TODAY Show Celebrates 60 Years of Being Picky About Choosing Guests

TODAY at 60

Who knew on January 14, 1952, that the launch of the TODAY show would change the face of morning television for the next 60 years with a format imitated by broadcasters around the world? After all these years, it is still the top-rated morning show.

TODAY is hosting a star-studded 60th anniversary celebration on Friday, January 13, with TODAY anchors past and present, favorite celebrity guests, and special surprises and performances.

I Want to Be on TODAY

Who (or what client) doesn’t want to be on TODAY? With over 5 million viewers, the show reaches the consumers that companies most covet. But the competition is fierce to book a guest spot whether for a new author, a subject matter expert or a spokesperson introducing a revolutionary new product.

Dave Garoway Live

Dave Garoway Live

The Internet and social media have been game-changers for TODAY and other talk shows. Each show has developed a robust website to compete. That’s where you can check the stories that are important to them.

Spokespeople need to be experts in their field but also current on breaking news in the 24/7 news cycle. They need to use the Internet to find the latest statistics, quotes from notable people in their industry and images to support their story.

Pitching the Booker

The gatekeepers to these shows are called bookers, who are often producers assigned to specific segments, such as author interviews. A short, compelling email pitch followed by a phone call is still an effective way to get a booker’s attention.

Most interviews these days are not casual chats. A booker will “audition” potential guests by phone to determine that they know their stuff and can articulate their key messages in the sound bites that make up talk show interviews. Talk shows and their anchors are very competitive. Every segment must be both compelling and memorable so play by their ground rules and give them what they want.

Preparing for the Interview

TODAY and other morning talk shows are the major leagues. To sharpen your skills, or those of your client and increase the chances of becoming a guest, build a DVD archive of interviews with local TV talk shows. Seeing your client in action will greatly increase the chances of winning a guest spot on one of the network shows.

Other things you need to do:

  • Familiarize yourself with the show’s format. Make an effort to find out who will be conducting the interview. Then watch interviews with that host to understand his/her style and the kinds of questions that might be asked. Note: the interviewer may change at the last minute due to breaking news or scheduling challenges.
  • Work with the producer in supplying her with photos, products and props that can be displayed or demonstrated during the spot.  Practice demonstrating the products to be sure they will work during the interview.
  • Consider getting media training and practice your interview with a third party for critiquing.  Videotaping is a great tool to see how telegenic you or your spokesperson is.
  • Make an effort create the atmosphere of the show by taping yourself sitting on a couch or an arm chair like the ones on TODAY. If two people are being interviewed together, the interview needs to be choreographed. Who speaks first and how will they share the segment? Who closes the interview? It’s important that they come across as a team and this definitely takes practice.
NBC News - Anchors-Correspondents

TODAY's Anchors

As for any print or TV interview, prepare a “grabber” to open the conversation. This can be an interesting fact, anecdote or rhetorical question.

However, save that grabber for the show and don’t share it with the producer in the pre-interview call.

Why not? Because the producer is very likely to share it with the host who will open the segment with your grabber. Then you’ll be stuck sitting there with nothing to say until you collect yourself and can then continue.

Be Creative

Be creative in pitching a fully thought through story angle to a producer. Suggest something offbeat or different from the usual talking heads. If they reject your first idea, have another one to immediately pitch.

Use props such as great images or new products that can be demonstrated on air. Accessories or articles of clothing in the “must have” color for the season are guaranteed to generate interest. Props keep your hands in use productively and help a spokesperson be perceived as credible, conversational, compelling … and memorable.

For example, one memorable, creative TODAY interview was with an author who used a laptop presentation to reveal the before and after photos of people who, with a simple wardrobe change, looked as though they had lost ten pounds. We’ve all seen weight loss segments but the use of a PowerPoint presentation on air, rather than live models, was what captured our attention and ultimately sold books.

Getting interviewed on TODAY, Good Morning America or CBS This Morning can send sales of a product soaring. Be sure your spokesperson is well coached and has practiced key messages so that she will impress the hosts and their audience – and receive an invitation to return.

From Yesterday to TODAY: Six Decades of America’s Favorite Morning Show

2 comments to TODAY Show Celebrates 60 Years of Being Picky About Choosing Guests

  • Marvin Greenberg

    This was an innovative thought for me and certainly provided clear how to information. Thank you.

  • Thanks for sharing these behind-the-scenes tips for becoming a subject matter expert on morning shows, like TODAY. As I continue to expand my own business through social media, your notes and observations will help prepare me for the day when I am called to be a contributor.

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