Michael Smart hosts a game show

These days, it’s cool to host a game show. Jamie Foxx has “Beat Shazam,” Dwyane Wade is doing “The Cube.” I’m a big wannabe, so today I’m launching (in email form only) a new game for PR pros. It’s called Know Your Show. The prizes are placements, promotions, respect, and more! The rules are simple, but must be followed precisely. And they get more difficult as the game goes on.

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 one wrong? Maybe they’re lazy. Maybe 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 them 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, learn 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 went on to take home big prizes of coverage and respect.

Rule #3: Know the audience of the show you’re pitching. Is it busy moms getting kids ready for school with the TV on in the background? Or stock brokers on their lunch break? Be sure the people they are reaching are the people you want to reach. There is no such thing as mainstream media anymore. The population is too fragmented and there are too many niche outlets for you to just assume the people you’re targeting are tuning in.

Rule #4: Know the stories they share. Are they all about heartwarming human-interest stories or practical news you can use? Let that knowledge shape your pitch. If they’re a show that likes controversy, pitch them a thought leader who’s taking an uncommon or unpopular stance. Create a story angle for your news, expert, or product that is the kind of story they’re already 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 show 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 haven’t done 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. You do your homework. Look on the show’s website and follow them on social to find the exact right person for your pitch. Maybe it’s the producer, maybe it’s the host herself. Once you determine your contact person, catch them right after the show. For extra bonus points, try calling them on the phone and then 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.

This article was originally published on September 8, 2021

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