After the end credits rolled on last night’s episode of AMC’s Mad Men, viewers were given a sneak peek of an upcoming reality competition show called The Pitch based in the world of advertising. The program took us behind the scenes to see the creative process of what ad agencies go through to come up with a successful ad idea and land a big account. It kind of reminds me of Mad Men, but more specifically, it takes me back to those morning production meetings where producers try to sell, sell, sell their ideas and carve out a bit of air time to get their segment idea on an upcoming show.
It does not matter where the idea or story is being pitched–advertising or a television show–pitching is an art form. It can make or break your chances of landing the big client or securing a booking.
Publicists and personalities are constantly trying to pitch segment ideas to producers in hopes of being booked on a show. And if you are lucky enough to get a producer on the phone, you only have a few minutes to make your idea stand out. If a producer likes your pitch enough to take it to the next level, then she has to pitch the idea to her senior producers or executive producers in hopes of getting a time slot in the show. In both cases, since it is television, the goal is to present an idea in the most interesting, creative, and visually appealing way.
When you are preparing to pitch an idea, remember that you are competing with hundreds of other possible candidates to appear on a program and producers are busy. Time is of the essence. Keep it concise and clarity is key.
Here are three tips for Successfully pitching your story idea:
KNOW YOUR SHOW AND AUDIENCE
It’s a good idea to know the show’s programming history and format. One of my pet peeves was listening to a pitch that was clearly the wrong fit for the broadcast. I would actually ask the representative, “Do you watch our show?” A national morning show begins with a hard news hour and then transitions into a lighter news/entertainment hour. Most of the time shows will feature topics that are time-sensitive and relevant to events of the moment. Staying on top of current events is helpful. The “evergreen” topics are not time-sensitive, so their air date is flexible and can and will be bumped out of the lineup if a timelier story comes along. You really do not want to be an “evergreen” segment because there is a good chance the segment will not get on air. Morning shows have a large female audience, so try to think about why your story might be interesting to her and pitch it with that in mind.
FOCUS YOUR IDEA AND BE PREPARED
Mail or email your idea pitch to the producer and then follow-up with a phone call. Your email subject line should an attention grabbing headline. This is a good time to use your witty Twitter skills and create a headline in 140 characters.
Start your pitch with an introduction that is an overview of the segment. A segment has a beginning, middle, and end. Your intent is to grab the attention of the producer in the same way you want to grab a viewer’s attention. If there is a current study, survey, or video or audio tape that is related to the story, it is best to present it at the top of the pitch. I like to cover at least three main points in a pitch, and I always start with the strongest piece of information first. If your story has a guest, make sure the guest is ready to do the show and is accessible to the producer. Before you talk to the producer, try and think of every angle or question he or she might ask about your story (who, what, where, when, and has this story been featured on any other show–in other words, is this an exclusive?)
PROVIDE VIEWERS WITH NEWS THEY CAN USE
Since information is available 24/7 on so many different platforms, people are inundated with information. However, if you can provide a nugget of information that hasn’t been seen or heard anywhere else, that will be a big plus in your pitch. Viewers rarely sit down to watch a show; instead they listen to TV as they are multi-tasking. So you want them to hear something in the interview that will make them say, “Oh, I didn’t know that” and maybe sit down and watch the story. And isn’t that what you want in the end–for people to watch your story? To read more about pitching to the morning shows, click here.
TV/Social Media Producer Debbie Mitchell is an Emmy nominated producer who is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA). She is currently a member of the James Beard Broadcast and New Media Awards Committee. If you are interested in “Book Case TV” or are a brand interested in Social TV, blogger outreach campaigns, or a blogger or personality interested in television placement, follow Debbie Mitchell @SocialTVDeb and/or email SocialTVDeb@gmail.com.
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