An important part of our job here at Nardi Media is to land our amazing clients on TV, but it’s truly an art! Whether you’re thinking about working with us, working with someone else, or want to get on TV on your own, it’s crucial to educate yourself and to be prepared so you can master getting on TV!
That’s why I recently spoke to our very own Lead Publicist and “TV Whisperer” here at Nardi Media, Blaine Heck, to dish her secrets on what it takes to land a TV placement.
Blaine has been with Nardi Media for almost 3 years, but she’s been working in PR for 12 years, dabbling in PR firms, tech PR, and publishing PR before she joined Nardi Media and realized her passion for TV pitching.
Keep scrolling for a recap of our conversation!
- Ashley: First, how has the TV landscape changed and evolved since COVID?
- Blaine: Before COVID, it was about getting clients to understand that if you want TV, you have to fly. Zoom wasn’t an option then, and you had to come up with a budget just to travel for interviews. But in March 2020, everything changed. We all thought in the beginning that this was temporary, but it’s now two years later and I don’t see it changing. I don’t think I’ve had one client in the studio for an interview since March 5, 2020!
- Ashley: And just to give some perspective, this is out of about 100 TV interviews you’ve booked. It’s not like it’s two TV hits a year, it’s two TV hits a day.
- Blaine: Yes, it’s actually more like 200! The frequency depends on our clients and what we were pitching, so remote interviews make it so much easier for our clients. Instead of focusing on getting our clients in 10 TV interviews because of where our clients are based, now we can go for 20 or more because it doesn’t matter where you live and it makes it so much easier!
- Ashley: I agree, and the reason that TV bookers didn’t want to do remote interviews in the past is that when I was a TV producer, I thought my conversations were more engaging when I had the guest in studio, but we’ve actually been proven wrong! These conversations can be just as engaging virtually. I think the days of TV interviews are gone, at least for a while.
- Blaine: The only thing I see changing is cooking segments. If you’re a chef or writing a cookbook, just keep in mind that it’s tough to do a cooking segment virtually, and it’s definitely easier to do in studio. But for anyone else, even producers prefer you to take the interview remotely anyway.
- Ashley: So, where does a booking producer start when looking for a guest?
- Blaine: It depends. If it’s a national producer, they’re looking for someone who’s done local TV. If you want to be on national TV, we have to show that there has to be a nice abundance of where you’ve appeared, and while speaking engagements are great, they’ll look for TV examples so they can see that you know how to talk on camera. They’re also making sure that you can relate to their audience. For example, NBC New York is much different than NBC LA because New York caters to news in New York and LA actually covers a lot of lifestyle content. And The Doctors vs. The Today Show is completely different.
- Ashley: Yes, know who you’re pitching, from the market, the demographic, and the geographic location. Let’s talk about urgency. TV is so fast-paced because they have air time they need coverage for. Oftentimes when news breaks, they need someone to speak to it right away. How is this different from print/online and podcast pitching?
- Blaine: Well, first we can differentiate between local and national TV because if a local producer is interested in having our client come on as a guest, it needs to be confirmed almost immediately because it’s for an interview as soon as today or tomorrow. And the good news is if you feel like you’ve missed a great opportunity and it’s happening very soon, it’s still worth pitching local because there are always moving parts and they might need a guest. National is a longer lead. For example, we’re pitching some of our clients for National Financial Literacy Month, which is in April, right now even though it’s early February. You want to get in early, but not too early that they forget about you.
- Ashley: We’ve definitely perfected the recipe for a perfect pitch over the years, but for those who don’t know and want advice, what is the secret sauce to a perfect pitch?
- Blaine: Subject lines! It’s so important because they get hundreds every day. I find that it’s helpful to put their name in it especially if you have a relationship with that person. You also want to make it catchy so you can hook them from the beginning, and the shorter the better. For the body of the email, if it’s national and I know the person, sometimes I just put “Hi I have XYZ available I thought you might be interested. I don’t want to make this email too long, but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll send you details.” If I don’t know the person, I’ll add in some more context so they know the client and their message, but the subject line and the first couple of sentences are what will bring it in.
- Ashley: Let’s talk about the first couple of sentences because what I’ve found is it helps to name the problem, and then name our clients who have the solution to the problem. Then we add talking points underneath. In my opinion, the subject line is the most important and the talking points are the second most important because a producer wants to know the takeaways or tips from our client in a digestible format. Have you found that, too?
- Blaine: Yes, I’ve found that if you don’t include tips from the client you won’t get a response. And sometimes we have to ask for those from our clients because we aren’t the experts in their field. It’s also important to make sure they’re actionable tips. Think, what can this audience gain from my work or message? They have to be relatable and actionable tips that are helpful for viewers.
- Ashley: And going back to timing, I want to point out that if you’re pitching local, you better be available! My biggest pet peeve as a local TV producer was needing a guest sometime in the next few days and they’d tell me they’re on vacation! It’s such a waste of time and time is so precious when you’re a TV producer.
- Blaine: It’s so important and that’s why we try to get blackout dates from our clients so we have that information up front and don’t waste anyone’s time. If we’re newsjumping, I always ask my clients if they’re available that day to go on TV because I never want to assume.
- Ashley: Ok, now I want to talk about streaming TV. This has grown exponentially in the last few years. What have you seen?
- Blaine: It’s changed so much just in the last six months, especially during COVID. Fox News Now, NBC News Now, and Cheddar, are just a few free national news channels that you can stream online. That’s where a lot of people are getting their news now so it’s good to educate yourself on them. They’ve been a gamechanger when pitching because we’re able to get more clients on TV. It’s definitely not something to overlook!
- Ashley: Someone once asked me how important it is to have a decent home studio, so let’s talk about that. First, I’ve found that it’s important for your background to have depth instead of sitting in front of a white wall. This is also an opportunity to give viewers a peek into your personal life. I usually take interviews from my home office with my bookshelf in the background because I’m a book publicist. You also want to make sure your lighting is good. You want to have natural lighting face you instead of behind you, and if you don’t have natural lighting, I would get lamps to put next to you or a ring light. I recommend testing it all out before you go live on TV!
- Blaine: You right now, in your living room with your couch and a picture on the wall behind you is the perfect backdrop!
- Ashley: Thanks! Ok next topic. Why is it so important to sell your expertise rather than your book or product?
- Blaine: Producers don’t like it because it’s too salesy and promotional, and most guests actually pay to promote their product. Instead, we want to do organic PR to get viewers to come to you and use you as a resource and an expert in your field, so if you have more likes and followers on your Instagram and more visits to your website after a TV interview, it’s a win. Of course, as book publicists we want them to show the cover of the book, so we’ll share it with the producer and ask them to flash it, and 99% of them will say yes. The producers will also ask where viewers can find you, and that is the client’s job to mention their website, plus their book or product and where to purchase it.
- Ashley: When we’re pitching, who do we actually pitch? A lot of people think we can pitch anchors or reporters but they aren’t decision-makers.
- Blaine: It depends. There are executive producers, but don’t bother pitching them because they’ll kick it down to their team anyway. There are also different types of producers, so you have to make sure you’re pitching the right one. For example, there are lifestyle producers, morning producers, you name it, so you want to make sure you’re doing your research and finding the right person. I do have success pitching anchors but only if the story matters to them. For example, we have a great book that I pitched around Black Lives Matter to a Fox News anchor in Chicago because I know she’s a fan of the authors and has been on their podcast. You can also pitch writers because they really need content for their show.
- Ashley: What about media training? Tell me what you see happen when people have media training.
- Blaine: There’s a difference between media training for an in-studio interview and a remote interview. Even if you’ve been on TV 100 times in studio, you have to make sure you have the right lighting, are in the right space, are wearing the right clothes, etc. It’s just a different game. Sometimes it takes one interview for someone to realize that they do actually need media training for remote, and so we’ll help them with that. It’s also amazing how many things you don’t think of when you’re getting ready to do a remote interview. For example, muting the apps on your computer so the notifications don’t go off during the interview. So, media training is important to consider whether you’re familiar with TV interviews or not.
- Ashley: Yes, and we offer media training at nardimedia.com if anyone is interested. Any parting thoughts?
- Blaine: Be persistent, but be pleasantly persistent! And be patient. The world is going through a lot right now and so are the people you are pitching. If you need an answer, be compassionate and realize they’re dealing with a lot like we all are.
CLICK HERE to watch my full IG LIVE with Blaine on Instagram and subscribe to Nardi Media’s newsletter HERE to stay up to date on our upcoming Instagram Lives!