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I've Landed 60 Live TV Interviews Without a Publicist -- Here's How You Can Do It Too

Pitch and nail an appearance without a publicist with these four steps.

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It might seem at first like TV is a fading media channel, but the data is somewhat up in the air. American networks are frustrated with Nielsen media consumption reports not because TV viewership is falling, but because consumption metrics on other devices like tablets or phones are not measured. Are people really watching less TV, or are they simply watching it on different devices?

For networks, this battle is important in that viewership numbers influence advertiser demand. But if you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or expert... you really don’t need to worry about these trends at all.

Why? Simple: The perception of someone who’s on TV is still incredibly powerful. As entrepreneurs, we have to drum up credibility markers that can overcome skepticism in our prospects’ minds. Few marketing tactics do this more effectively than earned media and publicity, and few forms of publicity have better optics than broadcast television. A live TV interview is certainly good exposure, but an even better move is to grab your clip and incorporate it into your digital marketing efforts.

I’ve done over 60 live TV interviews over the past three years. And here’s the kicker: I booked all of these appearances myself without the help of a PR agency or publicist. If you’re curious about using TV as a way to jumpstart your authority, but like to know how the sausage is made before you dive in, here are four steps you can follow to get started.

 Related: 5 Ways to Turn a TV Appearance Into Evergreen PR for Your Brand 

Identify your local target stations

My experience is with United States-based broadcast television, so I’ll speak to that here. First you’ll want to determine which market or markets are closest to you. This handy link from Station Index gives you the top 100 Designated Market Areas (DMAs); find your city or metro area, then note the different broadcast stations.

Once on a station’s site, you’ll look around for a contact page. Nearly every station has a page like this so that they can receive news tips. Write down the contact email and contact phone number for the station, then set this information aside.

Before we go further: Know that you don’t have to have a publicist to break into TV. However, this nitty-gritty grunt work is one of the big reasons hiring one can help. Publicists do this research to free you up, and seasoned publicists often have personal relationships with producers that can substantially improve your chances of being booked.

Look for a viable news hook

To get on the news, your TV pitch needs to be news. You can certainly take a swing at pitching your story to a TV producer to see if they’ll feature you, but including a timely news hook or awareness day can add some zing to your outreach.

The first time I did a live TV interview, I discussed smartphone addiction and how online marketing manipulates us. But the way I added urgency to this pitch was to connect it to National Stress Awareness Week in November. News hooks create a forcing mechanism for a producer; if they want to book your pitch, they have to book it now and not “someday.” Think about ways you can connect your expertise to a current or upcoming news hook, and your chances will improve.

If you’re not a big news-watcher, consider setting up Google alerts or Talkwalker alerts to keep yourself in the know. I teach all my clients to set up alerts for 10 to 30 terms in their sector so they can stay abreast of the latest buzz in their industries without being glued to the news. You can set up these alerts to deliver weekly, daily, or in real time.

Related: How to Get Media Coverage For Your Business

Pitch a segment appropriate for their audience

When putting together your pitch, it’s important to highlight why your pitch is a great fit for the outlet’s audience. Why do people want to hear about this topic, and why do they want to hear about it now? Sell the story first, then explain why you are the right expert to come in and discuss the issue at hand.

Call the TV station and ask to be connected to a producer. If you connect, give a high-level pitch for your story, then ask if you can send along more details in an email. You can also try poking around on LinkedIn or using an email address data scraper like Voila Norbert to find producer contact information. Finding the right gatekeeper is important, and sometimes this one step makes the difference between getting booked and being ignored.

Follow-up on your pitch two to three times over the next few days while the topic is still hot. If your topic is really timely and is directly connected to breaking news, next-day or same-day follow-up is not out of the question, but don’t go overboard if you haven’t heard back after a few follow-ups.

Nail your interview, then acquire your clip

TV moves quickly; be prepared to rearrange your schedule for a potential same-day or next-day opportunity. Review the basics of media training before you go live. I like to memorize a few statistics related to the subject matter of the interview and then lead with those stats to get comfortable. As an added bonus, statistics and research are a great way to sound more authoritative.

The final step is honestly the most important step of all — especially if you’re an online entrepreneur — and that is to get a copy of your clip. The TV producer who booked you might be able to provide you with a link, but if they’re too busy, I use a service like TV Video Clips as a failsafe. For $60, you can get an HD copy of your clip if you order it within 30 days of your appearance.

Remember, it’s a no-no to repost your clip in its entirety for mass distribution purposes. However, you can share stills or short clips from appearances and incorporate them into your marketing and website to give your audience some wow factor.

Related: 6 Rules for Acing Your First TV Appearance

TV can be an intimidating medium, but once you get the hang of the process the optics are hard to beat. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to booking your first or next interview and reaping the rewards for years to come.

Nick Wolny

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Named a "40 Under 40" by the Houston Business Journal, Nick Wolny is a media and marketing strategist for entrepreneurs. In addition to writing for Entrepreneur and other publications, he does regular TV appearances on marketing and consumer tech with NBC, CBS and FOX.