Pitching Your Product, Service, Company Or Yourself, On TV
I’ve been on TV! Okay, not in any high-visibility sense, just stuff like local man-in-the-street footage, or lost in the crowd during a camera pan on the David Letterman show, etc. It’s not something that was sought out.
But, that might change, and so lately some research on the subject has been done. As a result, here’s some nuggets on ways a small business can get some “real” media exposure, not just online social media.
Before you read the list below, think about why you want to be on TV. Is it for personal branding, fame, and reputation? Is it for overall organization awareness? Or is it a product or service pitch?
And is it the right time, or will it be by the time you get on the air? For a product pitch, it should be ready for the prime time, as the general advice is you get one shot.
Free Audience Tickets
Lots of shows have free tickets. Getting in to watch the David Letterman show taping was easy, as I’m a fan, and passed the quiz they ask people who want to be on the show. After being in the show audience in mid-town Manhattan, I was a few blocks away in Time Square, and was approached by, of all people, a Letterman show intern.
The guy was looking for people who wanted to be in the audience the following night. He explained that they had a sort of quota to get tickets out, and that they were looking for energetic people, especially tourists who have that extra “wow it’s New York City” energy going. So I learned that besides the published way to get Letterman tickets, they are sometimes available for free on the street the day before a live shoot.
But how does this help me get exposure? What the show also has are the various segments where they are looking for audience members who can do unusual feats, have done interesting activities, have a strange story related to some theme of the show, or whatever that night’s special segments might need. I saw audience members volunteer while still on the line outside of the Ed Sullivan theatre.
And we’ve all seen these audience members who get on TV, and some get asked about their line of work, their passions, their hobbies, etc. A few do squeak in a mention of their business, organization, or cause. Even those who don’t get to talk can still boast “As seen on national TV”!
Free TV audience tickets can be found online at sites such as TVTickets/AudienceTickets, TVTix, StandingRoomOnly, ApplauseStore. Articles such as this one in Travel & Leisure this NY-related write-up in Newsday and this LA-related article can help. Note that getting tickets to Rachel Ray and other popular shows are more difficult.
And you can also aim to get on a TV game show if that fits your plan.
Getting On TV To Pitch
There are a number of ways to work your way onto TV. The most obvious for small businesses is to get on someone’s show and pitch your product if it fits with the show’s theme, such as “green products” or “home decor tips”. You can consult with experts such as Jacquie Jordan, who I have seen on TV myself, including talking about her book Get On TV!
And to reach for the big national shows, the advice is that you will need a TV demo video, and if you’re working on your own, a TV pitch letter. The letter should have your headline (think of how article headlines grab your attention – or don’t grab – and you get the idea). The letter & video demo should cover what problem you address (with details), how you solve it, and your credentials. The results you offer should be obvious, visible, and compelling. The better the story, the better the odds of being noticed.
And when dealing with the producers and others involved, be helpful, polite, and flexible. Even if the first booking attempt doesn’t work out, you want to be on the list to call again.
There are other resources on the subject:
- CNN Money: How To Get Your Product On QVC
- Video on how someone got their product on QVC and found success:
- Christopher Lee May: TV Booking Tips and Tricks
- Susan Harrow (author of How To Get Booked On Oprah): Media Training
- Center Networks: How To Get Your Startup On TV
The video below is a news interview segment with AJ Khubani of Telebrands that discusses how to sell your product on TV. One takeaway is that with a TV ad, 90% of the responses come within a minute of a commercial airing.
And besides appearing on another person’s show, you could make a pitch for your own show, including a reality show. Or just find out how to get on a reality show (also see RealityWanted.com). Perhaps the original example of reality show success is in the 1980’s when a British show profiled the unknown singer Sheena Easton trying to get a record contract, and that exposure led to her real fame as a pop star.
A final caution is to be aware that there are reports of shady operators who are not exactly in the business of making TV shows, yet get tens of thousands of dollars from entrepreneurs by promising what they cannot deliver. As in any area of life, research who you’re dealing with.
Getting On The Local News
There are different ways to be on the news, local or national. While the negative ways can help (as in being infamous), we can assume you want the positive way. This includes being sought out as an expert, as someone who can relate to a given situation, or who volunteers to be interviewed.
Also, plan for the holidays… and other special days. If you have an angle that would work for a themed show, get in touch beforehand with local stations. And using social media techniques such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s easier than ever to reach out to find out how to get to the right person.
And, the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) site is designed to help all type of reporters connect with sources, including TV reporters. I personally know people who have used the service, which is free, and have gotten press in major national magazines as a result (I believe this includes Cosmo and Business Week).
Sponsoring a TV show, especially a locally-produced one, may get you the interview or product exposure you want. This may also be possible as a barter exchange, such as supplying your awesome fresh cakes in exchange for a mention on the show. As you watch TV shows, try and notice how products and services get mentioned and you can then find the shows that are open to sponsors. Many shows also make it easy to contact them about sponsoring or how to be on the show.
Since movies shown in theatres usually later get shown on TV, you could take the approach to get your product or service in a movie. Large blockbuster movies look to products from major brands, and you may have an edge if your product makes sense for the movie.
But your better option may be to work with a local independent film crew, who may be happy to feature your wares for the price of some pizzas on the set. You can often find these efforts by networking in local film groups, and scanning online ads such as Craigslist and local newspapers and city guides.
And, if the time needed to carry out your TV booking and promotion is overwhelming for your time budget, you can hire someone to do it for you. Companies that specialize in media campaigns, PR, and related marketing are for another post in the future. If you see someone on TV making a pitch on a show you want to be on, you can dig up how that happened, and what companies or people can help you.
Hope this helps, and if it did, leave a comment about your experience. See you in TV land!
The video for this post is Sheena Easton singing a work-related song 9 to 5 (My baby takes the morning train), subtitled in Danish in case that helps. It’s complete with 1980’s hair, guitars, and dance moves: