When I started in PR more than a dozen years ago, three of the most dreaded words when talking with potential clients were: The Today Show.
Nothing against the show, but it’s really hard to break through their producers to actually see your client sitting down next to them for an interview. It can be just as hard for Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning or any of the shows on Fox, CNN or MSNBC.
Hard, but not impossible. Here are a few things to remember when pitching TV producers.
- Research – A common refrain on our blog, but take the time to seek out the right producer or the right segment of the show you’re pitching. The aforementioned Today Show starts each day with the top news of the day or celebrities, so that new product pitch is better served for later in the show. (My colleague Meg had several placements targeting the fourth-hour producers.) It also requires research to ensure it’s realistic for your product or guest to be featured in the first place. Why is your expert worthy of a national audience? What makes your expert stand out? Don’t waste producers’ time pitching something that won’t ever see the TV light of day.
- Persistence and building a relationship – It’s rare to get a TV hit right out of the box. You might have the perfect expert, pitch and timing. Yet, the producer might want to see what your expert looks like on camera. They might want to read up on your expert by checking out his/her blog. They might want to keep him in mind for “next time.” Just like print media, building that relationship with updates or alternate ideas will enhance the chance of a big hit.
- Availability – Not only are TV producers fielding hundreds of daily pitches, but they also are booking guests, conducting pre-interviews, lining up car services for in-studio guests and steering the direction of the segment or show, among many other duties. Often times, their call for your expert or product comes at the last second. Can you overnight samples of your product? Can you set up a pre-interview in 15 minutes? If you’re going to pitch TV producers, you (and your expert) need to be flexible and available. If you can’t answer the call, it may be a while before you get the chance again.
- Practice – National/cable TV is a big deal. Chances are good that producers will ask for a sample of your client on camera. It’s not a requirement that your boss or client have some on-camera experience, but it helps. If they don’t have experience, get it by landing hits with your local TV station. Your local TV news programs are great for promoting your news and getting valuable experience in front of the camera.
Good luck, I hope to see you a major network.