A Tried and True Big Talk Show Tactic
by Marsha Friedman
If I had a nickel for every client or potential client who asked me if I could get them on Larry King, Oprah, Ellen, Charlie Rose, Keith Olberman, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, or Rachel Ray, I’d have retired long since.
Tons of rumors, stories, and urban legends are floating around about how someone got on a big show because—in no particular order:
• They sent the host a gift.
• They sent the host a product.
• They know the host’s cousin.
• They know the host’s maid.
• They met one of the producers on a plane and pitched them at 30,000 feet.
• They paid a consultant who had an “in.”
• They bought a sponsored segment.
• They went to a taping, snuck backstage, and cornered the host.
I can’t tell you that these things have never happened. A lot of people have heard the story about how Spanx—a line of what is now euphemistically referred to as “shapewear” for ladies—was named as one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” after Sara Blakely, Spanx founder, sent product samples to the Oprah show office.
Now, you could fill the Superdome with all the unsolicited products and books Oprah is sent every year. However, on that particular day, one of the producers happened to notice the package, and being sensitive to Oprah’s very public weight battle, decided to route it to her. Oprah’s resulting endorsement helped make Spanx a household name.
But I’m relating that story as a cautionary tale, and most emphatically not as a template for getting on Oprah’s radar. Don’t think for a minute that Blakely had pinned all her dreams of success on an Oprah appearance. By the time Spanx was highlighted on Oprah’s show, the product line was already in numerous high-end stores, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s.
The lesson here is that even though the stars were in alignment for Sara Blakely, you should not bet the farm on a single TV show.
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz
That being said, it can be valid to aim for appearances on the top TV and radio talk shows. But the best and most effective way to get the attention of top show hosts and producers is to already be covered by the media, in the news, building buzz. And to accomplish that, you should embrace every appropriate marketing and PR opportunity that will help you get media attention and raise consumer awareness of your company and products.
I can’t emphasize this enough: The path to Larry King, Oprah, and Rachel Ray is to get the media talking about you, and keep them talking about you. The top shows cherry-pick from the news of the day, so to get on those shows, you need to make news.
Marsha Friedman, a 20-year veteran of the public relations industry, is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (emsincorporated.com), which provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors, and professional firms. She also hosts a national weekly radio talk show, The Family Round Table, and she’s author of the book Celebritze Yourself.