(Caution: This post contains lots of hockey references – apologies to non-sports fans)
For many clients, broadcast coverage is the pinnacle of our PR efforts. For PR pros that means racking our brains for every possible angle to secure that valuable air time – both local and national. While I’m sure every pitch has a unique and interesting story to tell (at least I hope they do), the odds of success are just so small considering the strong competition you’re going up against every day.
This got me thinking about a conversation I had with one of my colleagues. We both share a love of hockey — and also a hatred for each other’s favorite teams. After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years this past season, she said something along the lines of, “it’s really amazing because it’s just so hard to win one, let alone three.” That phrase pretty much encapsulates the process of pitching your clients for broadcast.
Securing that big broadcast interview is enough to make you want to do laps around the office, albeit without holding a shiny trophy over your head. However, while the euphoria lasts for a couple days or even weeks, pretty soon another client is looking for that broadcast coverage and you’re back to Round One of the playoffs, slugging it out with every other PR pro who’s pitching a client with a timely news hook or interesting feature story.
Fortunately, you should have an ace up your sleeve that gives you an advantage over the competition, and that’s your experience of having been to the promised land before and building that relationship with the producer. However, even if you’ve provided an awesome segment, there are several ways for you to ruin your attempt at repeat success. Here are five easy but very important things not to do in order to keep your odds of success high.
Don’t ask for questions ahead of time – You may think this is an easy request to help your client, but if you’re the one who pitched the story you should be able to anticipate any and all questions. Also, any good producer will tell you it’s not a good idea because your client can get thrown off if the anchor goes off script – and trust me this will happen. The most important thing you can do is to help guide those questions by providing the producer with the talking points you think are relevant.
Obviously, if a producer reaches out to you to have your client on the air, then it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them for talking points, but I’d still recommend against asking for exact questions.
Don’t be late or cancel last second – This may seem obvious, but I can’t stress it enough. Stress with your client that this is the most important interview or appearance they’ll ever do. But, if you think there’s any chance of a possible cancellation, let the producer know as soon as possible! The closer you get to show time, the tougher it becomes for a producer to fill that block of time. Even arriving five minutes late can cause massive problems in the control room as producers scramble to re-arrange the show to ensure they’re hitting proper break and commercial times. Always ask the producer what time they’d like your client to be there, and then tell your client 15-30 minutes earlier than that.
Don’t send a client unprepared – This happens more often than you think. Producers dread playing up an interview to an anchor, only to have the guest respond to questions on air with short one liners and a bunch of answers that begin with “I’m not sure.” What you may think is the most interesting aspect of your client’s story, might not be as interesting to the anchor. To ensure ultimate preparation, spend at least a half hour in person or on the phone with your client, asking any and all questions that you think could come up. Don’t be afraid to get aggressive or address sensitive topics– five minutes of discomfort with your client is better than an on-air flop.
Don’t ask for a copy of the interview immediately after it airs – This is one that may not seem so obvious. For many stations, making a clean copy of the interview involves pulling an air tape and copying it over to DVD and requires the producer to involve other people. It’s just a hassle. Your best bet is to alert the producer ahead of time that you would like a copy, giving them time to record the segment as it’s airing.
Don’t follow up with another immediate pitch for another client — Finally, give the producer some time to breathe. Obviously it’s ok to follow up with a thank you e-mail and to ask how the producer and anchor thought it went, but don’t immediately go into a spiel for another client. It just comes across as a bit too desperate. Much like the hockey off-season gives Stanley Cup Champions the time to refresh for the next season’s battle, giving a producer some time to reflect on your (hopefully) successful segment, builds anticipation for the next time your name appears in their inbox.
Securing that first broadcast interview is only half the battle. I hope some of these tips help you in the ongoing quest to build and maintain those all-important broadcast relationships. Have any other tips for impressing broadcast producers? Feel free to share below!