I once listened in on a teleseminar that talked about how to increase your chances of getting booked as a guest on national TV.
Now, it’s not that I think I belong on Oprah or Ellen, mind you -- but several of the people I write for would make good, knowledgeable, articulate, mediagenic guests. It’s not inconceivable that they could be on such a show. So it makes sense for me to know something about the process. Then, when the time comes, I may be able to offer some useful advice.
The guest speakers included a Fox News producer and former producers for both Oprah and Montel. Without exception, they all agreed that people seeking to get on their shows made several key errors.
Mistake #1: "Hi! I'm a Scary Stalker Egomaniac..."
A common mistake they all cited was simply poor professionalism.
For reasons that continue to escape me, the hallmarks of many writers who contact members of the media tend to be overwhelmingly... ooky. There really is no better term for the practice of harassing the producers with e-mails, phone calls, & text messages, stalking them in parking lots and at their homes, sending inappropriate (highly unprofessional) "gifts," and getting huffy when told “thanks, but no.”
In other words: if the behavior you inflict upon a member of the media would frighten the bejeebers out of you if it were exhibited by a job hunter you were interviewing, then STOP. Just stop. Slap yourself, if necessary. But consider their bejeebers and proceed with professionalism.
Mistake #2: "No One Watches TV Anymore..."
Another mistake people commonly made when trying to get booked on a show was having no idea what the show was about!
Many authors evidently try to get on a show without ever having watched it, and without having any concept of the show’s format or audience. That’s just inexcusable stupidity or laziness on the writer’s part.
An variation of this mistake happens when writers submit material to agents or publishers that even the most rudimentary search would have shown to be inappropriate. Another variation occurs when writers send articles or stories to magazines without first reading the publication.
In these cases, the writer does not merely deserve a form rejection. Some would argue that the lazy git merits a bill from the professional whose time was wasted in responding.
Mistake #3: "Let's Talk About Me!"
But the mistake that the pros really focused on had to do with an author’s approach. Too many people, they said, try to get on national TV because they have written a book and they know that sales will increase if Oprah puts them on as a guest.
While this may be true, the reason that sales increase is because the watching audience sees something of value or interest in what the guest author has to say. And that, more than anything else, is often overlooked when trying to get booked.
If you want TV exposure, keep the viewing audience in mind. Be aware of the producer’s busy job, with its many responsibilities and deadlines. Realize that most TV segments are no longer than 5 minutes long. Then ask yourself: what can I say in 5 minutes that will pique the audience’s interest enough to keep them from clicking the remote?
When you are a guest on TV (or on the radio, or on a blog), your purpose is not to sell your book. Don’t keep mentioning your website or contact information every 10 seconds. Instead, have a clear, easily identifiable reason for being there. Know why total strangers would want to have you in their living rooms or bedrooms. Know what you have to offer them. Rest assured that at the end of your segment, the show will mention your name and your book.
The important thing is to realize it’s not about you – it’s about the viewer. Ratings mean everything. If you can appear on a show and not lose viewers – if you know the demographics and can offer the target audience something new, something of value, or something fascinating, you will be giving the producers what they want. And that, in turn, gives you the exposure you want for your project.