The Publicity Club of New York hosted a luncheon in late July featuring segment and guest producers from some of the top-rated daytime TV talk shows:
- Patty Neger, coordinating producer, “Good Morning America”
- Kelly Burkhard, talent booker, “Live! With Regis & Kelly”
- Angela LaGreca, producer, “Today”
- Tommy Crudup, senior talent producer, “Rachael Ray Show”
- Rena Popp, senior producer, “The Wendy Williams Show”
Following are highlights of the very informative session, which was also streamed online. To sign up for the streaming pass, click here.
‘GOOD MORNING AMERICA’
Neger is coordinating producer for ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” where she produces live book and author segments, live medical/health segments, and animal/wildlife features. She produces regular segments with both Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, and veterinarian Marty Becker. She also co-created the shows ground-breaking women’s health coverage, “The Healthy Woman.” In addition, she works with a number of special-interest magazines, producing lifestyle pieces for the show.
Before pitching “GMA,” it’s important to know the show, said Neger. The broadcast is broken down into four sections:
- 7 to 7:30 a.m. is the news half hour.
- 7:30 to 8 a.m. is informational. Features have to be “buzzy” and visual (video, lots of pictures). For example, they recently interviewed a doctor regarding the heat wave hitting various parts of the country. Rather than interviewing the doctor in the studio, they interviewed him in a sauna. At the beginning of the interview, they weighed him and took his vitals, and then compared them to his weight and vitals after being in the sauna. This helped them explain to viewers what happens to a body in extreme heat. “We are always trying to find visual ways to tell the story,” said Neger. “We are television. We don’t want talking heads. We’re always looking for a ‘television moment’ – what people will be talking about after the show.”
- 8 to 9 a.m. is hip, fun, visual entertainment – e.g., a fashion show featuring twins, one wearing a “splurge” item and the other wearing a “knockoff.” The anchors then try to guess which one is wearing which.
By watching the show, you’ll get a better idea of what they do and don’t cover. “Not every person or product is appropriate for the show.” For example, don’t pitch “20/20” with a story about eyebrow waxing (an actual pitch a colleague of hers at “20/20” recently received).
Also, be aware of timing. Know what’s making news so you know when not to pitch. “If there’s a big news story, like a plane crash, don’t pitch a story at that time,” said Neger.
You can assume the show wants exclusivity, said Neger, adding that she would like to know if you’re pitching the same story to other shows. And if you are, make sure you proofread your email. “I got an email that said, ‘This would be perfect for Matt and Ann,’” she said.
If you have a deadline by when you need to hear back before you take the story elsewhere, include that in the pitch, as well.
A few additional tips when contacting Neger:
- She prefers pitches by email (email@example.com). Keep them short, with the topic in the subject line and your client’s info in the opening paragraph. Don’t get too personal. And avoid calling a few minutes later to ask if she got the email.
- If you’re leaving a voicemail message, make sure to include your name and phone number at the beginning and end of the message.
- If sending snail mail, send to the show’s new location, 47 West 66th St. Although the show still has a studio downtown, Neger doesn’t visit it very often and prefers mail be sent to the new location
Neger added that “Good Morning America” is “really into social networking.” The show was 1.7 million followers on Twitter, and all of the anchors tweet, often during the show. If what you’re pitching has a social tie-in, make sure to mention it in your pitch.
“LIVE! WITH REGIS AND KELLY”
Burkhard explained that the program’s first section, in which Regis and Kelly talk about whatever’s on their mind, is not pitchable. “It’s totally organic,” she said. “They don’t even talk about it before the show.”
The show has three other sections: two top celebrity interviews and a demo. Demos can be about music, cooking, etc. – anything that’s “fun, different, really unique, and hasn’t been anywhere,” said Burkhard. “We want to be first if we can.”
When pitching, mention any pictures, videos, etc., that are available.
The show books three months in advance, so also keep that in mind when deciding when to pitch.
The “Today” show has four hours of content to fill every day:
- 7 to 7:30 a.m. is the news half hour.
- From 7:30 to 8 a.m., it starts changing a bit.
- 8 to 9 a.m. is more feature-oriented, with mom stories, entertainment, books, etc.
- 9 to 10 a.m. includes some news elements, as well as health-oriented stories and features like “Money 911.”
- The 10 a.m. hour “is pretty much just a drinking thing,” joked LaGreca.
LaGreca echoed the other panelists when she stressed the important of being familiar with “Today” before pitching: “Know the show. Know who you’re pitching. Don’t do the generic thing.”
LaGreca also shared a list of her do’s and don’ts for pitching stories to “Today”:
- Do know the person to pitch.
- Do try to make your product part of a bigger story.
- Do be transparent. If you have a medical expert that has ties with your client, tell them upfront.
- Don’t pitch by phone. “I just don’t have the time.”
- Don’t be too personal in your pitches. “I don’t like, ‘Happy Friday!’ or ‘How are you today?’ or overuse of exclamation points. I want something that’s useful.”
- Don’t send attachments. “I once got an email with 24 jpegs attached. It’s just not necessary.” If you have a visual component, include a link to the video or to a website where she can view pictures.
- Don’t follow up incessantly after sending a pitch. “Don’t berate, don’t pound us. If it’s something interesting, we’ll get back to you.”
- Don’t feel bad if you don’t hear back.
LaGreca can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
“THE WENDY WILIAMS SHOW”
“You need to know the show,” said Popp. “Wendy Williams is very outspoken, and she says it like she means it.”
The show is very celebrity-based. Everything Williams does revolves around celebrities somehow, said Popp. While the show does do some human-interest stories, most of the program is celebrity-based. They don’t do a lot of medical segments.
If you’re pitching a product, think about any possible celebrity connection. For example, Lindsay Lohan was on the show, and the company that made her earrings did an audience giveaway. That’s the type of tie-in producers are looking for.
“The Wendy Williams Show” is a live show, so be aware of what’s going on. “Timing is everything,” said Popp. “If there’s a snowstorm in New York, or the airports are in chaos, you can bet we had some cancellations.” That might be an opportunity for you to pitch to them if you can get your client to the studio quickly.
The show does do cooking and fashion segments, but, again, think about any celebrity connections.
Another opportunity is themed months, which the show is doing more of. “Keep an eye out for what’s coming up on the show to look for opportunities,” said Popp.
For example, Williams will be going on a bus tour of 18 cities across the country, so if you have clients who are nationwide, check out the list of cities on the website.
Popp can be reached by email at email@example.com.
“RACHAEL RAY SHOW”
“I agree pretty much with what everyone else said,” Crudup said. “Know the show. It is not a cooking show — it is celebrity-driven. Know what Rachael Ray would respond to.”
The show loves to do field pieces, but they still need to have a unique angle for them to send a crew out.
In terms of lead time, Crudup says a month is good. However, they can turn a segment around in a day “if it’s a big-enough story.”
Having been a publicist at MGM for five years, Crudup knows what PR pros go through. He is open to developing relationships with publicists and tries to return all emails. When emailing, include any links in email.
Crudup can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (917) 332-3185.
Written by Maria Perez, director of news operations for ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Maria, visit her blog on ProfNet Connect at http://www.profnetconnect.com/profnetmaria/blog/