My Day at TODAY

Posted by on August 24th, 2012

As a PR professional, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on the other side….the other side of the phone, microphone or camera.

We spend hours on the phone pitching broadcast producers, trying to land that top-tier segment opportunity and then prepping our clients to look their best on camera while effectively getting their messaging points across.

Well, I had the chance to experience what it’s like to be on the other side and got a glimpse into the challenges producers face when my twin sister and I appeared on a recent fashion segment of The Today Show with Kathy Lee, Hoda and special guest Kelly Osborn.

While sitting in the dressing room (secretly star struck by Kelly’s super cute outfit and sassy purple hair) I took advantage of the short time the producer had to chat before rushing us on stage due to a last minute program cancelation (while thinking who cancels on the Today Show?):

BF: I know you must get a million calls a day suggesting “unique” pitch ideas. How do you decide which calls to answer and what topics are actually of interest?

Producer:  The first thing I want to know is how this idea is DIFFERENT or NEW.  We have what seems like hundreds of segments a week and we get thousands of pitches a day, so I want to know what makes this pitch different.  How is this bigger and better than other segments we have done?  For TODAY in particular, we want sexy, buzzy topics.   Make your pitches short and sweet.  Our producers don’t have time to read long emails.  If you can’t explain it in three sentences than it’s probably hard to jam it into a three minute segment.  Oh – and put the bullet points up top.

BF: In your opinion, do most producers prefer to receive phone or email pitches? Which type is most likely to get through?

Producer: Definitely email.  We are almost always on deadline so even if we want to, we don’t have time for a phone conversation.  Also, don’t email us and then immediately call.  It’s like a double interruption.  We will read the email as soon as we can.  Better to resend an email than call and ask if we received it.

BF: What is the biggest mistake public relations execs make, that we might not be aware of, when working with broadcast outlets?

Producer:  I understand that your job is to get a specific product out there, but in my experience, the more subtle the better.  I’ve heard PR execs tell their clients or guests exactly what to say until they are blue in the face.  I find that that stresses out the guests and they are so focused on what they are SUPPOSED to say that they aren’t themselves.  The more natural the piece, the better it turns out.  This isn’t a commercial; it’s a story that is hopefully informing the viewer or reader.  Viewers don’t want to feel like they are watching a commercial and I think after a while they tune out the product placement.  Tell us a good story and the message you are trying to get across will come out.  Also, our audience is often more savvy than you think.  They hear a product name and I promise, if they like it, they will track it down.

BF: Any other last minute advice I could share with my colleagues?

Producer: Unless it’s breaking news, don’t put a “high importance” exclamation point on your emails.  We love you, but you are not more important than every other email we get.  Also, don’t put large attachments on your emails.  It clogs up our inboxes and we are forced to delete it before even reading.  Use our names to address us.  Most producers I know don’t read pitches that are blast emails.  (We have to draw the line somewhere!) You guys do great work and we appreciate all you do.  If we are rude, it’s just because we’re stressed!  Keep up the good work!

After taking in her words of advice, I rushed down the studio halls and anxiously waited in the wings for Hoda to call my sister and me onto the national stage. Then, when the dress-up segment began and Kathy Lee started throwing clothes for me to put on (did I mention I was standing on national TV in my underwear?), I felt better prepared and thankful that I’d soon return to my side of the phone and camera armed with some expert advice.

Check out my 15 seconds of fame on the Today Show