How to pitch to TV producers
TV is a strange beast. Unlike magazines, newspapers and digital media, most TV producers like to be called first.
They will give you five minutes of their time to pitch the story idea (always check that it’s a good time to speak first) so you need to be able to articulate it quickly.
Best program format
Firstly though, you need to think about what the best way to get your story across would be. What is the best program format for you – morning TV talk shows, business TV or perhaps product placement in a drama or series? What current programs on air would suit you or your business?
If you are targeting women or parents, then morning TV shows (the ones that are on-air between 9am and 11am) are probably a good fit. If your business is more of a B2B ‘fit’ then you might want to approach the news or current affairs or business TV (many are on Sky and the ABC) and if you are prepared to talk on air yourself or have a spokesperson then you could look at breakfast TV – Sunrise or Today.
Who to speak to
TV shows tend to have an executive producer, who runs the whole show and is the ‘boss’ of the segment producers. They make the final decision with regards to what makes it on air. The segment producers are the ones you want to talk to. They often have titles like ‘Lifestyle Producer’ or ‘Parenting Producer’ so always ask if you are speaking to the right person.
The next thing to keep in mind: if the show is currently being aired, wait a while before you call. Breakfast producers tend to work from about 5am to around lunchtime/early afternoon, morning show producers tend to work nine to five and some of the dramas and evening current affairs shows also work nine to five. As we mentioned earlier, always ask if it is a good time first, and avoid calling when the show is actually running.
TV producers of daily shows tend to take the pitches during the week and then they have a production meeting internally on a Monday morning (or one morning a week) where they lock in the segments they want to include, and call everyone back to get book the guests. So don’t be surprised if they sound keen and then don’t confirm for a few days. They also tend to work one to three weeks in advance so you should have time to book that ticket once they confirm.
If you want to try and get on A Current Affair (national) or Today Tonight (which is only on in WA and South Australia now) then you will need to put together more of a ‘package’ that may include a guest speaker, an expert, some research results, customers and/or competitors. These types of shows are really looking for ‘heroes’ or ‘villains’ within the story line so keep that in mind as well, when pitching your idea.
A producer once said that the best pitches he received involved a quick phone call with an overview, and then a follow up email that detailed the story idea or expertise of the potential guest, and then suggested three or four topics that the guest could talk about. If you have an ‘expert’, then include a biography of the potential guest. The producer will need this in order to work out the best questions for the presenter to ask.
This should give you a basic idea of how to pitch. If you have any more questions that are pertinent to your particular business, then you might be interested in one of the coaching or DIY PR packages available.
Jules Brooke, Handle Your Own PR