We consume news very differently from a decade ago, thanks to social media.
Yet television talk and news have been surprisingly resilient. Cable news is booming, and for many of us in PR, there’s nothing better than getting your client a nice, juicy segment on TV.
From “Good Morning, America” 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:
1. Ask the Passover question. 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, 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 need something they can use without a struggle.
2. Know broadcast deadlines. Whatever you do, don’t deliver your pitch right before a news show goes on the air or starts pre-recording. 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 in the news business don’t tend to plan much farther than a week or two in advance. Make a point to know the air times and deadlines of every show you pitch.
3. Understand the news cycle. If you’re pitching something that follows a breaking story, you’ll have 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. Be advised, though, that your client (and his commentary) must be ready and he might have to drop everything to appear as a guest on the show within hours.
4. Emphasize the value for viewers. What do they want? Ratings. Whom do they want to reach? Lots of viewers. Good, you both want the same thing. When you put your pitch together, include the value your segment will bring to their viewer. Let them know who you believe will respond to this story, and why it’s an important topic or insight.
5. Recognize that broadcast follows print. 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. The key word here is “quick,” because, as with breaking news, the story may be old within 48 hours.
6. Be visual. 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 that work so they don’t have to.
7. Get personal. 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 spell it correctly, but work harder. Did you just see a segment on the show that you loved? Is there a reason the host would be perfect for the segment you pitch? Do some research to let them know why and how this segment is tailor made for them.
8. Use the phone. 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 have 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 whether you might fit in. If you can’t fit with that person, ask if there is someone else you could talk to. Keep going until you get an answer. Stay positive, because if you persevere, that answer can be yes.
A version of this post first appeared on the Crenshaw Communications blog.