5 Tips for Getting on TV

Even small, personal brands and startups can unlock the PR power of television.

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By Derek Newton


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To raise their profiles and garner marketplace credibility, corporations and consumer brands employ community relations teams, hire fancy ad agencies and drop large amounts on direct advertising. It can cost between $1 and $5 million for just one billboard in Times Square.

But what if you're a startup? Or a freelancer? Or in a business where you are your brand? What do you do, then?

While there are dozens and dozens of ways to get attention for yourself or your small team, many small and one-person operations overlook an extremely powerful weapon in the war to win notice – television.

Much to the dismay of writers, who marvel at the power of (our own) words, TV is still king. TV reaches more people more quickly and more powerfully than all but the biggest, best publications.

"TV gives credibility and sparks conversation," Andrew Blickstein, the founder of Home Run Media told me. Glickstein has advised numerous clients on how to get on TV. "Whether it's content, news, sports, ads -- people are talking about what's on the television screen. And TV is not all access - curated content is rarer and more valuable. TV is still the largest platform to reach people with, and that level of exposure has a really high impact, even for a few minutes – and that says a lot."

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Many small businesses or solo shops skip TV as an option because they assume it's too complicated or too expensive. But that can be an oversight because with the right approach, getting on TV isn't difficult. And while you can always hire an expert PR person who may know shortcuts, you can do this work on your own.

To get you started, here are five tips for landing coverage on TV.

1. Start local.

First, viewership of local TV programming, especially the news, is growing while most national outlets are shrinking. And frankly, competition for limited camera time is less intense at your local station than at a national cable outlet. Moreover, local stations often have a strong preference to hear from locals instead of talking heads in big cities such as New York or Washington.

2. Be an expert.

Make a list of topics you can credibly provide insight on. If your startup is in online security, offer to comment on data breaches and identity theft. If you're a business lawyer, offer to your expert take for local business stories. Don't ask reporters to cover you. And resist the urge to think that you're a credible expert on the presidential election or foreign policy just because you read the news. Stick to what you know.

3. Know the reporters.

Research the local reporters who frequently cover stories that relate to your area of expertise. It's not hard -- you can do this by simply watching the news. Start by emailing the reporter a (very) short introduction that includes your experience and contact information. Mention that you are available, but leave it at that -- there's no need to send a deep bio.

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4. Pitch.

When big news in your industry breaks – an arrest, a business merger, a new technology etc. – email the reporter you contacted earlier. Mention the story, how your expertise makes you a good person to comment on the situation, summarize your opinion on the news, and then include your availability and contact information. Do this every time there is a story you feel qualified to comment on.

5. Practice.

When a reporter calls or emails, practice what you'll say on camera. Rehearse being concise and direct. If your answer takes longer than 12 seconds, it's too long. If you are articulate, easily accessible and able to offer good, reliable insights, the reporter will use you over and over again.

Nima Haddadi is an attorney who knows that TV works. He has used his expertise to get on TV, even national outlets, several times. "Breaking into television is one of the most difficult obstacles that a business will have on their path to success, yet a combination of patience, persistence and intelligence will eventually lead to amazing exposure," said.

The audience sizes and conferred credibility of getting on TV are worth the effort – even for small operations.

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Derek Newton

NYC based communications and public relations professional

Derek Newton is a communications expert and writer based in New York City. He has been working in nonprofit, political and policy communications for more than 20 years and helped launch several startups. 

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