Shows like the Today Show, Good Morning America, and the CBS Early Show can make or break a brand. Therefore getting covered on a morning show is highly competitive. Their producers work hard and the shows themselves compete against each other for ratings (they check out who had more viewers every morning after the show). That means it's important that you are aware of a few rules while you're pitching if you want great results.
When I ran a PR agency, I received a great piece of advice from a producer at the Today Show who I work with regularly. She sent me the following thoughts on how she evaluates pitches. These resonated with me, and I posted them on my desk as a reminder about how to pitch morning shows.
She asks herself these questions with every pitch she reads:
- Why should people care?
- Will you make them laugh?
- Will you move them to act in some way?"
- What's the WHY NOW? Why must my readers see this story and know about this company right now? We have less time to fill then some of the other morning shows, so why should we put this story in?
Those were great questions, and are things you should ask yourself EVERY time you pitch a morning show. Be sure your pitch answers those questions in so many words. And hopefully only a few words will suffice, as almost every producer said to me when I was compiling this list:
Alright then! Here's the list of what you need to know when pitching the Today Show or any national morning show.
- Keep it simple.
Keep your pitch to no more than a paragraph (short) and include bullets that illustrate the major points of your pitch. I reached out to another producer friend to see what she likes in a pitch, and here was what she said: "Tell them to keep it short and simple or I will stop reading."
- Keep it seasonal and relevant.
Think about what the season is, and what it will be 1-2 weeks from now. If you are pitching a "fluff" segment, they may not put it on right away. If you can spin yourself into a new angle for a breaking news story do so here and now. Describe how you are relevant.
- Think about your viewers.
These morning show viewers include 85 year old grandmothers in Indiana and 25 year old college students in California. How will you be relevant to all of them? Are you talking over their heads? Are you interesting?
- Visualize it.
What will people see in the 2-3 minutes you are on? Will you have a prop? A fashion show? A child demonstrating something? Food? Let them know - this is television and though your pretty face is all well and good, they want that viewer to not pick up the remote and change the channel, so keep the viewer entertained. Be sure your pitch (whether for a product, story or expert) clearly shows the producer how the segment can unfold. You want to pitch exactly what you will be doing so they can see how it will fit into the overall show.
- Your headshot.
Speaking of you going on television - if you will be presenting yourself as an expert, have a one-sheet, photo, and a list of topics you can discuss that will be relevant to their audience, as this will help the producer see what you can talk about and how it will fit in the program. The same rules apply here as they do to online dating, don't send a photo that is not recent, honest or clear!
SEE ALSO: How to Take an Easy-Peasy Headshot at Home
- Know WHEN and WHAT you're pitching.
You must know what the show covers regulalry, who covers it, the style, the audience - every factor! You need to know this in order to pitch in the style and context of what these producers want, and you want to sound like you know it well!
- What slot do you want?
Knowing what time your story would fit in is essential for pitching morning shows like GMA, Today, and the CBS Early Show. You need to know if your story will match what subject matter is covered in the hourly slots (9-10? weekend 7-8? 10-11 with Kathie Lee & Hoda?). Each hour has its own style, hosts, and producers. So before you reach out - even if you are starting your pitch at the information desk - you must know which hour you are gunning for and how you will approach them.
- Get to know more about the show and producers.
Read the shows' blogs, their websites, their RSS feeds, the style of their segments. If you don't really like or follow a show, how can you expect to properly pitch them? Also - you may actually learn to love these things. I personally read Adam Miller (of the Today Show at NBC) and his Today Show blog. I learn a lot, I see things behind the scenes, and I get to know what the show does on a daily basis. Good research and just a good read in general!
- Facts and statistics.
Support yourself with relevant facts or statistics when possible if it will add to the impact of your story. Be sure you can back them up immediately if asked to.
- Never lie in a pitch.
Don't over-promise, and don't say you are going to be available if you are heading off on a 4-week vacation.
- Speed pitching could kill your story.
Keep in mind, if you pitch every morning show at once and two of them ask for your story, you can only do one. If you do the same story with both (and don't worry you never will because if they want you they will ask you for exclusivity), but if for some crazy reason you double booked, you would never work with either of them again. Nor would you if you blew one off last minute, they would see you on their competitor's show. For that reason I don't ever double pitch. I will start with one show and move to the other. I will be honest and say "hey XXXX, I know we've been going back and forth on this story, and I understand you're working on making a decision. I feel that the timeliness of this story is slipping away so I'd like to take it to another show if you have no interest. You are my first choice as I love XXX about your show, but I can't wait much longer." Of course, you only say this when they have shown interest. Don't say this if you have never gotten a reply from a producer.
- Keep it short.
Keep your pitch short, catchy, relevant, and to the point and include bullets. There I said it again! Test it on your friends - or your mom, aunt, or grandmother
- Be patient.
Rome wasn't built in a day, these producers are super busy and get thousands of pitches. Don't inundate them with follow ups. Never follow up more than once a week unless you have been asked to or you have pitch that is make or break it on a deadline, or you know them well enough to now bug them by doing this.
SEE ALSO: #PRTuneUp: PR Mishaps & Mistakes: Your Questions Answered
- Spell check!
Read your pitch through and be sure it's spelling and grammar free - and never have a headline that is full of punctuation (multiple explanation marks) or all upper case letters
- If it's not a fit...
Finally, remember that if one pitch doesn't work for one show, it may work for another. Find your best fit....with news stories just like with dating, there tends to be a lid for every pot. It's all about the presentation, finding your best match, timing, and tenacity.
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