It was a very successful week: four national TV interviews in less than seven days. But if there is one thing I always tell people to remember about national TV, it’s that it’s obviously very competitive and can be a challenge to break into this platform. Beyond that, however, there is one more very important lesson when it comes to working with national TV: be flexible.
In most cases, a national TV segment will come with its share of hiccups. You’ll be bumped for breaking news (even when you’re on the set and mic’d up with less than a minute to air time). Your hit time will constantly change. The producer will lead you to believe you are discussing one angle of a story, and then the anchor will run in a completely different direction. And the list goes on.
With all four national TV interviews this week, we had our challenges. But thanks to flexible clients who could role with the punches and adjust very quickly, all made it to air and were successful.
1. Varney & Co. – Steve Siebold was confirmed for an in-studio segment in New York City to discuss whether or not the wealthy should contribute more to support the economy. We were confirmed weeks ago for a hit between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. But just last week, Varney & Co. moved to the 11am-1pm slot, and the producer forgot to tell us. Steve was booked on a 1:30 p.m. flight out of LaGuardia, so you can imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when the producer called me the day before to confirm a 12:45 p.m. hit time. Luckily, Steve was willing to pay to change his flight, but the producer worked with us and moved his segment to 11:45 a.m. We had a limo waiting outside the Fox News studios in New York City, and Steve made his flight just as they were closing the boarding door.
Even more proof how you have to be flexible and ready for anything: out of nowhere and in the middle of the live segment, Stuart Varney asked Steve on national TV what his net worth was. Talk about setting yourself up for an IRS audit! But he rolled with it and jokingly deflected, and the segment continued.
2. Fox News Hannity – The producer called me 45 minutes before the show’s start time and asked if Seth Kaplan from Airline Weekly was available to join them to discuss Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Giving a guest 45 minutes notice for a national TV segment is unheard of – the producer even apologetically laughed and told me, “We don’t usually work like this!” I called Seth and told him to grab his jacket and jump in the car. Of the two local independent contract studios that all the networks use, I didn’t even yet know which one he was going to – just told him start driving in the general direction of both, and I’ll get back to him! The producer hadn’t done a pre-interview and didn’t give us any direction about the segment, and Seth literally runs into the studio, sits down and Sean Hannity says, “Joining us now is Airline Weekly’s Seth Kaplan.” We pulled it off with not even a minute to spare and without even knowing what the story angle was.
3. CNN Newsroom – I had confirmed Seth Friday afternoon to appear on Saturday afternoon with Don Lemon to discuss Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Friday night the producer called me and had to cancel. Sunday morning I get a call, and they want Seth back on the air at 7 p.m. Then it changed to 11 p.m. One producer led us to believe he’d be part of a panel (which ended up being correct), while another producer told us something very different. And with most national TV interviews, the producer speaks with the guest ahead of time and gets his or her thoughts. But since this is a big and breaking story, there was no time. Seth got on and pulled it off, not knowing what they were going to ask. How many people would really get on national TV not knowing exactly what they would be talking about? That’s being flexible.
4. CNBC– Seth was confirmed to discuss Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We were on and off all morning and the hit time kept changing. I had Seth driving to the studio twice only to have him turn around as the network kept changing the lineup and direction they were taking for the segment. And talk about flexibility: the segment turned out being more about the aircraft itself, and with Seth not being a pilot but rather an industry analyst, I was worried for him. But he’s a pro on TV and in all seriousness could get on national TV and talk about how to perform open heart surgery, and he would sound like he’s a heart surgeon. It was a very successful segment.
The bottom line: when scheduled to be a guest for a national TV segment, be ready for anything. Nothing surprises me anymore. I’ve seen it all! The best advice is to just be as flexible as possible, expect scheduling changes, story angle changes and be ready for any line of questions. As long as you know your topic well; can readjust your focus when things are constantly changing; and come off as a lively, animated and knowledgeable guest, you’ll be fine.
In the meantime, I’m celebrating the success for my clients and my own personal success of four national TV segments in less than a week. That’s another awesome accomplishment I am very proud of.