How to Be a Guest Expert on Any Television News Program

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Having been a guest on a TV show at least once every few weeks (usually more) for the past ten years, I can tell you without fail that getting your face on TV is a beneficial way to promote yourself, your business, or a product you might want to share. (Think an upcoming book.) It improves your credibility, enhances your biography, and offers a nice piece of content that you can then share with your world. Finally, who hasn’t wanted to make their profile photo a picture of them being interviewed with their name and the logo of a national news station on the bottom right of the image?

Television producers are constantly looking for new and engaging guests who can bring a unique point to their viewers. Some shows specifically want those guests with contrary opinions to the host (think The O’Reilly Factor) while some are looking for straight up knowledge into a world that’s foreign to the anchor. (Think an air safety consultant after a commercial plane crash.)

The key to being the one they call comes down to a few simple rules. Follow them, and you’ll greatly increase your chances of being called.

First off, know that senior producers, producers and then assistant producers call the shots. Not camera operators, and certainly not the anchors. After you’ve been on several times, perhaps the anchor might occasionally request you, but in terms of booking a guest for a breaking news segment? That’s almost exclusively the producer’s job.

Your first goal then, should be to find out who produces the programs on which you want to appear. Twitter is amazing for this, as is LinkedIn. The more homework you do, the better off you’ll be when you reach out to let them know who you are…

…Which, by the way, is NOT during a crisis. When a breaking news story unfolds, producers have one job: Get guests who can add value to the story on the air, immediately. That’s it. They’ll always go for the guests who have been on their shows before, who they trust, and who they know will probably be available. They won’t even begin to look at new emails until the crisis has faded. This is just common sense. Fight the biggest fires as they burn, right?

The time to reach out and introduce yourself is when nothing is going on in the world of news. Send an email mid-day sometime, and make it brief, to the point, and avoid any “cutesy” or jokey stuff. An example follows:

Dear (Producer’s name)

Just a brief introduction for the next time you’re doing a story on bad customer service. My name is Peter Shankman, and I’m a customer service and marketing futurist. (You know, stories like how when an airline makes a wheelchair-bound passenger walk down a flight of stairs, or something similar.)

I have four books out on customer service, including my most recent one, a best seller, called Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans. A review version of that book is here (LINK, NOT AN ATTACHMENT.)

I’ve been on TV many times before, and am more than comfortable on camera without any prep. I’m based in New York City, close to STATION’s studios, and can usually be there with less than an hour’s notice.

My larger biography is at www.shankman.com/about, and if I can ever be of any help to you in the future, please feel free to reach out.

All the best,
Peter Shankman
MOBILE PHONE NUMBER
EMAIL
SKYPE NAME

That’s it. Your goal is to get into their rolodex, so they’ll call you when they need you. There’s nothing wrong with sending out this introduction to every producer who works every show you want to be on, since you’re not pitching a story, but rather, offering help. But remember, stay on point.

MAKE THE PRODUCER’S LIFE EASIER

Once you’ve introduced yourself to the producers via the methods above, when breaking news does happen, and it fits perfectly with your expertise, you can send a brief email to the producer that goes something like this:

Subject: EXPERT FOR YOU RE: BREAKING WAL-MART CUSTOMER SERVICE DISASTER

Dear (producer name)

If you need customer-service experts as guests today, I’m in NYC, available, and have written four books on customer service, including two best sellers.

My belief is that Wal-Mart, while they definitely made a mistake here, won’t be hurt by this in the long run, because social media has such a short attention span. If they’re smart, they’ll publicly announce better training for their greeters, so that this doesn’t happen again.

Happy to chat about this on-air, as it fits right into what I teach my clients, who include Fortune 100 companies all around the world.

Best,

-Peter Shankman
Phone/Email/Skype

That’s it. Short, simple, and to the point. If the reporter gets back to you and wants you on the air, make sure you have a high-quality jpeg of your book cover that you can email to them, so they can cut to it live.

When you get the call, drop everything else.  Your goal is to get to the studio early (they’ll probably send a car for you,) be dressed appropriately, and be ready to go. I always keep an extra suit in my office for when I’m there and I get a call. (I usually wear t-shirts in the office.) Unless you’re about to give birth, (like, actually in labor,) or you’re on an International Flight that’s unable to divert, it’s never a good idea to say “no” to a producer’s request for you.

You’ll arrive, go through make-up, and they’ll mic you up. Have your phone OFF. Not just on silent, but OFF. Phones can destroy wireless mics, and if that happens on-air, I guarantee you’ll never be invited back.

Smile when introduced, talk to the host, and give quick, succinct answers. No over-the-top jokes, essentially, follow the host’s lead.

When you’re done, drop a quick email to the producer, thanking them for the opportunity, and reiterating that you’re always available, anytime they might need you.

Remember: Breaking news is fluid – so don’t be upset if you get there, and right before you go on air, you get bumped. As someone who’s gotten bumped countless times, for the US President, for even more breaking news, for tons of stuff, don’t take it personally. Smile, and remind the producer you’re happy to come back, anytime.

Bonus: Once you’re off the air, and cut to commercial, if you absolutely must, you can take the quick selfie.

Once you’re done – Never ask for a video copy. They won’t give them to you, and it annoys the producers. Rather, set your DVR before you leave the house, and grab the images or video from there. You can then use it for your performance reel, or just to spice up your Facebook page.

Any other best practices for getting on TV? Let me hear them in the comments.

Oh, and Zombie Loyalists? That’s a real book. It’s coming out in January. You can pre-order it on Amazon here.

Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Kerri says:

    Great post, Peter. I got bumped once due to some breaking news. I was super disappointed; it was my first shot at live national television. They let me know the night before, but the next morning I decided to go to the studio anyway. I dressed like I was going to be on TV and asked to meet the producer to say thank you for the almost opportunity.

    Security wouldn’t let me through, but the booker I had corresponded with happened to be coming into the lobby right at that moment. I got to meet her in person so she had a face to go with my name. I was invited back the next two weekends to NYC for live interviews. Persistence and providence worked wonders for me. (And the live interviews put me over my crowdfunding goal and the coverage started the ball rolling to eventually sell my company.)

    You’re a rockstar Mr. Shankman. Thank you for paving the way for us and sharing every tip so we can be, too!

  • Kerri says:

    Great post, Peter. I got bumped once due to some breaking news. I was super disappointed; it was my first shot at live national television. They let me know the night before, but the next morning I decided to go to the studio anyway. I dressed like I was going to be on TV and asked to meet the producer to say thank you for the almost opportunity.

    Security wouldn’t let me through, but the booker I had corresponded with happened to be coming into the lobby right at that moment. I got to meet her in person so she had a face to go with my name. I was invited back the next two weekends to NYC for live interviews. Persistence and providence worked wonders for me. (And the live interviews put me over my crowdfunding goal and the coverage started the ball rolling to eventually sell my company.)

    You’re a rockstar Mr. Shankman. Thank you for paving the way for us and sharing every tip so we can be, too!

  • Very informative post, Peter. Just curious what advice you would give to someone who’s at least an hour drive time to a major city, and not in proximity to the larger media areas. Do any of these producers every Skype anyone, or is that just too much of a crapshoot?

    • ErikBoles says:

      Tim,

      In a perfect world they will get someone local that can be on set. This is because of technical limitations and potential pitfalls with connectivity. However, if they cannot find someone that fits and is local, they will go to a remote guest (I’ve been in this situation). The other thing to consider is that if you do get the opportunity to be a remote guest, it’s critical that you blow their mind, this makes them more likely to come back to you in the future, often even over a local guest.

    • ErikBoles says:

      Tim,

      In a perfect world they will get someone local that can be on set. This is because of technical limitations and potential pitfalls with connectivity. However, if they cannot find someone that fits and is local, they will go to a remote guest (I’ve been in this situation). The other thing to consider is that if you do get the opportunity to be a remote guest, it’s critical that you blow their mind, this makes them more likely to come back to you in the future, often even over a local guest.

  • CPosey says:

    Thanks for this, Peter. I always wonder how you did it! I have forwarded this to my team to take note of, as well.

  • Cathleen Campbell Stone says:

    There are two fields of manifestation in business – the Competitive Field, been there done that and we know the results. And then there’s the Creative Field…and Peter Shankman rocks it! Generous, yes, but in his generosity he’s simply putting forth his own energy into the kind of world he wants to live in for himself and others. Wonderful article, bravo Sir!

  • Cathleen Campbell Stone says:

    There are two fields of manifestation in business – the Competitive Field, been there done that and we know the results. And then there’s the Creative Field…and Peter Shankman rocks it! Generous, yes, but in his generosity he’s simply putting forth his own energy into the kind of world he wants to live in for himself and others. Wonderful article, bravo Sir!

  • Cathleen Campbell Stone says:

    Now for the idea – you’re right about who calls the shots, but sometimes people won’t reach out because of the very same stuck mental and emotional energy surrounding cold calling. Fear of rejection, low self-esteem, etc. all hold people back. And while I advocate working on releasing these blocks with the energy tools I teach (http://www.inlivingharmony.com/cold-calling-and-law-of-attraction.htm) I also ask my clients to look in their own real world because you really don’t know who and what you don’t know. And who you know can be awesome: back in my former career I was trying to get sewing on national tv with little luck, so I started asking my friends who they knew. Turned out my then beau was friends with the producer of Rosie O’Donnell, only thee most popular show at the time! One call led to a conversation I’d have never had otherwise…we booked the segment, gave Rosie a pillow embroidered with her then crush’s likeness, Tom Cruise. And within less than a day we had over 1 million hits to our site and for the first time ever raised $1 million as a united industry to donate towards breast cancer research. Now that was some awesome #livingharmony

  • Cathleen Campbell Stone says:

    Now for the idea – you’re right about who calls the shots, but sometimes people won’t reach out because of the very same stuck mental and emotional energy surrounding cold calling. Fear of rejection, low self-esteem, etc. all hold people back. And while I advocate working on releasing these blocks with the energy tools I teach (http://www.inlivingharmony.com/cold-calling-and-law-of-attraction.htm) I also ask my clients to look in their own real world because you really don’t know who and what you don’t know. And who you know can be awesome: back in my former career I was trying to get sewing on national tv with little luck, so I started asking my friends who they knew. Turned out my then beau was friends with the producer of Rosie O’Donnell, only thee most popular show at the time! One call led to a conversation I’d have never had otherwise…we booked the segment, gave Rosie a pillow embroidered with her then crush’s likeness, Tom Cruise. And within less than a day we had over 1 million hits to our site and for the first time ever raised $1 million as a united industry to donate towards breast cancer research. Now that was some awesome #livingharmony

  • SeniorTravelPoints says:

    Very nice article. I wonder if you’ve ever tried writing out questions for the interviewer along with your answers? I’ve heard of others doing this for various segment times, i.e. 2 minute segment, 3 minute, 4 minute, etc. I like this since it makes it easier for the producer to choose you since you’ve some of the work already.

  • SeniorTravelPoints says:

    Very nice article. I wonder if you’ve ever tried writing out questions for the interviewer along with your answers? I’ve heard of others doing this for various segment times, i.e. 2 minute segment, 3 minute, 4 minute, etc. I like this since it makes it easier for the producer to choose you since you’ve some of the work already.

  • Nelson Hudes says:

    Another Absolutely Brilliant article Peter !

  • Nelson Hudes says:

    Another Absolutely Brilliant article Peter !

  • Ellen Rohr says:

    Great info! Thanks! I’ve been on lots of local news segments. This is
    terrific for approaching the big networks, top markets. We are ON it!
    xo$ Ellen

  • Ellen Rohr says:

    Great info! Thanks! I’ve been on lots of local news segments. This is
    terrific for approaching the big networks, top markets. We are ON it!
    xo$ Ellen

  • Alan K Cobbs says:

    Great article…. I will co-sign based on my own hard learned experience about never say “no” to a producer.. I was invited to appear on Oct. 24, 2012 taping Great DaySA on KENS5TV San Antonio, TX., but I was in Lubbock, TX. on a family emergency and could not get back for the taping..
    I have not been invited back since and no replies to any of my emails to try and get a new taping date, to date Oct. 07, 2014 ….
    Do you have any suggestions for getting back in their good graces?

  • Alan K Cobbs says:

    Great article…. I will co-sign based on my own hard learned experience about never say “no” to a producer.. I was invited to appear on Oct. 24, 2012 taping Great DaySA on KENS5TV San Antonio, TX., but I was in Lubbock, TX. on a family emergency and could not get back for the taping..
    I have not been invited back since and no replies to any of my emails to try and get a new taping date, to date Oct. 07, 2014 ….
    Do you have any suggestions for getting back in their good graces?

  • Tom Psillas says:

    I probably do not want to be on Bill O’Reilly’s show.
    Peter, thanks for your excellent ideas. I plan to use them to get publicity for http://www.weezoo.com, a platform for peer to peer services, like the Uber of all services.

  • BuffaloGal says:

    I have a small start-up business, and would like to grow into a bigger business and provide for my family. I am a single mom with disabilities, have a child with disabilities, so being self-employed is a really good way for me to be available to take good care of her and earn a living Proud to say my small business was able to pay all its own expenses after the first year (break even). Business continues to grow slowly, and it is a hard climb – I am “dug in” and ready to make that climb every day because I love what I do. I have just started a LinkedIn profile to market our business, and want to be able to use media symbols to show that we are a media “expert” in order to rank higher in searches, gain exposure, increase traffic to our website (which might result in conversions). I am not outgoing or photogenic. In fact, I am an introvert who shrinks in the limelight. But I love writing and relating to people and potential clients from my computer and via social media. If you have a disability, life is about doing what you are good at, in whatever way you shine. My strength is writing and conveying ideas with photos. I would like to see our business name in print on the major media outlets, even if it is just a one-sentence blurb. . We do not have the budget to pay a service thousands of dollars and I can do the writing and other work myself. How do I get our business name and/or my name, and possibly even a written quote, cited on the major media networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, etc? It could even be on a local affiliate station. I just want the “credentials” – and if I can help anyone in the process, then that’s even better. Can you tell me how to do this myself for free or very little cost? I don’t mind being rejected because I am persistent. Thanks. Appreciate everyone’s feedback.

  • Rapspiracy Jones says:

    Great article, very informative and inspiring. I was searching for tips on getting booked on cable news and local television.

  • Deimos says:

    This is some great advice Peter. I’ve seen you on TV a few times so I know you’re advice is legit!

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