Appearing on TV or radio programmes can be a fantastic way to boost your credibility and get exposure for your company, but where do you start? Take a look at this top notch advice from Janet Murray on capturing a producer’s attention.
Do your research
Before you get in touch, says Murray, you must have an idea of what the programme or slot that you’re pitching to usually covers, and who their audience is. That means actually watching or listening to the programme and making sure your pitch is relevant!
You’ll also need to find out the name of programme producer so that you can call or email the right person about your idea. When you do, says Murray, “it’s important to describe to the producer what they will be able to see and hear.” If they can’t visualise what you’ll be doing on their programme, they’ll hardly let you loose live on air!
Get your timing right
You must find out what the lead times are for the programme you’re pitching to, or you’ll be wasting everyone’s time. The lead time is the amount of advance warning the producer would need if there was any hope of including this in their slot. Whilst daily news programmes might be able to squeeze in stories submitted on the same day, a feature piece might need to be pitched weeks or even months before the broadcast.
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
“There’s nothing more frustrating for a journalist or producer than being offered an interview with someone… only to find they’re unavailable,” says Murray. Producers often work around the clock, so make sure you pick up calls on your mobile during evenings and weekends. If you’re pitching for a programme in a particular time slot, make sure you’re available to interview at that time!
“If you’re invited into a studio for an interview, do take up the opportunity if you can, as this can be a great way to make contacts and connections,” says Murray. “And bear in mind that producers love experts who have an ISDN line in their office, or at home, as you get studio quality sound.”
Pitch by phone – but have the email ready to go
Hundreds of pitch emails fall by the wayside every day in TV and radio, and taking the time to make a call at least means you know if you’ve reached a human being! Most broadcast researchers and producers are happy for you to pitch to them over the phone, says Murray – but they will need to see something in writing. Make sure you have a super high quality pitch email ready to send immediately after the call, before they have time to forget who you are. Click here for tips on writing a killer press release.
TV and radio producers are actively jostling for audiences and that means hooking the best stories. If it turns out that you’ve given the same scoop to competing programmes without letting them know, “you could make yourself very unpopular,” says Murray.
Don’t plug the company
“This might sound counterintuitive, but journalists aren’t there to help you promote your business – their job is to commission great content that will interest their audience,” says Murray. “And advertising rules are so strict, they’re generally not allowed to run stories that appear to promote products or service.”
Instead, says Murray, focus on pitching great stories that audiences will be genuinely interested in, whilst showing off your expertise and getting in a passing mention of your company. And think of it this way: a prospective customer is far more likely to be impressed by seeing you appear as an independent expert on a news programme than they would be by seeing an obvious marketing stunt!
Radio and TV producers often need people with genuine expertise that they can call on as talking heads, especially for regional programmes. If you don’t introduce yourself, they probably won’t know you exist, so be brave and pick up the phone.
“As ever, timing is everything, so do call when you know there will be opportunities coming up,” advises Murray. “So if you’re a financial expert, it can be a good idea to call up a few days before a government spending review, for example. An education expert might do the same just before exam results are published.”
But make sure that you can also be easily found. Your website, blog and social media channels should be up-to-date and relevant, with high quality photos and/or videos and links to any published articles. Making sure your public persona is polished and professional can help researchers to find you, and it also means that producers won’t be put off if they do a last-minute credibility check before you go on air!