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Angling Especially for TV? Here’s How

by Marcia Yudkin 

Some publicity seekers find TV the toughest medium to crack. Whether or not that’s true, it can also be the toughest medium in which to pull off a masterful appearance. 

Factors that have little or no impact on how well you come across print can sabotage your effectiveness on television. For example, when Caroline Kennedy attempted to explain why she wanted an appointment to Hillary Clinton’s New York senatorial seat, her profuse “you know”s and “um”s provoked ridicule from TV commentators as the video clips rolled. The same mannerisms during a print interview would normally have been edited out. Likewise, someone’s haggard appearance, poor grooming or inappropriate outfit can distract viewers from an interviewee’s spoken message.

But if you’re determined to shine in the television spotlight, here are four things you need to know.

1. Deadlines are short. The up-to-the-minute nature of TV news means that on the one hand, producers are always scrambling for guests and interviewees relevant to the day’s news, and on the other hand, even the most well-planned appearance set months in advance can get bumped for a more timely topic. 

If you live or work in a city with a TV news station, I suggest you monitor the news for developments related to your expertise and call them immediately when something happens on which you can comment or provide a local angle.

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For instance, let’s say you provide estate planning services and Congress is considering changes in the estate tax laws. You should call your local station (ask to speak to the news desk) and in two sentences or less, say that you can explain how the bill up for a vote soon in Congress would affect families and businesses in the Metroplex. Or suppose you run a homeless shelter and a formerly homeless person elsewhere in the country publishes a novel to great acclaim. With the permission of those involved, you can call and offer interviews with creative, talented residents of your shelter who could be the next Willa Writer. 

2. TV is intensely visual. Plan story ideas or events with this fact in mind, and you’ll get much more air time for your business or your cause. If you raise rare tropical fish, describe how large, colorful and active they are, along with the hypnotic rotating lights. Likewise, don’t simply schedule a protest. Invite your friends who have life-sized marionettes to show up, and tell the media they’ll be there.

3. Showing your experience helps. When you have a long list of media credits, producers draw the conclusion that you understand how to cooperate with a broadcast crew as well as how to perform in a TV-worthy fashion. If this applies to you, mention your previous publicity successes at your web site on a “Media” page or “About” page. Better yet, post or link to video snippets of broadcast appearances. If you haven’t yet had TV experience, any sort of lively online video clip can help producers feel more comfortable booking you.

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4. Catchy wording helps. Watchable TV requires sound bites – verbal nuggets that summarize a point of view in a crisp, captivating way. If your spoken or written pitch contains quotable gems, you’re more likely to be invited on the air and have a memorable minute or two. 

For instance, when the international banking system went into a meltdown, a bank in my community put out an ad headlined “There is Safety in OUR Numbers” – a great sound bite. Horror writer Stephen King once commented, “I have the world’s best job. I get paid to hang out in my imagination all day long” – also highly quotable. 

Speechwriters for politicians and advertising agencies are specialists in creating sound bites, but if you can show your skill at biting wordplay, you too can become a TV darling.

Good luck with your TV ambitions!

Copyright 2009 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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