How to tackle television

Ask most CEOs if they’d like to see their business on TV and they’ll jump at the chance.

Even in today’s multi-media environment TV can still offer access to audiences beyond your wildest dreams, but to reach them, you’ve got to compete with thousands of others who all want the same thing. And how you look, what you say, and how you say it will all play a part in whether you make it on screen and how well you’re received when you get there.

Whether you’re angling for a slot on regional news or a whole documentary series about your company, here are a few key points to remember.

First of all, understand the medium. It may seem obvious, but TV is all about pictures, and even the greatest story in the world won’t make it on screen without them. Giving journalists the opportunity to film an event and making sure you have key interviewees lined up to speak to them on camera means you’re much more likely to get their attention.

When a stash of letters sent by former pupils serving in the trenches of WW1 was discovered at Rossall School, we offered regional TV journalists an interview with the teacher who discovered them, as well as a close up look at the letters and access to the school’s archive. Add all this to the beautiful Victorian buildings at Rossall and you’ve got the picture perfect recipe for a great TV news story.

Stories make the news. They’re events that are unusual or extraordinary. Before you hit the send button on that email to BBC News, ask yourself: what’s the line that’ll make TV viewers drop their chips? If there isn’t one, don’t send it. Jamie Edwards’ bid to become the youngest person to build a nuclear fusion reactor– in a school science lab – really was a once in a lifetime story. The proof? Jamie appeared on regional and national TV news and was flown to the US for an interview on the Letterman Show.

Pictures, of course, need words, and having someone who can convey your organisation’s messages in clear, concise soundbites is essential if you don’t want to end up on the cutting room floor. They say stars of the screen are born, not made, but investing in media training can ensure your staff come across in a professional, authoritative manner and are able to handle the tricky questions journalists may pose.

It’s a sad fact, but in TV looks are important. The 1960 presidential debate between a relaxed John F Kennedy and a perspiring Richard Nixon is still a classic lesson in how image and presentation can influence audience perception. Language and appearance can go along way to helping gain people’s trust in you – and your business, so if they’re an issue, make sure you seek professional advice before stepping in front of a camera.

Finally, be available. Journalists hate being told “sorry, the CEO can’t do an interview today.” Sometimes the mountain must go to Mohammed, and if you want TV exposure, your key spokesperson must be able to take part in filmed interviews or appearances in studio at short notice.

Being helpful and flexible will earn you brownie points with TV producers and keep you front of mind when they’re looking for interviewees with your expertise.

TV is in essence a magpie, constantly searching for something bright, shiny and new. Polishing up your act and creating stories with sparkle could be the key to help you strike TV gold.

By Sarah Foulkes, account manager at agency Viva PR