"How do I get on the TODAY show?"
Clients always want to learn the secret to getting booked as an on-air guest on a morning news program.
The truth is -- it's one of the most difficult tasks for public relations pros and extremely hard to get a spokesperson air time on NBC TODAY or ABC Good Morning America. But, it can (sometimes) be done with the right game plan in place and a little luck.
1. Get real about your chances
Be aware that morning shows continue to change their formats, and are rarely using CEOs of companies as guests anymore. These days, the TODAY show wants more unbiased experts. Why? Legit experts are a trusted resource for their industry and are adored by news producers. Bloggers with a heavy social media following and unbiased news editors are also more in demand.
Another challenge is the lack of slots available and opportunities for new guests. The morning news shows are doing more segments that help promote the network and filling time with their own roster of on-air talent. For example, Good Morning America will choose to promote more of their own programming -- like running a story about Dancing With The Stars or talking about the latest Disney movie (GMA is owned by Disney).
So, the bottom line is -- if you are doing public relations for a client and are feeling pressure to try to get a company spokesperson on a show like TODAY, be upfront and real about the odds. It is highly likely it will never happen. If you are trying to position yourself for the airwaves, read on:
2. Start branding yourself now
If your ultimate goal is to be on live television, the key is to start building a killer reel that show producers you rock on-air. Turning yourself into "expert" in your field instead of a "company spokesperson" is a great way to start getting booked for more media interviews. Here's how to do it right:
Create the right title. Give yourself a title that media producers will trust. For example, if you own a home decorating company -- you'll likely have more success getting booked for a television interview if you call yourself a "decorating expert" instead of the "Owner of XYZ Home Decorating Service." Being the Editor of a blog is another great title that producers love.
Get some media experience. Going on live television is hard stuff, you need to think fast on your feet and not stumble. It's important to get some practice before pitching yourself to the big leagues.
Go local. Try to yourself booked as a regular on a local television or radio show to gain experience and clips of your work. Producers may want to see this to gauge your tv chops.
Gain a following. If your goal is to get the media coming after you, show off your latest work on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Also, consider creating your own YouTube channel with some of your own "how to" or "informational videos." Building a social media following is another great move, because it will show television bookers that you have something important to say.
3. Create a pitch that works
Now that you've done the work to look like a great on-air guest, it's time to craft a pitch. A pitch is typically a short email that you'll send to a TODAY show producer with your segment idea. It doesn't have to be fancy, just give the following:
- Quick bio
- Segment idea (any visuals you think would work well)
- Why the segment is important
- Who it appeals to (remember, TODAY loves content that appeals to moms!)
- Link to your previous television experience (dust off that old website and make it look professional and current)
- Contact info
How do you know who to pitch? Start searching on LinkedIn or Twitter to find folks with the job title TODAY show producer and send them an email. If they don't respond, try again a few days later. After 3x emails, give it a rest. They aren't interested.
4. Prepare for showtime
If they are interested, congratulations! You are one of the lucky few that will experience a morning show interview. If a producer caught your eye, expect an email and an invitation to follow. A few days before your segment airs, you'll have a phone call with the producer to go over logistics and the segment talking points. They sometimes pay for a hotel stay and provide car service, if needed. Guests will also be asked to arrive early for hair and makeup.
5. Keep expectations in check
Sorry, but even though you've made it to the big leagues, it may not deliver the response you may have helped for. A few appearances on national television may not give you thousands of followers or the jump in product sales you thought would happen. Also, be aware that TODAY will likely have you sign an agreement before you go on-air, essentially barring you from naming any companies or products that you have a relationship with.
6. Don't get discouraged
Getting booked on a national morning show is hard business. If you get frustrated by the lack of interest, spend more time on #2 and get more experience under your belt. Even if TODAY show never comes calling, you can feel good about your public speaking skills and utilize them to help your company's overall marketing efforts. If you get stuck launching your own media strategy, get advice from a public relations pro. You don't have to do it alone.