get your business featured on local TV
Photo by Eric Krebs

— Viewer from Market, Launch, and Sell Your Next Big Thing

Whether you have ambitions to reach a massive audience on the TODAY show, Oprah or even CreativeLive, or you want to drive foot traffic to your local business, local TV is a fun and often-overlooked opportunity to get the word out.

In fact, after a long decline in viewership, local TV audiences are bouncing back. Before you write off TV as a media dinosaur, consider this: 3 in 4 American adults watch local television news. And if your sights are on larger live platforms, local TV spots can demonstrate to producers that you’re a lively and engaging guest.

So how do you get started with local news? Read on to find out the 4-step process I’ve used to successfully cold pitch (that means I didn’t already have a contact at the station) everything from local TV networks like WGN-TV in Chicago to CNN, FOX Business and Bloomberg.

1) Tune in to the program you’d like to visit.

The biggest pet peeve of producers is getting pitches from people who are obviously clueless as to the types of segments they put together. Before you even think about pitching a segment idea, watch a few live episodes or a smattering of clips from their website.

As you watch, note the following:

How long are the guest segments? Generally speaking, you’ll have 3 minutes for your segment, which is useful to know when you’re planning. Want to do a demo? You’ll need to prep it so the host can introduce the segment, participate in your demo and wrap it up in 3 minutes.

Are guests usually filmed in studio or on location? In recent work with local TV, I’ve heard that many stations prefer to go on location (to your site or an event, for example), rather than bring guests in studio. But this varies from market-to-market and station-to-station. See if you can notice a trend as you’re watching clips.

What kinds of segments do they run? Do the guests tend to do straight interviews, demos, or do they like to have their anchors try out fun new workouts and recipes? You might not notice a pattern, but it’s useful to notice if the anchors like to participate or if they usually interview people on the street, because that will come in handy when you pitch.

Don’t sweat it if you’re not detecting too many patterns in your viewing. Just by asking the question, and watching the program like a publicist, you’re taking in information about the programs that most people miss.

2) Draw a mental picture of what your segment will look and feel like.

Now it’s time to envision how you might fit into the station’s programming. Always keep in mind that TV is a visual medium. As we told one client doing a food segment, it doesn’t matter how your dishes taste — how they look is what matters for TV!

Imagine that you’re on set. The anchor introduces you. You get to do your thing. The anchor wraps up and shares your URL or the location of your shop.

What is that thing you do in between?

You could invite the cameras to a live location, where the host can interview you remotely. Is there something going on in the background like an event you’ve spearheaded?

Or maybe you join the host in studio for an expert segment on your hot tips, how to’s or what to avoid’s.

Finally, you might teach the host a new craft live on camera.

Jot down both what your segment will focus on (e.g. how teenagers are finding inventive ways to make money in a tough job market) and what props or visuals you might need (clips of teens making products).

3) Identify why your topic is important to your local community at this moment.

You could have the best visuals and a great idea, but if you can’t clearly articulate why it matters to your local community now, the station won’t pick you up.

Remember, local news, whether it’s TV or the paper or radio, is focused on what’s happening in your hometown.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to position your story as the local example (or counterpoint!) to a national trend. Look to national media for recent stories around your topic. Are you bucking the trend or a shining example? Both work perfectly well!

A second way to approach this is with an event or seasonal tie-in. For example, every September, you know local TV is talking back-to-school. Can you tie your topic into the bigger conversation? If not back-to-school, what other seasonal trends might you take advantage of?

4) Package your idea into a pitch-perfect email.

Now it’s time to put it all together! Your pitch should clearly explain your segment idea, detailing the visuals you’ve brainstormed.

Here’s an email template you can use to sell your idea:

Subject line: What do you envision as the headline for your segment? Use it as your subject line to grab the producer’s attention.

Dear {Producer’s Name}. Probably the easiest way to get the producer’s name is to call the station and ask who is in charge of booking guests for a particular program.

Introduce your idea. Describe the segment, and explain why it matters to your community in no more than 3-5 sentences.

Share your credentials. Why are you the perfect person to tell this story? Give yourself 3 sentences max to share your background.

Describe the visuals. Share your vision with the producers. If you ideas for both an in-studio and on-location shoot, great! Give both options. Again, limit yourself to 3 sentences.

Call-to-action. Put the ball in the producer’s court. Ask them to contact you to set up the segment.

Sign off. With TV, you could find yourself booking a segment with just a few days of lead time, so always include a phone number where they can reach you!

Now, I don’t want to scare you, but…

TV is one of the few areas where making a phone call can really make a difference. If you’re feeling up to it, call the station 30 minutes to an hour after that day’s live program ends, and ask to speak to the producer. You can use the pitch template above as the basis for your script. Just be sure to introduce yourself and ask if the producer has a minute before launching into your pitch.

Back to you!

Is local media on your radar? TV segments can be an absolute blast to put together, and the professionals at the stations will make you look like a pro (much like they do here at CreativeLive!). Local TV is a great way to build up a portfolio to help you break into public speaking and larger opportunities to take the stage.

Use this simple 4-step process, and you’ll be bantering with your local TV host in no time!

Brigitte Lyons is a media strategist with a passion for storytelling and the founder of B, a boutique public relations agency that helps forward-thinking organizations and individuals move people with their ideas. Find out how you can mine the PR gold in your archives with her top (free) resource, the Content Remix.