As any good PR person knows, we consume news very differently than we did a decade ago, thanks to social media. Yet television talk and news has been surprisingly resilient.
Cable news, in fact, is booming. And for many of us in PR, there’s nothing better than getting your client a nice, juicy segment on TV. From GMA to CNN or Fox Business, a solid broadcast appearance packs a punch. A national TV segment typically has a large and high-quality reach in real time, it’s searchable for some time thereafter, and it can be amplified on social media.
Most earned media specialists want that coveted booking for their client and every PR person is pitching. So how can one break through? Here are eight tips to help get your pitch heard by TV bookers and producers.
Why is this segment different from all other segments? As with any journalist, each day thousands of emails flood producers’ inboxes. From the subject line to the opening sentence is your time to get them wanting more. Be succinct, be clever and compelling. Make the words count. Don’t tease by being mysterious, don’t make it complicated, and for heaven’s sake, don’t make it long. These decision-makers are on hellish deadlines, and they’re looking for something they can use without a struggle.
Whatever you do, don’t deliver your pitch right before a news show goes on the air or starts taping. Even if you have a great story, the pitch is likely to be lost in the rush before a show starts. By the same token, it’s usually a waste to pitch a producer or segment coordinator too far in advance. People who work in the news business don’t tend to plan much farther than a week or two in advance for obvious reasons. Make a point to know the air times and deadlines of every show you pitch.
If you’re pitching something that follows a breaking story, you’ll need to send your pitch before the next news cycle. Let’s say there’s been a major security breach and your client is a cybersecurity expert with an opinion on what happened. Particularly among business news shows, guest bookers are always looking for fresh faces to feature for extra commentary on the story of the day. But be advised that your client commentary needs to be ready and he might need to drop everything to appear as a guest on the show within hours.
What do they want? Ratings. Who do they want to reach? Lots of viewers. Good, you both want the same thing. When you put your pitch together, be sure to include the value your segment will bring to their viewer. Let them know who you believe will respond to this story, and why is it important.
Many media outlets compete with one another, but in general, print and broadcast have a symbiotic relationship. A TV producer or segment coordinator will get many of her story ideas from print or digital news outlets. If you can first nail a story in a major newspaper or web news site, it often makes sense to follow-up with a quick broadcast segment pitch. But the word here is “quick,” because, as with breaking news, the story may be old within 24-48 hours.
Television is a visual medium, so use words to create a mental video the booker or producer will see in their mind’s eye as they read or hear the pitch. Can you do a demo? Do you have graph or chart that can be shown on-screen? Is your spokesperson exceptionally attractive, well-spoken, funny or engaging? Let them know how you envision the segment. Do the work so they don’t have to.
You know those hundreds of blasts sent to your private email every day that you delete? Don’t have your pitch become one of those. Find a way to personalize it. Obviously, use the person’s first name, and spelled correctly, but work harder. Did you just see a segment on the show that you loved? Is there a reason why the host will be perfect for the segment you pitch? Do some research to let them know why and how this segment is tailor-made for them.
Everyone will follow-up by email, so you’ll stand out if your follow-up is done by phone. Have your short pitch ready, and a smile in your voice the moment you say hello. It’s your mission to engage them the second they answer the phone. Talk. If they’re still listening, ask questions. If they’re not into it, find out what else they’re working on and if you might fit in. If you can’t fit with them, ask if there is someone else you to talk to. Keep going until you get an answer. And stay positive, because if you persevere that answer can be yes.