Four tips to successfully coordinating a national morning show interview

Connie Harshaw, president of the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, being interviewed for the TODAY Show

At some point, any good public relations professional has forced themselves to become a padawan, dare I say, a Jedi in the art of patience.  It’s a virtue my parents would happily tell you was never my strong suit. But just like anything in life, practice makes perfect. Media relations is more of an art than a science, and now, a few years and a ton of press releases later, I’m finally starting to get the hang of it.  

The TODAY Show highlighted Colonial Williamsburg’s excavation of artifacts from the First Baptist Church. Connie Harshaw is a member of the church and president of the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, dedicated to preserving artifacts from the congregation.

First, some back patting: check out the TODAY Show placement we secured for our friends at Colonial Williamsburg. I may be a little biased, but the story is an important one, especially as we journey through Black History Month and reflect on the various ways African American stories have shaped our country. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and if you haven’t already, you’ll realize just how important preserving the voices and lives of the past are to our future. 

To be sure, coordinating a national morning show isn’t all glam and glory. Once you’ve done the seemingly impossible and garnered interest from a national media outlet, that’s when the real work starts. Below are a few of the PR hacks that I hope will make your life a tad easier when you set off to book your own network morning show hit.

Do your research 

When it comes to landing big placements, research should be your friend. Scratch that—research should be your best friend. Since the majority of media relations is about building solid relationships with reporters, you must approach cultivating a good rapport with your contact as you would any new relationship. What’s their love language when it comes to pitching? Maybe they prefer a quick Twitter DM rather than a traditional email. Of course, you’ll want to get to know their past work so that you can tailor your outreach to them in a way that connects with them on a personal level. It never hurts to let them know you’ve done your research, particularly when you consider how many emails they get from the spray-and-prayers out there.

If you’re relying on Cision to get the most updated information on reporters, you may want to rethink your strategy. A better option is Twitter, which is a great platform for seeing what a reporter is up to, which outlet they are currently freelancing for or what stories they are retweeting. The best part? When you’re researching their beat, you’ll probably discover their Hogwarts house too—which, contrary to popular belief, can tell you a lot about a person. Knowing what is relevant to your reporter will make positioning your pitch to gain interest that much easier. 

Okay, you’ve Twitter stalked the reporter and secured the interview. What now? 

Rev. Dr. Julie Grace, who was christened at the church in 1949, is now an associate minister.

Iron out the logistics in advance 

After you’ve checked the interview and day-of details a hundred times, turn around and recheck them. Whether the reporter is traveling five minutes or five hours to get to the interview, it’s crucial that you finalize and lock in as many logistics as you can beforehand to ensure a day of smooth sailing. 

If it is your first time at the interview site, consider doing a site check to avoid any embarrassing snafus. Even if you’ve been there a thousand times, you must take things like traffic, car troubles, and the inevitable mayhem of life into account.

A few questions to ask yourself ahead of the big day:

  • What time will the crew be arriving?
  • Will parking be an issue? If so, what can I do to minimize confusion? 
  • Does the reporter and their team know who to contact with questions? 
  • Have I created a contact sheet for day-of communication? 

Do you have an “Oh, sh*t!” box? If not, you should

National morning show interviews don’t come around every day. That’s why, at Hodges, we’d rather be safe than sorry. You never know what will come up during a day of interviews. That’s why we have a box complete with everything we could possibly imagine needing.

A few things in ours:  

  • Duct tape
  • Extension cord
  • Tide-to-Go pen 
  • Pens, highlighters, paper 
  • Paper towels, wet wipes
  • Contact solution
  • Scissors 
  • Sticky notes 
  • Rope
  • Tissues 
  • Small emergency kit 
  • Flashlight 
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Extra phone charger 
  • Caution tape (and yep, we actually had to use this to block off a parking lot during the TODAY show segment)
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer (our 2020 additions)

Show you care

Depending on the scope of the story, a national interview may take all day. To show your appreciation to the camera crew and reporter, think about ordering lunch from a local spot. It’ll help you avoid a hangry team and show your client, the crew and your team that you care. Also, consider keeping a cooler of water bottles and other beverages in your car for interviewees or reporters to sip on throughout the day. 

At the end of the day, national reporters are ordinary people. Treat them like it. Have fun and be yourself. And, of course, don’t forget to pack a little patience. You’ll need it. 

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Hannah Robinson

One of the newest members of the Hodges team, Hannah has happily made the transition from higher education to agency life. In addition to her public relations skills, she is already a seasoned voice artist and admits to a special talent for memorizing song lyrics.

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