So You Want to be On TV: A PR Pro’s Secrets to Securing National Broadcast Coverage

Posted by | February 23, 2015 | Public Relations | No Comments

By Shay Pantano

Vice President & Group Head, Health & Wellness and Beauty

Broadcast media is a powerful tool in moving the needle for many brands. Having an expert or a product featured on a national show often results in an increase in sales and awareness. Unlike traditional ads (commercials), the viewer is connected to on-air experts and products they see on their favorite programs due in part to the trust the viewer already has with the show. There is an unspoken endorsement, and as seen with the Oprah Effect, this can turn an unfamiliar brand or expert into a household name overnight.

As great as this sounds, the unfortunate reality is that a national broadcast placement is also one of the most challenging types of media to secure.

So how does a PR professional secure broadcast coverage for their client? Below are tips on how to successfully navigate this process.

Watch the Show

This should be obvious, but there are countless stories from producers about PR practitioners who pitch off-topic segment ideas, or even include hosts from other shows in their pitch. A producer from “Good Morning America” once shared with me how a PR representative pitched a segment for Al Roker to interview their expert. The producer never opened an email from that person again.

The top strategy for securing any media is to know the outlet being pitched and the demographic of the audience. Pitching in the voice and format of the show increases the chances of securing the placement. Sending a one-size-fits-all pitch to any outlet lessens the likelihood of securing the placement. Also, know the type of guests that are frequently on the show and the layout of the segments in which they appear. If the show typically includes a demo for the guest, incorporate a demo in your pitch. If guests are usually in a panel discussion with opposing views, then mention the side of the argument the expert will take.

Writing the Pitch

Before your fingers hit the keyboard, ask yourself, “Is this new?” Television producers are always looking for new content that has not already appeared on the show (or a competitor’s show).

Keep your pitch short and to the point. Producers are busy people and long pitches that take sentences to get to the point are not the way to grab their attention. Think in terms of a problem and solution and say it in the first sentence or two. Also mention who the on-air talent would be for the segment.

An example would be: Looking to lose weight, but don’t want to cut out cocktails? Dr. Jose Cuervo is available for an in-studio interview to explain how tequila promotes weight loss by 78% compared to those who don’t drink any alcoholic beverages while dieting. In addition, Dr. Cuervo will demonstrate how to make fat-burning tequila cocktails that offer a daily dose of vitamins while melting away the fat.

These couple of sentences tell the producer exactly what the segment is about, who the expert is and that there is a demonstration component if needed. Any information after this would include the visuals and any testimonials that are willing to go on-air.

One thing to note is that length matters. If the show pitched typically includes 3-4 minute segments, don’t pitch a 30 minute feature. If the interviews tend to be in multiple parts, include what the second part of the segment would entail.

Know When to Pitch

The main job of many producers is to bring up-to-the-minute news. This means that pitching a major news outlet about your new product just as Godzilla storms downtown Tokyo is a really bad idea. If the show is airing live, don’t pitch at that time. No one likes to be interrupted at work during critical times, and that includes producers. Also, steer clear of pitching during odd hours; sending a pitch at 3am on a Sunday doesn’t mean the producer is more likely to respond.

However, if a producer reaches out, respond as quickly as possible. Television moves fast and even an hour can mean the difference between booking the segment or losing it.

 Pitching an Expert

Producers want experts that have tons of energy, are knowledgeable in their field and can be in-studio. Most shows don’t like to satellite in an expert, but if there is a breaking news story, some shows would rather use a satellite feed than not have an expert.

When pitching an expert, it is imperative to include a link to past segments, as well as a headshot. Producers want to make sure the expert has on-camera experience, is mediagenic and doesn’t have a thick accent.

For experts without on-air experience, it is wise to secure an appearance on a local outlet prior to trying for a national show. In some cases, producers will book without prior on-air experience, but past broadcast experience increases your odds. You can also have your client create a few YouTube videos that look professional and mimic a live segment.

Remember that television is visual and although the expert doesn’t have to be a beauty queen, they should be attractive. This may mean counseling a client to change their hair, glasses or even purchase new clothes.

Visuals

Producers like segments that have visuals. Unless it is an expert weighing in on a news story that already has footage, include any assets that will make the segment more than just a talking head. B-roll, props, graphics and even testimonials can help round out a segment. Telling a producer exactly what assets are available also takes work off their plate and helps to build the relationship.

Tap Into the Show’s On-Air Talent

For brands that are product driven, it is a good idea to become familiar with the regular talent that appears on the shows and pitch them directly. Many have recurring spots and although they aren’t part of the show, they often have regularly scheduled appearances. But be careful – some experts charge a fee for promoting a product on air. And remember that even if the expert says they will include your product in the segment, a producer can always (and often do) pull a product out.

Audience Giveaways

Another way to get a product on air is offer a giveaway to the audience. Oprah made this famous and many other shows followed suit. This can be pricey for a client, so make sure to get specifics in advance. For example, “Ellen” has an audience of 400 and asks for another 25 products for an online giveaway, which might be more than the client can handle. However, the best part of an audience giveaway is that most shows will guarantee that your messaging is delivered.

The above tips are strategies to help secure a national broadcast segment, but remember that anything can happen. Even if everything is done correctly and the segment is secured, the news cycle may have other plans. Breaking news can interrupt any show at any time. Always communicate to clients that the segment is scheduled to air at a specific time, barring any breaking news or station interruptions. That simple statement could save headaches as the client is fully prepared for the uncertainty of live television.

But having a solid pitch, offering a great expert and delivering what was promised are the fundamentals to building a relationship with any producer and securing high-profile national broadcast coverage.