Do You Want to Be On the Big Talk Shows?
Then You Need to Have Some Big Headlines
By Marsha Friedman
If I had a nickel for every client or potential client who asked me if I could get them on Larry King, Oprah, Ellen, Charlie Rose, Keith Olberman, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly or Rachel Ray, I'd have retired long since.
What complicates matters is that there are tons of rumors, stories and urban legends floating around about how someone got on a big show because - and I'll list these in no particular order:
• They sent the host a gift
• They sent the host a product
• They know the host's cousin
• They know the host's maid
• They met one of the producers on a plane and pitched them at 30,000 feet
• They paid a consultant who had an "in"
• They bought a sponsored segment
• They went to a taping and snuck backstage and cornered the host
I can't tell you that it has never happened; a lot of people have heard the story about how Spanx, a line of what is now euphemistically referred to as "shapewear" for ladies, was named as one of Oprah's "Favorite Things." In case you don't know the story, Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, sent a package containing product samples to Oprah Winfrey's show office. Now, you could fill the Superdome with all the unsolicited products and books Oprah is sent every year. However, on that particular day, one of the producers happened to notice the package, and being sensitive to Oprah's very public weight battle, decided to route the package to the boss. Oprah's resulting endorsement helped make Spanx a household name.
I'm relating that story not as a template of how to get on Oprah's radar, but rather, as a cautionary tale. In that instance, all the circumstances were right. But don't think for a minute that Ms. Blakely had pinned all her dreams of success on an Oprah appearance. By the time Spanx was highlighted on Oprah's show the product line was already in numerous high-end stores, such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and others.
The lesson here is that even though the stars were in alignment for Sara Blakely, you should not risk your company's success by betting the farm on a single TV show.
That being said, it is totally valid to aim for appearances on the top TV and radio talk shows – that's the brass ring we all hope for. But the best and most effective way to get the attention of top show hosts and producers is to already be in the media, on the news, building buzz. And to accomplish that, you should embrace every marketing and PR opportunity in order to heighten national attention and raise consumer awareness of your company and products.
I just can't emphasize this enough: the path to Larry King, Oprah and Rachel Ray is to get the media talking about you, and keep them talking about you. The top shows cherry pick from the news of the day, so to get on those shows you need to be news!
And it doesn't hurt if you can make the host look better in a Vera Wang, too.
(Marsha Friedman is a 20-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. She also hosts a national weekly radio talk show, The Family Round Table, and is author of the book, Celebritze Yourself.)
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