Every week I write about the things I think can help people do a better job of marketing themselves by using PR. From a purely media standpoint, it makes sense for me to do that. After all, I’m the CEO. I wrote the book. I’m the expert.
But, I am profoundly proud to say that I am not the only expert. At EMSI we have a team of experts and quite frankly, this team is one of the best I have had in my 21 years of running this business. The work they do on a daily basis is phenomenal.
I thought I would introduce you to them, one by one, over the summer months, and allow them to tell you about what they do every day to book interviews on radio and TV and obtain print coverage. I believe it can be truly enlightening and helpful for you to learn how they overcome obstacles and meet challenges in order to consistently arrange media day in, day out, week in and week out.
The first person I interviewed for this project was Lisa Hess, who joined EMSI more than six years ago. She’s our TV Campaign Manager and her job is to book our clients as guests and expert news commentators on local and national TV programs. She books an average of about 20 TV interviews a month on national and local shows all over the country. She has placed guests on shows like Fox & Friends, Live with Regis and Kelly, CBS Early Show, CNN and The 700 Club to name a few, as well as many top local and regional shows.
Lisa is smart, savvy and as relentless as they come. She knows what makes producers tick and as a result is one of the most prolific media bookers I have ever seen.
I asked her about her job, her daily routines and some of the challenges she faces on a regular basis. These are her answers.
Walk us through a typical day in the life in your job.
I usually get in by 8:25 a.m. and go through my emails and answer anything urgent. Then, I go into our staff meeting where I have a chance to discuss my plan for the day, based on the campaigns I have in the works, and review new pitches that have to get written in order to have a successful week.
Right after the meeting, I check out news headlines to see if any of our national TV clients match what is going on in the news. If they do, I contact the client immediately, asking for their comments, so that we can put together a pitch and get it out by noon at the latest. Any later than noon and I’ll miss the window to get it in front of producers.
Next I follow up on any media responses that might have come in overnight and answer any urgent client emails. After that, I choose which clients to work on for local TV appearances, based on the time zone and the dates the client is to be in that town. If I’m pitching them to a city I have not previously worked with, I create a list of producers and shows and then email blast the pitch. In this way, I balance the incoming responses for the day with new pitches flowing out to producers and making phone calls as needed.
When you’re pursuing local TV appearances for clients in specific city’s, how do you approach it?
When pursuing local TV appearances in the top 100 markets, you can expect there to be about 200 contacts per city. Now, this takes into account everyone in the production food chain, including hosts, anchors, reporters, producers, executive producers, assignment editors and more. The reason I reach out to all these different people is because just about anyone in that chain can recommend a guest for a segment. Also, you never know what the different producers and reporters are working on, and you could get lucky and pitch them on exactly the right guest at the right time. For instance, if a reporter is working on a story about new methods for job hunting, and you’re a job coach who contacts that reporter, you might be a perfect fit for that segment.
Is there a difference between pitching local TV producers and national TV producers?
Absolutely. Local producers look for things that are light and fluffy and guests that provide information or tips that their viewers can make use of in their daily lives. For example, an expert who can offer unique ways to save money on your food bill is more attractive to a local TV producer than an expert who wants to comment on the breaking economic news of the day.
On the other hand, most of the national producers we deal with are interested in general commentary on the economy, politics, a wide range of consumer trends and top national news story’s. Celebrities, when we have a story related to them, are also good for national producers. They also love experts who can comment on breaking news. In the past, we had a former military pilot who had written a book on crisis management as a client and he happened to come on board right when “Sully” Sullenberg made his famous landing on the Hudson River. We booked him consistently for about two weeks to comment on that story.
Another recent example is a gentleman who came to us with a memoir about being kidnapped by his estranged father as a young child and who was terribly abused during six months in captivity. His expertise was unique and we had great success with booking him on shows that were running stories on both the Elizabeth Smart case and the Jaycee Dugard case. When you have those opportunities, it’s like capturing lightning in a bottle. It hits hard, but lasts for a short period of time, depending on the developments in the news cycle.
Tell us your favorite recent placement and how you got it.
I would have to say it was scoring a two-part interview for one of our clients with Regis and Kelly, only it wasn’t actually Regis and Kelly who wound up doing the interview. As it turned out, Neil Patrick Harris was subbing for Regis that week, which worked out fine because he conducted a wonderful interview.
After a nice little wave of coverage based on an earlier pitch that garnered us bookings on CNN International, Fox Business and a few other national shows, we decided to switch gears and come up with a new angle. We decided on a “job makeover” pitch and fleshed out the idea with new and unique tips for scoring a new job combined with some fashion and style tips on how to dress for the big interview. Our client had a friend who was a stylist and she was going to take part in the segment. So we sent it out to the larger national shows, including Regis and Kelly. Regis’ producer responded and asked if our client could do the segment alone, just on tips for jobs – how to find them, how to get them. But she needed a better plan for the segment to present to her boss, the executive producer. So I came up with the idea while driving home from work that day about a segment that revolved around the do’s and don’ts of getting a new job. The client and I brainstormed a bit the next morning with our strategist and we came up with a really great segment, complete with tips, statistics and graphics – everything the producer would need to not only sell the segment, but produce it, as well.
The way the segment aired really made use of all our work. Harris and Kelly sat on chairs to the right and our client sat facing them. On the back wall of the set was a giant screen, where they projected our bullet-pointed tips as they interviewed our client. It was a little bizarre watching all the work we had done in our office being broadcast on national TV, with very little editing from the Regis and Kelly production team. It proved to us that the best way we can serve our clients is to be of service to the media. When we can make their jobs easier by presenting them with good material and a good segment that’s going to be interesting to their viewers, the producers will keep coming back to us for more.
(Here’s a link to that interview: www.emsincorporated.com/live-regis-kelly-january-7-2011-dr-michael-woody-woodward/.)
What’s your advice for someone looking to do a TV PR campaign?
Keep in mind a few key concepts. First, doing one or two local or national interviews is not going to instantly catapult you into the spotlight. It is a process, a ladder that has to be climbed one rung at a time. Second, it’s not just about the booking. It’s about the execution. Getting booked on TV is only half the solution. You have to be really good when you get on the air. So, regardless whether you’ve done dozens or TV interviews before or you’re a total novice, you should be open to the idea of media training. We do that with all our TV clients, including you, Marsha, if I recall correctly.
Finally, when you get on TV, don’t sell. Educate. People fast-forward through commercials because they hate being sold all the time. If you try to sell in your segment, they’ll fast-forward through you, too. If you educate and provide the viewers with information that can help them in their lives, they’ll be far more inclined to buy what you’re selling. The TV camera does more than put a few extra pounds on you. It can spot a fake and it can also make someone who is genuine look truly sincere. Just be yourself and let your expertise be your main tool on the air.