Lots of people call me who want to get on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The View, MSNBC and more. Most don’t know that if they create the entire segment they have a better chance of becoming a guest on a national TV show.
If they can envision the show, map out the theme, plan the guests, create the questions, suggest the props, plan the B-roll (background footage) and then bring their knowledge and expertise to the table, speaking in 10-20 second sound bites, then they’ll have the chance of a winner show.
I know it sounds obvious, but many people aren’t familiar with the show format or the hosts’ style because they haven’t bothered to watch the shows or study the host’s style so their pitches are off-base. These are high-level shows and the producers want you to be intimate with the content, pacing, length of each segment, and host’s manner.
Being unaware of these things shows disrespect and could give you and your business a bad name.
Also, if you don’t perform well on the show you’ve pretty much squelched your chances of being on other top TV talk shows as the producers know each other and talk about the flops. To be one of the successes follow these tips.
1. Start with a Headline that Spells Out the Story.
Supernanny Teams With An Acclaimed Autism Expert To Help A Child Who Is An Outsider In His Own Home On Supernanny on ABC.
While it’s a show from the past, it’s an excellent example of how to create a TV pitch letter.
This is the headline from an well-done press release. It tells you what the problem is and who is going to solve it—but not how. Enticing. “Outsider in his own home” is immediately appealing as you can already feel the emotion that the show promises.
2. State the Graphic Details of the Problem and Your Credentials to Solve it.
Supernanny Jo Frost teams with world-renowned autism expert Dr. Lynn Koegel to tackle the parenting issues faced by a family whose three-year-old son is an outsider in his own home. This episode of Supernanny aired on the ABC Television Network.
Deirdre and Trae Facente don’t know how to integrate their autistic son Tristin into their daily life with their twins, Kayla and Marlana (4). Tristin is completely non-verbal, caught up in his own world of spinning, jumping, swinging and, often, taking off his clothes. The only time he spends with his family is sitting at the dinner table. The twins, who demand much of their stay-at-home mom’s attention, can’t figure out how to play with their little brother.
The parents are at a loss as to how to help Tristin come out of his zone and join the family.
“World-renowned autism expert” lets you know that the guest has weight. You get a clear idea of what family life looks like in the Facente household and can immediately see how divided the family is. It’s a dramatic situation that has pathos and promises to be good TV.
The specific details of “Tristin is completely non-verbal, caught up in his own world of spinning, jumping, swinging and, often, taking off his clothes,” gives you an immediate sense of what the show will look like. And it even has humor. I mean, what mom wouldn’t be mortified if a neighbor dropped in and one of her kids was swinging and spinning about in the nude?
3. Tell How You’re Going to Provide a Solution.
Enter Dr. Koegel and Supernanny. Together they refine the classic Supernanny methods and teach all the Facentes Dr. Koegel’s inclusion and communication techniques to help engage Tristin. For example, when they introduce the new daily schedule to everyone, Dr. Koegel uses a picture board with Tristin to help him understand in a concrete way.
Notice that you’re given just a little detail about “communication techniques,” but not what they are or how they’ll be used. One example is given (picture board) and it is again very visual, conforming with what works on TV.
While this show has already taped and the end of the story is known, in your pitch you’ll imagine what will take place on the show as if it has already taped. You’ll define your role and the actions that you and others will take and map it out visually for the producers.
4. Show Dramatic Visible Results.
In just a week, silent Tristin goes from zero words to speaking hundreds of times using over 20 new words. He is bursting with requests to play a favorite game, be tickled or eat a treat. Step-by-step, Jo and Dr. Koegel help the parents keep Tristin from his disruptive behaviors by including him in family chores and activities.
These efforts culminate in the boy helping his dad set the table, a seemingly mundane task that is so miraculous for Tristin, it brings tears to Trae’s eyes.
In a sense this show is a “make-over” program. It touches on mundane chores, the fabric of a family and creates poignancy. Success is unmistakable and quantified succinctly by explaining that Tristin is transformed from a mute to a chatterer (zero words to speaking hundreds of time using over 20 new words).
how to pitch the media
5. Give Your Credentials.
Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D is one of the world’s foremost experts on the treatment of autism. She and her husband, Robert L. Koegel, Ph.D., founded the renowned Koegel Autism Center at the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
She co-wrote the bestselling book on autism, Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope that can Transform a Child’s Life, which was released in paperback, and also co-authored, with Robert Koegel, the more recent book, “Pivotal Response Treatments for Autism.”
While you don’t have to have written a book, it helps. Books published by established and respected publishing houses carry clout. This husband and wife team even have their own center at a respected university. What’s critical here is your experience and your results. Especially for TV you must be able to show that you’ve achieved results and have influence in your field.
Client Success Story: Mary Sheehan for Giant Eagle Pharmacy
A few years ago (I can hardly believe how much time has passed!) I worked with an extremely talented pharmacist and spokesperson named Mary Sheehan. Mary wanted to build an online presence and train pharmacists on how to help customers more effectively.
She consistently had repeat clients who found her advice and the way she handled their prescriptions helped them get better faster. (Great going Mary!)
Mary and I worked on developing her essential talking points/ sound bites that she could easily incorporate into her work in order to grow her business.
Together we created a webinar, a course, and downloadable documents (booklets) to help other pharmacists.
By using these booklets and carefully paying attention to not only what she said to her patients and colleagues, but how she said it to her patients and colleagues, Mary was able to create a name for herself. It wasn’t long until the entire staff was using her material, and positive calls were coming in from corporate.
Mary’s shining star took off even more when one day, she received an opportunity to be a spokesperson for her company on a national commercial!
See below for details from Mary on how the shoot went, what she learned, and the result.
“From your media training, I was prepared for the long hours, the criticism and the tedium of the shoot. For instance, my hair wouldn’t stay in place because I moved my head too much, my skirt was riding up and I received feedback that I was too robotic. Normally those comments would cause me to become anxious, but I just reminded myself that it wasn’t personal and to maintain a calm, ‘willingness to please’ demeanor.
My marketing department was on scene, so I was sure to speak to them in a way that let them know they had made the right decision in choosing me. I thought about talking from my heart to one person I care about and who needed to hear what I had to say. That was something I really took away from our training.
Media Coaching for CEOs, Executives, Entrepreneurs, Authors, Pitch Deck Presentations
I did calming mental exercises between takes as well as grounding exercises and breathing. For example, when I was scared, I would close my eyes and feel my feet on the ground. That helped me feel gratitude and reminded me that I was prepared for this.
You’d helped through other TV appearances so I remembered that if I could survive that, I could easily nail these lines and relax and be my confident self. Even though I was facing health battles I had a system in place that I fell back on—knowing what to say and how to say it. All totally in line with who I am and who I wanted to be.
The most nerve-wracking part of the day was that they had another actress on set just in case I left the company or totally bombed. It was very intimidating. She did a take. I did a take. I watched her takes and was complimentary to my marketing team, mentioning how good she was and listening when they told me how they’d like me to do what she did.
I truly was prepared for the entire experience, and I cannot thank you enough.
The effect of the commercial on business?
Last year our pharmacy gave 346 shots
This year our pharmacy has already given 446
Technically the “flu season” is not over and this already represents a 23 percent increase.
In our entire district last year the pharmacies gave 9,470 and this year we have already done 12,594 shots for a 25% increase and the season is not over yet.
Oh, and I got a promotion.”
SIDE NOTE: Mary and I discussed taking out the fact that she got a promotion. I thought it was important to leave it in because when you truly embody your message it affects every area of your life – family, friends, business, social situations — not just media appearances. That’s the beauty of one of my favorite sayings from Gandhi, “My life is my message.”
Kudos to Mary who is doing just that.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you have a success story from any of our trainings together? I’d love to shine the spotlight on YOU! Just jet me an email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the sound bite course Mary took go here.
To learn more about one-on-one media coaching go here.
To set up a FREE consult to explore working together go here.
Although she’s known as an engaging speaker, trainer, author, and executive coach, Kimberly (Kim) Faith, was still terrified to be on TV.
TV appearance tips
But she did it anyway.
And to see her you wouldn’t know she was fearful or nervous. Watch her here on a major market live TV show in Seattle. Prepare to be encouraged!
One of the things that inspired Kim to go beyond her comfort zone was to tie her mission, and new book for women Your Lion Inside: Tapping Into the Power Within, with the Year of the Woman movement that was making a mark in this year’s elections.
women empowerment tips
Kim’s credentials: Kim has had the privilege to train or coach over twenty six thousand leaders from Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, American Airlines, BMW, Boeing, CVS, GE, HCA, Kimberly Clark, Lockheed Martin, Nielsen, and Target, as well as worked on licensing deals with Warner Brothers, Disney and MGM. She recently accepted an exclusive invitation to be part of Microsoft’s external faculty to train 16,000 leaders over the next two years.
If you’re thinking (like I was) “Holy Cow, that’s some resume!” How could doing a 5 minute TV interview be hard for Kim who speaks all the time to thousands of people?
Because, even with all these impressive accolades, TV was still a new and daunting experience.
The late ABC Anchor Peter Jennings noted, “I find writing the evening news sometimes very challenging because I realize that what we’re trying to give folks in the evening is black and white when so often I want to give them gray.” That same frustration is only exacerbated these days for media and communicators alike. Bottom line: There is a place for nuance. It’s just a small place.
Attention spans have shrunk to the size of a Nike Swoosh. But one reason why the conservative right is so successful is that they give audiences one side and one side only. It’s simplistic, but it’s clear.
While I’m not advocating simplifying issues devoid of nuance, what I am suggesting is that to help your CEO or spokesperson learn the game that gets ink, you must help him or her develop a million-dollar tongue.
A large part of that involves delivering concise sound bites the media will use.
I love poetry and nuance and subtlety. It saddens me that the place for it in the media is almost as extinct as the White Rhino. I’ve frequently said to my clients that the art of sound bites is like taking War and Peace and turning it into a haiku.
Learning to speak “sound bite” is like learning a new language. Here are some ways to do that without selling your soul (or losing your message):
Speak so you can’t be edited. I media coached a former Jesuit priest for CBS’ “60 Minutes” who was protesting the sexual harassment he had endured that led him to leave the priesthood. The show was called “Is the Catholic Church above the Law?” I played Mike Wallace. He got Morley Safer. He said the interview was easy after what I put him through. He was positioned positively. It could easily have gone the other way—except for one thing: When I taught him to only speak phrases that couldn’t be truncated and spliced to change his meaning, the six hours of taping that was edited down to five minutes turned in his favor.
Does this take lots of practice? Yes. But it can be done. The harder you are on your CEO or spokesperson, the better it is for him. Better you making him sweat and swear than Mike Wallace. By the way, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court and he won.
Create modular sound bites. I was media coaching a CEO of an up-and-coming company positioning itself to go public. The company was targeting business shows on MSN, CBS, CNN and wanted to attract investors. We created sound bites to include facts about the company’s financial well being, about the internal health of the company and employee happiness, and the ways that they were innovators in their field. Plus the company was growing fast, adding new stores nationwide at record speed, while staying in the black.
We took those same stories and angled them for the company’s other two audiences: consumers and trade. And we worked the CEO’s passion for fly-fishing into the mix, which brought out his sweetness.
Pro tip: Work with your CEO or spokesperson not to memorize talking points, but to make them modular—to flex his ideas into different shapes and sizes for different audiences. Make him human and lovable by establishing some key stories about his personal life, which exemplify how well he leads her people—which is what we really want to see. We need more leaders and fewer protectors of the bottom line.
Move people with your good spirit. Words are less important than you think, likability more. In the Gallup poll taken during each presidential election since 1960, the candidate who scored highest in the likeability category has won every election.
Making your CEO likable is crucial to his success in the media.
I was working with a CEO of a popular magazine who had a brilliant mind, was a talented athlete, but wooden.
As soon as I encouraged him to speak of his youngest daughter, his whole demeanor softened. His VP of PR cooed, “Oh, you just got soooo handsome.” It was true.
Once I coached him to speak from that place of the pride and love he had in his daughter he could talk about the difficult situation in his industry that directly impacted his magazine—formerly a stumbling block—with ease and grace.
The more open your CEO or spokesperson is, the more powerful he is. Practice having him remain open and loving when you grill him with tough questions.
That may sound ridiculous, but when we speak as if we were addressing a beloved child it’s pretty hard for the media to retaliate with the same vehemence than toward a man holding a sword ready to strike.
Spending time with your CEO or spokesperson to hone his sound bites, body and facial language to suit any situation will help make rich poetry in troubled times.