Shows like the Today Show, Good Morning America, and the CBS Early Show can make or break a brand, and because of this getting placed on them 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 post-show). That means it's important that you are aware of a few rules while you're pitching if you want great results. In the spirit of creating great pitches for television shows, I'll be including the tips in a bulletted list. Why, you may ask? Because it's easier for the eye to read bulletted lists, they aren't all clumped together. It helps producers pick out the most important parts of your pitch easily. Look at that I gave you a free tip before you even started!
Now on to more tips:
I recently pitched a program and the producer who I know and trust and work with regularly sent me the following thoughts back that resonated with me, and I posted them on my desk as a reminder about how to pitch morning shows. She said that when I write the pitch I was asking her about make sure I answer the following in my pitch: "Why should people care? Will you make them laugh? Will you move them to act in some way?" What's the WHY NOW that will make a producer commit to this story? 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 (not directly) in so many words. Hopefully only a few, as almost every producer said to me when I was compiling this list "tell them to keep it short and simple or I will stop reading".
So as I was saying:
* Keep it simple. Keep your pitch to no more than a paragraph (short) and include bullets that illustrate the major points of your pitch.
* 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 that they may not put on right away. If you can spin yourself into a new angel 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 - or darn near close? Are you talking over their heads? Are you interesting?
* Visuals! 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 CHANGE THE CHANNEL so keep them entertained.
* Speaking of your pretty face, if you intend to be the person presenting the segment, you better have a head shot or recent photo of yourself to share - they will want to know who is going on 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!
* 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 them see what you can talk about and how it will fit in the program.
* Be sure your pitch (whether for a product, story or expert) clearly shows them how the segment will go. You want to pitch exactly what you will be doing so they can see how it will fit into the overall show.
* Know WHEN and WHAT you're pitching. In the blog leading to this article, I discussed that you must know the outlet you are 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 and know it well! It's also essential for morning shows like GMA, Today, and the CBS Early Show that you know what hour you want to pitch (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 by: reading their 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 AM in the AM every morning I get 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!
* 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 overpromise, and don't say you are going to be available if you are heading off on a 4 week vacation
* 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 and move to the other, and 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, you have developed a relationship with them, and you're doing this over email
* Only promise exclusivity when you are honestly giving it
* 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.
* 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
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. Best of luck - we look forward to hearing your stories of success!