Jeopardy! is looking for another host. I’m not gonna make the cut, but I’m a big wannabe, so I’m launching (in article form only) a game show for PR pros. It’s called Know Your Show. The prizes are placements, promotions, respect and more. Similar to Jeopardy!, the rules are simple, but must be followed precisely. And they get more difficult as the game progresses.
Rule #1: Know the name of the show you're pitching and include it in your intro.
Sounds simple, right? Then why do so many PR pros get this wrong? Maybe they’re cutting corners. Perhaps they forget. Maybe they think they don’t have time to customize pitches. Whatever the reason, they won’t make it past the first round.
Rule #2: Know the host or anchor of the show you’re pitching and mention her in your pitch.
‘I think Hoda would have a great time trying out these organic face masks on the show.’ Apart from learning their names, know who they are and what they like. You might know that Wolf Blitzer is the host of The Situation Room. But did you know that he’s of Polish descent and enjoys Polish sausage? One player knew that and sent a batch to the studio. As you might’ve guessed, he took home big prizes of coverage and respect.
Rule #3: Know the audience of the show you’re pitching.
The audience is busy moms getting kids ready for school with the TV on in the background. Perhaps the audience is stock brokers on their lunch break. Be sure the show’s audience is composed of people you want to target. There is no such thing as mainstream media anymore. The population is highly fragmented and there are too many niche outlets for you to assume your targets are tuning in.
Rule #4: Know the stories they share.
Is the outlet all about heartwarming human-interest stories or practical news you can use? Let that knowledge shape your pitch. If it’s a show that likes controversy, pitch a thought leader who’s taking an uncommon or unpopular stance. Create a story angle for your news, expert or product that is similar to stories the show already is sharing.
Rule #5: Know the format of your show.
Have you pitched an interview with your CEO to a show that doesn’t do interviews? That’s going to cost you major relationship points with that reporter and you are not going to move on to the next round. Most shows are formulaic. Learn the formula and tell them how your story can fit. ‘I have a great guest for your newsmaker interview in the first 10 minutes.’ Or ‘For the panel at the bottom of the hour I've noticed that you have been lacking women's voices on this topic. I have a good expert.’
Rule #6: Know the right person to contact (and when).
This is the final round. You’ve got a beautifully crafted pitch that demonstrates your knowledge of the show. (If you skipped steps 1-5, you are eliminated from the game and should not even attempt step 6.) The stakes are high. If you pitch the right person, chances are good you’ll win big. If you send it to the wrong person, you’ll go home with nothing. Would you really trust a media database at this crucial moment? Of course not. You came to win and you’re not leaving something this important up to someone else.
Do your homework. Look at the show’s website. Follow the show on social to find the right person for your pitch. Maybe it’s the producer, perhaps it’s the host herself. Once you determine who it is, catch the person right after the show. For bonus points, try calling the person on the phone and send your email pitch after.
Like wagering all your money on a Daily Double, pitching can be nerve-wracking. But it’s also exciting, creative and fun. And when it’s done right, the prizes of coverage, raises and autonomy are even better than a new car.
Michael Smart is a PR trainer and coach to brands including General Motors, Intercontinental Hotels and St. Jude Children’s Hospital