You don’t want to be the guest who shows up with props for your interview on a morning talk show without telling the producer. That’s a definite no-no.
TV hosts welcome guests who demonstrate their products or discuss their new books because it enlivens the interview. But your guest spot needs to be carefully orchestrated and approved by the producer – in advance.
With this year’s major holiday season approaching, be the guest whose appearance “knocks them dead” becauseyou’re so well prepared.
Work With the Producer
As we always advise in our posts, do your homework. Be familiar with how the show uses props. The national TV talk shows have large sets that are adequate for setting up a cooking demonstration, for example. A popular local TV morning show might not.
Is the host involved in most demonstrations or is the guest expected to carry the load? You’ll find out by watching the show and suggesting how to dress the set and the best way for the host to be involved.
Take control by sending renderings of the layout, and a photo of exactly how you believe the set should look with all the props in place. Producers want to make the segment the best it can be. There should never be any last-minute surprises.
Supply the Props
It’s your responsibility to supply the props you’ll need for a successful demonstration. Cooking segments can be complicated. Practice making the recipe with everything you need. Line up the props in the order you’ll use them: the bowls, flour, water, condiments, etc.
Producers want props that add energy and understanding to the segment – and make the host look good. Always remember that the host is the star. Suggest a role for her, such as stirring the cake mix or taking the first bite of the cake out of the oven.
Except in rare cases, you’ll be expected to bring the cooked product with you, as there won’t be time to make the product from start to finish on the set. There are many people who cook and design food to look good and hold up under the hot lights on the set.
These guidelines apply to other product demonstrations as well, such as unveiling the newest holiday fashion trends. You’ll be expected to supply the clothes and the models, subject to the produce’s approval.
Dick Weiner, the quintessential PR pro, taught me to bring props to radio interviews as they act as a stimulus to bring the conversation around to exactly what you want to talk about. Even though the listening audience can’t see them, the host will pick them up and use your props as discussion points.
Advice for Authors
Are you an author planning a book tour? Send the producer the book, but don’t expect the host to read it from beginning to end. He won’t have time unless it’s a subject that he’s deeply interested in.
To help guide you through your conversation, place different colored post-it notes in the pages of the book. Number the posts and write down the one or two key messages points from that passage in the book that you plan to read aloud.
If your book has photos that you want to share with the viewers, alert the producer in advance. Definitely put a post-it on each photo that you want to talk about. Should the host take hold of your book, she will most likely open it to the first post-it.
Using props can be tricky. Just recently, an author was demonstrating scarf-tying techniques to Savannah Guthrie on TODAY. Since everything had to be done looking in the mirror and backwards, Savannah just couldn’t get the hang of it.
This made the technique look very complicated (which it wasn’t) and certainly did not inspire anyone to buy the book. If your segment involves a demonstration, it’s best to do it yourself or make sure the host can handle it.
A lot of authors and spokespersons make the mistake of waiting for the perfect question. You’re never going to get it. Either you or your PR firm should provide a proposed discussion guide in advance with the key messages from the book to help guide the host in asking the right questions.
Include a note saying something like, “John Smith is looking forward to his interview. Here are the issues he is prepared to talk about…” Most definitely be able to talk about why you wrote your book and what readers will take away from it.
As Always, Practice, Practice, Practice!
All the advance arrangements in the world won’t help if you aren’t totally prepared. If you’re demonstrating how to cook a complicated holiday hors d’oeuvre, then make it several times from start to finish.
Pick the time in the segment when you’re going to mention your client’s name and product. It needs to sound natural. And be sure to mention it! We’ve watched professional spokespersons on TV who didn’t remember who they were working for.
Don’t let your props overshadow you. Learn how to handle them deftly while looking at the host and engaging in the back-and-forth banter that is so enjoyable for viewers and members of the live audience. You’ll know you’ve got them hooked when they laugh in the right places.
It’s the holidays so dress in holiday colors – red or green. This applies to other holidays seasons as well – pink or red for Valentine’s Day, orange for Halloween, and pastels for spring.
Always wrap up your segment by repeating your overarching key message. Then thank the host for her participation. Don’t forget she’s helped to promote your client’s product or your book. She deserves your appreciation.