How to Use Your Web Site to Get Media Bookings
by Karen Melamed and Barbara Wellner
As television producers, we have booked hundreds of guests over the years. In the days before the World Wide Web, we found guests by reading through bundles of newspapers and magazines to focus on the important stories of the day and discover the experts in the relevant fields. We picked through the stacks of books that publicists sent us and tried to see which books and authors fit our show. We also worked the phones, calling everyone we knew who could lead us to a great guest. If we saw names or quotes that sparked our interest, we tracked people down with our best detective skills and then interviewed them to see if they “could talk.” When someone could talk, we then asked for a photo. But that was then; snail-mail was our main resource for getting information from possible guests, and we’d wait days to find out who was good enough to have on our show.
Today, now that the Internet has given us instant access to virtually everything and everybody, we can find guests with the click of a mouse. Producers now routinely scan Web sites to see who the experts are on a given topic, what they look like, and even how they sound.
This is why having a media page is essential.
Everyone knows that you need a Web site. Web sites sell books and authors. But if you want attention from television and radio, you need a Web site with a page that makes it easy for producers not just to find you, but to want you on their shows.
Your media page should go beyond the book bio to tell media people everything they will ever need to know about the media guests you can provide—how they look, how they talk, what they talk about, and where they’ve talked before.
Five elements will help make your media page as effective as possible.
An appealing photo. Author photos are the first thing we look at on a Web site. Your media page needs a great photo for each author that reflects the author’s personality. The picture has to be appealing, friendly, and recent (producers can tell from the clothes and the hairstyles when photos come from long ago, so you’d better be honest). If a photo looks like a mug shot or if it will remind us of a bank executive about to turn someone down for a loan, then it’s not the right shot.
We’re looking for an image of a person we might want to sit next to at a dinner party, someone who is vibrant and engaging. Even if a book is about a serious subject, the author doesn’t have to look solemn.
Oh, and if there is no photo, we’re going to assume that the author looks like Quasimodo.
A hook. You need a hook to get booked, and no, the book is not your hook. Celebrities can use their personalities as their hooks. You hear their names, and you know what you’ll be getting. Jennifer Doe and John Smith, who have no name value, need that unique something about their topic or themselves that makes their stories different from all the rest—an attention-grabbing sentence or sentence fragment that’s easy to explain quickly and concisely. If you need a paragraph or 15 minutes to give a producer your hook, go back to the drawing board.
When you have your hook, feature it clearly and prominently on your media page. “The Plastic Surgeon to the Stars,” “The Millennial Mentor,” “The Fitness Guru for Women in their Fifties,” “Pet Psychic.” Producers need to know exactly what they will get.
Video clips. Once we can see what prospective guests look like and read what they’re all about, we want to see them in action. Can these people speak coherently? Are they energetic? Do they know how to tell a good story? Do they have good tips to share?
Put a clip on your media page that shows you or your author(s) doing what you and/or they do best. If you don’t have clips from earlier TV appearances to share, or if the ones you have are bad, tape something yourself with your own video camera. For these purposes, a clip should be three to four minutes long. If it’s any longer, producers will click it off because of time pressures. What they need is a quick impression of the author’s personality. You’re just trying to intrigue them enough to get them to call and find out more.
If you have more to share than can be contained in three or four minutes, do a couple of short clips on different topics and give producers a choice.
Sound bites. If you’re going to make a tape for your media page, make sure it contains strong sound bites. These short statements should reflect your own views in a captivating way. They should also appear in print on your media page.
Media coverage content. Links to a prospective guest’s published articles, previous interviews, podcasts, Webinars, or any other kind of media exposure help producers decide if you are worthy of being considered for their show. It’s comforting for a producer to know that others in the media have used this person as a source or subject, and it gives us more evidence that this guest will be a good one.
Karen Melamed and Barbara Wellner are partners in MediaWise, which provides media coaching, TV booking basics, and media platform development for authors and experts. Karen was a producer on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Barbara has been a TV executive and executive producer and was instrumental in starting up the F/X network. For more information: mediawise-consulting.com; 310/745-0304.