How to Promote Yourself as a TV Guest

Author of “You’re On The Air” explains how to be a TV guest.

The key to getting on a show is to convince the decision makers that you can make their lives easier by helping them create a good show for their audience.

In order to be successful at becoming a media guest, you have to think like a producer. These people are responsible for creating the idea for a segment or a show as well as for finding guests to appear on a show. The topic has to be of interest to the audience, and the guests have to be interesting and entertaining enough to hold the audience’s attention. They do not care about your goals. They want to increase ratings and keep their jobs.

Although each producer has his or her own preferences and idiosyncrasies, you will increase your chances of success by contacting the producer of the show, not the host or president of the network. You might think it will save time on major shows to go directly to the host with your show idea, but do not do so. Your package will be intercepted long before it gets to him or her, and you will not make friends with the producers by trying to bypass them. Know the hierarchy in the medium and pitch to the appropriate person.

If you’re an author, call ahead of time to find out if the show engages authors. Before you call, have a 30-second sales pitch prepared that will get the producer’s attention and make him or her willing to read your complete kit once it arrives. It does not have to be long; in fact it is better if it is not long. For an example of what to say, listen to how the media use 5-second promos to entice you to watch their shows: “Women who leave their husbands for other women, today on Geraldo.”

Create a press kit

Knowing the name of the appropriate people to contact is not enough. Now you have to send them a proposal that will compel them to pursue you as a guest. The tool for doing that is a press kit (also called a media kit). This is a folder containing the basic facts about why you and your topic will make an interesting show for the audience. It is not as much about you as much as it is about what you can do. There are really no standards for what should be in the kit, except that it should be written from the point of view of: “Here is what I can do for your audience and make your life a whole lot easier.”

The objective of your press kit is to entice the reader to call you for more details. Present a unique, positive image of yourself as a qualified guest who can talk about your topic better than any other authority.

According to Patty Neger (producer, “Good Morning America”), a producer may receive 50 proposals every day–so your press kit must stand out from all the others received. Therefore, the key to a successful submission is your one-page summary. Spend time to make it compelling and personal. Get the producer’s attention immediately by demonstrating you know who his or her audience is and how you can help the show. In one page, persuade the producers to consider you as a guest by being clear, concise and creative.

Your press kit will be much more effective if you remember one thing: producers do not care about you or your book. As discussed before, all they care about is creating a good show, and they are constantly looking for ways to do that. Therefore, begin your letter with a headline describing why your idea will be important to the show’s audience.

Here is an outline you can use to tell a producer concisely what you can do for him or her:

  • Headline: Why your idea will interest the show’s audience.
  • What your idea is about.
  • Why it is perfect for this show’s audience.
  • How it ties in with a major current event.
  • Why you are the best person to talk about it.
  • Other guests you can provide for the show.
  • The name, address and telephone number of the person to contact to book you as a guest.In large-type, bulleted format, tell what your topic is and why it will be of interest to the audience. Be descriptive, not fancy.

    Tell who you are and why you have the credentials to make these statements. List the two or three major points that will hold the attention of the audience. Tie your subject in with a major national news event, if appropriate. Be creative, but not frivolous. Do not include “confetti” just to get the recipient’s attention. You want your audience to focus on your proposal by proving you know the audience, and you have an idea that will interest it.

    Your proposal should always make a connection between your subject and what will interest the audience. Is yours a timely subject that sheds light on a late-breaking event? Is there any controversy or debate value in your topic? Is it a new story (or a new twist on an old story) that will convey something different to the viewers, readers or listeners? Describe why your book is unique, different from all the other ones written on the same topic (if that’s the case).

    The producer is responsible for creating a cohesive show, not just a series of guests. So, instead of pitching yourself as the perfect guest, send him or her your idea for a complete show revolving around your topic. This could focus on you, or it could involve a panel of guests made up of people you recommend.

    Your proposal will be ineffective in breaking through the producer’s preoccupation if your message is not clear. Do not bury your important words in cliches and rhetoric. Briefly state what you want to occur and why it is in the audience’s best interest to hear what you have to say.

    Now that you have the producer’s attention, provide additional information in your media kit. Do not be shy about putting your best foot forward, and consider including these other elements in every package you send:

    1) A brief autobiography describing your major accomplishments in your subject area. Be creative but don’t reduce your credibility. Your resume should present you as the authority on the subject, one who will present accurate and believable information to the audience. Convince the decision-maker that:

    * You are a recognized expert in the field and a credible source of information. List your credentials in the field. Establish a feeling of confidence in the producer that you are qualified to speak on your topic and can handle questions from the host and the audience competently and authoritatively.

    * You are knowledgeable about issues important to the show’s audience. Be specific in your remarks. Speak the jargon of the viewer or listener.

    * You are intelligent, articulate, likable and, entertaining. It is difficult to demonstrate these qualities by talking about them. Quotations from producers attesting to your presentation skills will be more effective. Include a list of your previous media appearances and testimonials from producers and hosts. Use these to build your credibility as an informative, entertaining guest who has the best interests of the audience in mind.

    2. A photo taken professionally, perhaps with a background suitable to your subject (in a kitchen for a cookbook). You may choose to have your photo printed on your letterhead to avoid the possibility of the photo becoming separated from the package. It is not necessary to include a photo in a package sent to a radio station.

    Always write your name on the margin of your photo in case it is separated from your press kit. If you would like a professional-looking photo from your original, with your name (or caption) printed on the border, contact Jemtech Photo Service, 3700 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201, (412) 621-0331, fax (412) 621-3058.

    3. A fact sheet about your book or product with the price and any other information the audience will need to purchase it. List stores selling your book in the station’s market area.

    4. A list of questions the host can ask you. These questions should direct the conversation to topics you feel are important and address them in the order in which you want to discuss them. Although hosts do not want to be spoon-fed, they do not mind being guided. If you are concerned about the host’s reaction to your list of questions, you could stress that the questions are meant to define background information or to explain jargon that is critical for the audience to understand the overall concept. No host could be offended with that approach. Your questions also demonstrate areas in which you are not prepared to talk.

    5. A copy of your book or sample of your product. To minimize this expense, determine beforehand if the recipient needs a copy. Most will. It is not necessary to send new books to radio stations, so save your damaged books for them. If you are pitching a product, you may want to include a photograph instead of the item itself.

    6. Copies of relevant reviews, testimonials and newspaper articles. Also, include a summary of your travel calendar, giving the producer a variety of dates from which to choose.

    7. A demo tape containing segments of shows on which you have performed. A demo tape consists of examples of you performing on different shows. It could be a video of your television appearances and/or personal presentations. Or it could be an audio tape of various radio shows. When you appear on any show, ask for a copy to be made of it. Then have a professional production company edit various performances to one smooth-flowing tape, usually less than ten minutes in length.

    Some producers may use your press kit, demo tape or EPK (electronic press kit) to help them make a decision. But, they all depend upon their intuition. Before you are booked on a major show, you will receive a telephone call from the producer for a pre-interview. He or she will ask you questions and listen carefully as you respond. Can you sustain a thought? Do you have examples to expand upon your theories? Are you articulate and relaxed? Do you have a sense of humor? Do you have energy? And how many times do you say the words, “in my book”? (hint–it shouldn’t be too many!)

    Taken from Brian Jud’s book, Perpetual Promotion, one of two companion guides to his video, “You’re On The Air.” Author of seventeen titles, Brian is the host of the television show, “The Book Authority.” He can be reached at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; (800) 562-4357; fax (860) 676-0759;