Television News Coverage 101

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This post is not about pitching a television show idea. The following insight is about getting your new product/service on national network and/or local TV news. Every brand owner wants a bit of TV time in his or her earned media coverage mix. Big network coverage (GMA, Ellen , The View. . . all add clout and help build brand buzz and sometimes even a spike in sales.

Pitching busy television producers is a whole lot different than approaching a blogger, magazine or newspaper editor for a review.

First there is the element of time.  As in, there is no time to hear you ramble on about why your product or idea deserves news coverage. Because time is money and it takes lots if money to produce a big, popular show. Producers at popular daily programs like The Today Show and the CBS Early Show are usually in a rush and don’t have time for chatting on the phone or reading your two page pitch.  They also rather like it when you help build-out the story for them. That is you provide them with –

  • The big great new idea, product or service and why it is a timely story.
  • The independent, credible, media-trained expert to speak objectively about your big great new idea and if necessary . . .
  • The model (s) to demonstrate the great new product or service.

This is called a “package” and producers will more often than not ask that you pitch the package.

How difficult is it to get my product covered on a popular show like The Today Show?

On a scale of 1 to 10, if you don’t know what you are doing, a 10. Meaning, most often than not, you will be rejected. How? You will never get the producer on the phone, your voice mail messages won’t be returned, and you emails not read. And the biggest reason why. Most people pitching, never watch the show. They don’t know the format, the time, the hosts, the angles, the segments, so they aren’t focused on pitching appropriately.

Is it okay to pitch more than one producer at a time for the same show?

Yes, just make sure that they are covering the right beat for your pitch. In other words, don’t send the sports producer your new detox diet book. So if you are pitching a new beauty product, it’s okay to call the fashion/style/lifestyle producers. Just don’t call the DC correspondent.

How do producers decide on what to air?

Producers meet on a regular basis to hash out ideas for upcoming programs.  It is a courteous rule to let them know that you are also contacting their colleagues/co-workers. Big networks are also owned by big corporations, so sometimes a rejection is more of a political thing.

Is there a best time to call a producer?

Try not to call before or during the show – check air times, show location (east or west coast) and then call about an hour after the show. Producers work long hours, especially when they are starting out in their career. And most really prefer email.

How to I find out who the right producer is?  

You can hire a media relations maven to pitch for you, subscribe to a service like Cision, or Vocus (which can be costly) , or you can take the cheap route by watching the show and taking notes from the credit roles. You can also do some research on the web,  if you are on a very tight budget. Or you can simply call the network/program and ask who the best producer would be to contact.

How long is a typical segment opportunity? 2 to 4 minutes, if you are lucky.

What type of content should I have ready to send them? To begin with –

  • A fact sheet with low-res photos of your product or service. Make sure it answers the questions – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
  • A bio/profile of your independent expert with b-roll (video footage of their past TV experience).
  • A model (if needed) who has signed a model release form and agreed to be filmed on TV.

How can I build a relationship with a TV producer?

By being honest, forthright and authentic. Fact checking your story for them will help. Site your statistics and provide double-blind clinical studies. Television producers’ jobs are even more difficult now, as consumers and online enthusiasts become more cynical and critical of their reporting. See this recent example here, where a fierce  web editor criticizes Good morning America.

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