Archive for April, 2017

Want More Earned Broadcast Media? You Need to Know What a Producer Really Does Each Day.

April 27, 2017

Before I started working as a producer to help Fortune 500 companies and the public relations agencies who represent them create newsworthy story angles to get media exposure, I worked on the inside of daytime talk TV as a producer for infotainment and entertainment format shows. My career started in New York at ABC-TV and then I moved to Los Angeles where I also worked for ABC in addition to other networks including E! Entertainment Television.

Regis Philbin and Marianne Schwab: I was recently reunited with Regis Philbin on the set of Hallmark’s Home & Family when he was in Los Angeles guest hosting the show. I was a Segment Producer for Regis in New York and also produced his travel feature on the Orient Express for “Runaway with the Rich & Famous.”

Since I started producing broadcast public relations twenty years ago, I gotta tell you that not much has changed regarding the basics of how shows are produced. Oh, sure, there’s been a digital revolution and the technology is very different, but except for “email,” producers STILL get faxes, receive snail mail, and the anatomy of a television segment has remained the same. Content is still king.

The Segment Producer Drives the Content of Most Shows. There is a lot involved in making TV segments entertaining and informative and it revolves around the Segment Producer.  Under-standing their world will help you to develop better pitches for your client or product and increase your ability to get you or your client booked with earned media interviews.


There are many types of producers in television but the primary producer you will work with is usually the Segment Producer. Most shows have two to ten Segment Producers depending on the type of show (and unless you have a direct contact at a newsroom, you’ll want to contact the Assignment Desk, which will vet your pitch for producers).

“Glamorous” Behind-The-Scenes Photo: At my desk — working for Regis. Michael Gelman’s desk was to my left.

When I was a Segment Producer on talk shows and lifestyle programs, I would field tons of media pitches each week from publicists, book authors, business people, and professional experts wanting a shot at getting featured on my show.

The Segment Producer puts the television segment together from beginning to end, starting with weeding through hundreds of media pitches each week to determine what will make the most entertaining segments for their show. They will then take the very best story ideas and pitch them to the Executive Producer (and/or possibly the Supervising Producer), who will ultimately decide if a segment pitch makes it on the air.

What Happens When the Pitch is Approved. Once a segment is green-lighted by the Executive Producer, the Segment Producer will contact the person who pitched the segment to get more information and schedule the date. They will schedule a pre-interview with the guest to determine the best way to approach the segment, write the segment intro or suggested anchor lead, and prepare the questions the host will ask so that the story flows logically and organically.

Additionally, Segment Producers must ensure that all of the props are collected and delivered to the set, arrange for a field crew to shoot appropriate video to support or enhance the segment, and work with an editor to cut appropriate video clips from the field video (or promotional clips of the movie or TV show for celebrity guests) that will drive the segment for in-studio interviews.

Now, after I booked a guest for the shows I produced, I would work directly with the publicist and the guest to structure a three-to-five minute segment with the goal of making it informative, entertaining, and fun – the pleasing cocktail known as info-tainment. Then, prior to the guest’s appearance, we would go over how the segment would work (or flow) and I would media train them so that when they got in front of the camera with the show’s host, they aced the interview, product demo, or cooking demo (note that demos would always involve a rehearsal before the show).

Marianne Schwab and Jack Canfield. Discussing my book, The Insider’s Guide to Media Training, with one of the best-selling authors of all time, Jack Canfield.

One of my primary goals as a producer (then and now) is to make sure every guest looks and does their best on TV, since failure is not an option on LIVE television and my reputation as a producer (and often, my job) is on the line. Many Executive Producers (my bosses) were known to say, “You’re only as good as your last segment.” That comment has motivated me to keep producing the highest quality throughout my career and also help on-air talent and spokespersons fine tune their on-camera appearances with my media training services. In fact, my book, The Insider’s Guide to Media Training, was just published and has detailed strategies for acing interviews.

It takes a lot of preparation to make things look spontaneous on camera and, yes, nothing happens on a program without planning it, but we did manage to pull off a few surprises for celebrity guests that were genuine and good TV.

Producer’s Insider Tip: Write a suggested Q&A “script” with the suggested intro and suggested tag (along with suggested message points – “suggested” is “key”). This gives the Segment Producer a great starting point and then they’ll tweak the script (or not). Only do this when you’ve studied the show’s style and format since you will only “score points” with this IF you are not writing a “one size fits all” boiler-plate script template. Customize it. The daily life of a Segment Producer is very hectic so if you can lessen their workload by “pre-producing” the segment (and the segment fits their format along with being info-taining), then you’re on your way to building a great working relationship with that producer.

Know Taping Schedules for Shows. When you can, find out the taping schedule for the shows you’re pitching. Some shows tape daily and are LIVE while some tape five shows in two days. On a daily show, there is usually a meeting after the show to discuss the next day’s show (some shows, like Fox & Friends, do a pre-show meeting) and pitch new ideas for upcoming programs. Do not leave messages for producers when they are taping the show or in the daily meeting and do not send them emails during these times (unless you have a breaking news story that is relevant to their show). However, if you can get to them before the daily meeting and your pitch is good, that’s a sweet spot for the producer and then they can pitch it that day.  Time sensitive pitches can happen outside of meetings, but this is a general rule.

The preceding is actually just the short list of how things come together for daily shows, but hopefully, it will give you a quick overview of what is involved in producing a three-to-five minute segment for a television program.  I’m certain that this insider information will help you be more effective when pitching shows.  Best wishes for success!

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

Headline Hacks Are the Secret to Massive Media Exposure

April 24, 2017

When I was a network television producer, I was inundated with PR pitches every day. In fact, it is not uncommon for producers and assignment desk decision makers to field over 500 emails or more a day so unless you have written a headline for your pitch that grabs their attention immediately, chances are they’ll hit the delete key and your email story pitch will go right to the trash folder.

This has nothing to do with the value of your story, product or client but if you can’t get reporters or producers to open your email pitch (press release or media alert) based on your headline, even a good story will never get noticed by assignment desks, beat reporters, or producers.

Here are five ways to write headlines that will increase your earned media results:

#1. Stop Writing Headlines to Please Your Client – Write to Please Producers. Too many times, publicists think more like a client than they do the media. They’re client pleasers, not media pleasers. They use “Public Relations 101” Rules to Writing Press Releases taught by college professors (who often have no real world experience). Clients LOVE it. Media just finds the pitch boring.

#2. Start Thinking Like a TV News Promo Writer. In a world where the media needs to instantly grab viewers, listeners, and page views, with exciting headlines, you need to study how they promote their newscast and then follow their lead when it comes to your pitch.

#3. Use Deliberate Vagueness to Create Curiosity. There was a commercial airing in California several years ago that was produced like a pseudo 11-o’clock news station promo. It started with the reporter voiceover announcing, “There’s something lurking in your kitchen that’s very dangerous.”  There were images of a kitchen counter loaded with food and a refrigerator door being opened as shots of various foods were panned inside the fridge.  Then the voiceover continued, “It’s in your refrigerator and it could kill you.  Details at 11.”  The ad was an obvious satire on how news stations over sensationalize promos to grab viewers, but the satire is not too far from reality. This also uses another effective technique using a threat that instills fear so you’re compelled to find the answer. It’s effective, but don’t over do it.

#4. Headline Hack Magazines and Websites to Use Their Formulas. Whenever I’m stuck in a line at the grocery store, I love reading the headlines of magazines and tabloids at the checkout for headline structure inspiration. Hey, don’t judge me. They have amazing examples for writing headlines that make you want to know more so you buy the publication. Same thing happens when you’re surfing any online news outlet. Study the best headlines and hack their formulas. You’ll be amazed at the results.

#5. Grab Interest to Read More Using Lists or Mistakes. Lists and mistakes are always a hit with producers. From the “Five Best Beach Destinations” to the “Three Biggest Mistakes Parents Make with Teenagers,” these are headlines that pique interest and compel newsrooms to open the email.

Finally, think of ways to jazz up your headline and, depending your client’s type of business (and whether or not they are publicly traded), you may need to get the legal team on board, but imagine finding a way to craft headlines that dramatically increase your story getting before the eyes of news room gatekeepers and decision makers to explode your earned P.R. results.

The key to success is grabbing the attention with media decision makers using an intriguing headline (subject line) that screams “open me” and then following through with a story that supports the tease since you don’t want to “click bait” a reporter or producer.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

Five Questions To Ask About Media Training Your Spokesperson Before Your Next SMT or RMT

April 14, 2017

Media training your spokesperson for broadcast appearances on TV and radio (including satellite media tours) is often a service that is neglected or performed in-house at publicity agencies.  Before you make an investment in a spokesperson, spend time booking interviews, or engage a company to produce a SMT or RMT, there are five questions you should ask to determine if you need to add specialized media training services to your campaign budget.

#1.  We are paying a high fee for the spokesperson. Why should we spend additional budget to media train them? Even the most experienced spokesperson needs to rehearse and prepare for each on-camera appearance and specific client message. No one “wings it” and nails it. Clients invest a significant amount of budget in spokesperson fees and a public relations campaign (especially ones involving a satellite media tour), but all that can fall apart if the spokesperson’s delivery is not fine tuned for a flawless delivery for their multiple interviews. The investment in media training protects the investment in the SMT and Spokesperson to maximize on-air success.

#2.  Our spokesperson has a lot of media experience and is on television regularly. Why would they need media training? Depending on your spokesperson’s background or expertise, not all media experience is the same. Actors, celebrities, and experts also don’t have experience with the client’s specific messaging so they need to be professionally media trained so that they ace the on-camera interview(s) for the client.

ACTORS (CELEBRITIES): Actors always work from a script and need to be given exact message points, but also need training and rehearsal on how to deliver a client message in a sincere way that doesn’t feel canned or memorized and that viewers will find authentic.  They also need to be trained on how to handle curve balls when interviews don’t go as planned so that they stay on message and avoid creating a P.R. disaster (for them or the client).

CELEBRITIES (NON-ACTORS): Celebrities who are non-actors include reality show stars, chefs, book authors, bloggers, social media sensations, etc. They do not have experience being interviewed on-camera in the SMT format and need media training to master the client message plus handle unexpected questions so that every interview is a home run.

EXPERTS / BOOK AUTHORS (NON-ACTORS): An expert makes a great spokesperson because their professional experience and credibility makes them a book-able guest, but most are not comfortable in front of a camera and are very new to delivering a client message. Media training prepares them to handle every interview with confidence that is important for gaining viewers trust.

Nothing will kill your spokesperson’s on-camera credibility more than verbal fossils (i.e. “ah,” “um,” “uh,” “well,” “so,” “you know,” “er,” and “like” ).   They are distracting, weaken the message, and frankly, make you sound bad. As with other nervous habits, they’re probably not aware that they do them.

They need to learn do’s and don’ts or they could derail their credibility and how to:

  • minimize ahs, ums, and other verbal fossils.
  • avoid wasting precious airtime rambling.
  • deliver a structured message for the three minute interview.
  • segue from questions back to client messaging.
  • how to pivot.
  • handle curve balls.
  • deliver the client message in a way that does not seem too commercial.
  • deliver the message authentically.
  • understand exactly what the client expects.
  • balance the questions and weave in the client message.
  • look at the camera to engage with a reporter that they cannot see.
  • handle technical issues if the IFB drops out or they’re getting audio feedback.
  • manage nervous habits and mannerisms.
  • answer questions and how not to answer questions so that they look good and the client looks good.

#3.  Our celebrity spokesperson doesn’t think they need media training. How do we persuade them to do it? First, it should be in their contract as part of your spokesperson arrangement. Second, it is important for the celebrity’s image to always look their best on-camera so media training is insurance that their personal brand and image is protected. Protecting your brand is equally important.

#4.  Our P.R. agency already provides media training services. Why should we contract services outside of our own agency?   Many P.R. agencies do a great job of preparing spokespersons for certain appearances, but the problem is that the agency media trainer has tunnel vision regarding their client’s messaging and the spokesperson is prepared to deliver the message in a such a way that is over commercial and this can really turn producers off. They’ll cut the client message out of the interview (especially if it’s taped). Also, they don’t media train the talent from a producer’s perspective.

#5.  What is the benefit of having a TV producer media train a spokesperson? Nothing can compare to having an experienced TV producer media train your spokesperson. They’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in control rooms coaching on-air talent through IFBs, diligently watching TV monitors to help the talent make adjustments so that their on-camera delivery comes across flawlessly. You want a producer’s keen eye, innate sensibilities, and experience to fine tune every nuance of your spokesperson’s delivery so that they nail your message and every interview.

If you’re investing a significant budget for a public relations campaign into a satellite media tour, but fail to train your on-camera spokesperson, your brand could be damaged and your investment wasted.

Marianne Schwab is the author of The Insider’s Guide to Media Training and the go-to broadcast media expert to show you how to get booked on TV and ace your on-camera interview. Her producer credits include Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Runaway with the Rich & Famous, E! Entertainment Television ON E! Specials, and many more. She has worked in broadcast for over 25 years and is currently the Executive Producer for CMP Media Cafe — a company specializing in broadcast public relations where she provides customized media training services for clients.

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe