Read what publicity expert, Gina Rubel has to say about what it takes to wow a television or radio producer to give you air time in the September 2004 issue of ExpertPR.
Getting Air Time: The Audition and the Interview
Without fail, a prospective client says, “I want to be on T.V. My competitors are always on T.V. and I’m better and smarter than them.” Well, that’s fine and dandy but how much does that prospect really know about what it takes to get air time?
In today’s broadcast environment, experts and authorities must be more than just smart. They must understand the radio and television mediums, the needs of the producers, the desires of the listening and viewing audiences, and bottom line – what sells. If a leading medical expert has a 32-page C.V. but can’t hold a down-to-earth or controversial conversation, then by all production standards, they are just out of luck. Oftentimes, people that are less knowledgeable and more media savvy are preferred – especially for television – because of their enthusiasm, energy and ability to communicate.
It is rare that you get a television or radio producer on the telephone the first time you try. You will most likely have to leave a voice message for that producer, so what you say and how you say it is critical as to if they will call you back. Here are some rules to follow when leaving a voicemail message for a broadcast producer. These rules hold true for when you get the producer live on the telephone but you must also follow his or her lead and answer his or her questions – being sure that you are not infringing on a deadline.
Tell the listener who you are: Always state your name, the company you are with and your expertise in an energetic and enthusiastic tone.
Always leave your phone number twice, once at the beginning and again at the end of the voicemail. Speak at a fast pace when leaving a voice message BUT slow down and speak clearly when leaving the contact information. It is very frustrating for the listener to miss the phone number and have to replay the message.
Be short and to the point: Never ramble. Lead with your strengths and focus on the benefit to the media outlet’s audience. This will not be your only chance to pitch to that media contact. Practice your “30 Second Pitch” until you can say it naturally and conversationally with enthusiasm and conviction in your voice.
Never leave more than one voice mail: If you do not reach the contact directly, then call until you do.
Keep calling and try to actually speak to the person: Try to find out when they will be available from the receptionist. E-mail the contact letting him or her know you would like to call at a specified time. Then set your clock and call.
Provide additional backup. With the first voice mail, always say you will fax or e-mail information pertaining to your subject matter. This way, the media contact will have something in their hands with your phone number on it which makes it easier for them to contact you.
When following up on your fax or e-mail, never simply say did you get my fax or my e-mail? Always say “I am just following up on my e-mail about . . . . (and go into a few exciting points about your topic). This refreshes their memory and allows you to reiterate your key messages.
Practice leaving yourself a voice mail, and if you get bored listening to yourself then you know you are in trouble!
Speak on the loud side and prepare your pitch. Practice your pitch on some smaller outlets first to work out the glitches. Never wing your pitch. Be prepared.
Be exciting. Remember, you are trying to get yourself on television or radio. The producer will hear you and predict how you will sound on air. Your voice must be strong, unwavering, clear, convicted, consumer-friendly and intelligible.
Your voice mail is an audition for the interview. If they like your voice mail–that is, it is filled with enthusiasm, credentials and knowledge–they will inevitably like you!
Little do many media hungry prospects know, but the initial interview often begins with the outgoing voicemail message on their telephone.
How often have you called a client, colleague, business associate, vendor, or friend and heard a pre-recorded voicemail message that says “Jane Doe” in the person’s voice, then in a pre-recorded voice, “is unavailable at this time. Leave a message after the tone. Beeeeeep.” Wow, that surely stimulates the mind and energizes the soul.
Now take that example to the next level. How often have you heard a broadcast radio or television interview where the interviewee sounds that drab and boring? Let’s say rarely. That’s because broadcast producers are screening potential guests for their programs and the initial interview is often the message on the candidate’s voicemail.
What if that outgoing voicemail message said in a lively and animated tone, “Good day. I am Jane Doe of ABC Company, experts in ABC technology. I would love to speak with you. Your message is important. Please say as much as you’d like and rest assured, I’ll get back to you. Have a great day.” Now, this is certainly as generic as it comes, however, a good voicemail message should have several components – just as if it were a live interview.
Introduce yourself and make sure it is actually your voice. There is nothing worse than hearing a woman’s voice that says, “You have reached Jack Smith’s voicemail…”
Remind the caller who you are and where you work. A producer typically has many voicemail messages, e-mails, pitch letters, and other correspondence in front of him or her. By restating who you are and where you are from, the producer gets refocused. And remember, the more a producer hears your name and company name, the more likely he or she will remember you the next time they need an expert in your industry.
Reiterate your expertise. The reason why you want producers to use you on their shows is because you are an expert on the topic they cover. This also helps your own clients and prospects to get to know you a bit better when they contact you for assistance.
Mention your company tagline in context to the message. Most companies spend thousands of dollars on branding and tagline development and often, the experts in the company fail to use the taglines to their advantage. If your company has a tagline, as not all do, use it. For example, if you were an expert on minority educational issues working for the United Negro College Fund which has had the tagline, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” since 1972, your message might say, “You have reached the voicemail of Jack Smith, Director for the United Negro College Fund. We raise college tuition money and scholarship funds for African-American students, colleges and universities. Remember, a mind is a terrible thing to waste so please leave me a message so I may pay some mind to you.”
There is also a school of thought that says you should change your voicemail message each day and to stand out in the crowd, say something each day that makes a difference. Although this is a great idea, it just isn’t practical for most professionals. Spend some time formulating your effective and lively voicemail message, practice recording the message until you get it right and then record it once. The time and energy it takes to create a daily message can be better spent returning the calls left the previous day. And remember, if a producer calls you and leaves a message, you must respond immediately or the likelihood of you being called in the future is slim. Most television and radio producers are on immediate deadlines so it is up to you to be an available resource.
Once you’ve gotten through the door with your pitch and interviews, there are several things that most producers are looking for when interviewing a prospective guest on their shows. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I stand out from the crowd?
- For television, can I tell the story with pictures – is the story visual?
- For radio, is this story easily told with words?
- Do I know the show and the show’s format?
- Am I able to speak my mind freely and able to back it up?
- Do I appeal to the viewing or listening audience?
- Am I a trusted authority on this topic?
- Can I be a good resource for this producer and the viewing/listening audience?
If you can answer yes to most of these questions, then the producer will too. Now, once you get your foot in the door and are offered air time, it is your job to provide a great on-air spot. Some basic tips include: research your topic, prepare your key messages, know the controversial issues, anticipate difficult questions, listen before you speak, don’t interrupt, be an educator not a salesperson, have a sense of humor, stick to your opinions, don’t waver, and be confident, lively, passionate, positive, energetic, and engaging.
If you follow theses tips from start to finish and become a resource to the producer, it is likely that you will be invited back time and time again.
Gina F. Rubel, Esq. is founder and president of Furia Rubel Communications. She has more than a decade of integrated communications experience. After practicing law for several years, Gina focused on her passion for proactive, integrated communication for the legal, healthcare, and nonprofit industries. She has developed and executed integrated strategic communications plans for large and small firms; supervised crisis communications, risk management and media relations for internationally publicized death penalty trials, planned events for major corporate, nonprofit, and philanthropic gatherings; and implemented programs that include corporate branding, publicity, special events, Web site development, and association relations. Gina has published articles in Lawyers Weekly USA, The Legal Intelligencer, Philadelphia Lawyers Magazine and ExpertPR. She is also a frequent lecturer. Her clients have appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, National Public Radio and much more.
Copyright 2004 Bacon’s Information, Inc. All Rights Reserved.