable outlet? Then be prepared to secure your expert, pitch early in the day and…wait. You might be on hold until the production meeting that afternoon, even if the producer said they are interested.
Even if you never were a scout, be prepared. Tell your expert to keep a blazer and tie in their office in case they get the call to go to the studio or do a Skype interview (you can also keep an extra tie around). Be prepared to play travel agent and book pickups/drop-offs if travel to a studio is involved. Be prepared to cancel what you’re doing to ensure your expert is on time and ready to roll.