In a diverse media universe, a good national broadcast appearance still attracts the *right* kind of attention for startups, and may open the door to a big investor, buyer, or partner. But producers at business news networks and talk shows want guests with name recognition. So where does the ambitious startup founder with a great story to tell fit in?
Remember, your perspective and experience has value beyond your company. Too many startup founders limit their media opportunities because they only want to talk about themselves, and their current project. But you and your partners probably have a wealth of experience from previous companies, and earlier jobs. Offering commentary around big news, like an IPO or sale of a competing company, can be a great way to establish a relationship with producers.
Right now, Snap’s IPO is the talk of The Street and The Valley. But their execs are in an SEC-mandated quiet period leading up to the offering. So executives at ad and social media agencies are primed to offer valuable insight in their place. Even cloud experts can get in on the conversation, with buzz around Snap’s deals with Google Cloud and AWS.
Make yourself available and be flexible. Like Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” So strategically make yourself available to broadcast producers when the big guys won’t. For instance, if you represent a tech company that’s aiming to disrupt the hotel industry, let producers know that you’re willing to go on and talk about holiday travel on Thanksgiving morning or Christmas Eve. If most of your competitors are headed out of the country to attend a conference, let producers know you’re standing by in case they need a voice from your category.
Put together a reel of on-camera experience. No producer wants to give executives their first shot on-air, only to have them flopsweat and stutter through a segment, forget why they’re on, and resort to reciting Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day to seem like a strong leader.
So how do you get reel material to land your first TV appearance? Start with non-broadcast appearances. Have someone record a Ted talk, conference panel appearance, or even an internal (but still impassioned) presentation in the office conference room. The goal is to help producers get a sense of your on-set potential: voice, cadence, body language, and areas of expertise.
Stick the landing. Being the foremost authority on a topic often is not enough. Producers welcome back guests that make good television. Yes, they want to inform, but they get paid to engage with and entertain the audience. So do your homework! Watch the show in the weeks leading up to your appearance, learn how they expect guests to interact with on-air talent and each other. Make yourself available for a pre-interview call with a producer in the days before your appearance, and run any stories you want to tell by them first. They have the best sense for the tone of their show, and can tell you whether bringing a photo of your dog, who is actually named after the show’s host, would be cute or terrifying.
After your segment airs, be sure to thank everyone at the show that you interacted with leading up to the taping. Of course the talent booker and producer should want to have you back on, but on-air talent and writers actually have a lot of pull in guest selection. And a good word from the makeup room never hurts.
Finally, get involved in the social media discussion around your interview. The most loyal viewers will have opinions — good, bad, or otherwise — on Twitter and the show’s online presence. Addressing them yourself and taking the time to engage in dialogue shows the producer that you value their audience.
Now, extend a warm welcome to our next guest — YOU!