Earlier this month, Affect Strategies‘ Walter Ocner attended a PRSA “Meet the Media” event connecting PR pros with the producers of morning shows. We thought his notes would make a great guest blog.
Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) held a panel discussion called “Meet the Media: Landing Top Morning Shows: Getting the Gold in Breakfast TV” at Fleishman-Hillard. The panel consisted of Tammy Caputo, Senior Producer of the CBS Early Show; Jennifer Cunningham, Senior Producer of Fox & Friends; Christina LaRosa, Associate Producer of Good Morning America Now and Dori Kornspan, Talent Producer of The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. Unlike other panel discussions I have attended in the past, this was a gathering of highly influential producers who genuinely wanted to give tips and advice on what they are looking for in a good guest and story.
The panel discussion, which ran approximately one and a half hours, was an informative, interesting and entertaining session. I will try to distill what each of the producers is interested in for their respective shows:
Tammy Caputo, CBS Early Show
Tammy is the gatekeeper for story ideas and guests on the Early Show. Generally stories should appeal to women and to an older demographic. She asks that pitches be short and to the point and the subject matter should be eye-catching. As she generally reads her emails via Blackberry, less is definitely more. In an email pitch, please make the subject line clear and straightforward. A cute subject line will get deleted.
As far as booking a story, they sometimes fill grids one to two months in advance. Immediate and breaking stories will require a faster turnaround. Oftentimes they will need to secure an expert quickly for a breaking story, so it’s important to keep an eye on the news cycle and pitch someone who may be a fit right away.
She prefers you not pitch multiple people at the station. If you do, please be upfront about it so as not to waste their time and annoy them. Also, if your client is going to appear on competing stations, full disclosure is recommended. They will oftentimes take the guest anyway but by not being honest, you run the risk of being blacklisted.
Other things to note: the station likes exclusives and by offering them one that works well, you build a solid relationship which will get you placed at the top of the list for consideration. Make sure that pitches are timely and relevant. If your spokesperson has had lots of coverage, let her know that and send links. The more coverage and on-air time your person has had, the better chance they will consider using them.
Jennifer Cunningham, Fox and Friends
Jennifer Cunningham is the Senior Producer and decides who will appear on the show. She is looking for new twists to old stories (for example, ‘What Father’s Day gift should dad get when he exchanges the ugly tie he got?’). She is also interested in stories that are more news-oriented and less feature-oriented. They also want stories that are human interest or outrage stories. An outrage story is one that makes the viewer demand a call to action.
When pitching, note they have Blackberries so keep it short and to the point. They are rarely sitting by their phones and so the pitches should briefly bullet the following: who, why, story hook, background nugget and whether the guest will be in-studio or remote. She also asks that you anticipate what they will want to know and give as much information in a short format. The more attractive the subject line, the better chance it will be read.
Jennifer also asks that if your spokesperson is booked, do not contact her multiple times. The show will contact you the day before. By calling and being a pest, you are ensuring that they will not take your clients in the future. She also commented that putting conditions on what a spokesperson will or will not discuss is a sure way of getting canceled and never getting on the program in the future.
Finally, Jennifer said the best way to pitch a story is to ask yourself, “Is this a story that I would stop what I’m doing to watch. If I wouldn’t care about the subject, why should they?”
Dori Kornspan, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet
Dori is the talent producer and responsible for the guests and content of the show. Generally, the subject matter is racier, sexier and more adult. Their demographic is women 25-54 and more urban-oriented. The stories they cover are fun, upbeat and entertainment-based. You won’t see cooking segments, product showcases or relationship experts. They do like debatable topics or segments that skew more controversial. They like medical breakthrough stories and are always looking for experts to have on tap at a moments notice.
When pitching, email in bullets is preferred with no attachments. Voicemail messages should be very short with the contact information at the very top. It is ok to follow-up with a call but not ok to be a pest. Also, when pitching, take into consideration they generally book a week or two ahead. If pitching multiple people by email, she asks you copy everyone on the same email so there is no confusion during their booking meetings.
Christina LaRosa, Good Morning America Now
When pitching, she asks that you package the story idea for the web. She wants to see slideshows, PPT presentations, video excerpts and images. She prefers emails that are mostly bullet points for quick scanning and stresses she is rarely ever near or on the phone. If sending something by snail mail, which she does accept, always email her to let her know to be on the lookout for the package.
With so much content needed to fill space, she asks that you pitch for the next day or a 1-2 week timeframe. She often needs to fill a hole at the last minute. She may ask for a guest the same or next day. Christina also can help with GMA Radio and guests for the first two hours of the televised show. She usually needs to slot people late in the day, so pitching afternoons and evenings are welcome.
If there was one thing that was stressed by all the panelists, it was that including a link to video of the spokesperson is the best way to get their attention and be considered. They need to know the person on camera will not only look good but also be able to communicate in a clear and interesting manner. Television is, after all, a visual medium and they want to be able to “see the product before buying”.
Overall, I want to say this was a highly informative session that was well attended by a capacity crowd. As a person who has been in the field a number of years, I can say I learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work when pitching morning shows. As I walked outside that evening, I couldn’t wait to jump back on the phones and put what I learned to practice.