Nancy is candid about the how, when and where of the ways she pitched herself to these shows. In today’s post she talks about how she secured these placements (you could too) and gives details on why the appearances on Regis and Oprah produced less ammunition for her business and career than she’d hoped. In a future post we’ll talk further about the appearances that advanced her business and what she did in those cases, beyond the notoriety gained, that helped them go well.
As to how she got herself booked, Nancy offered the following points:
- I didn’t know I couldn’t do it.
- I never took myself too seriously.
- I never felt above anyone.
- I always felt a chance could be taken away from me as fast as it was given.
- I respected the contacts’ time.
- I believed every “No” brought me closer to a “Yes,” and
- I always asked for time to talk with whoever answered the phone.
Now for her first big brushes with broadcasting fame.
First, the Regis local NBC show in New York. A friend of Friedman’s was working press for someone and said “Next time you’re in NYC, let me know. I think I can get you on Regis’ local morning show.” And she did. The show flew Friedman out to do the appearance. This is where she met Michael Gelman, the famous executive producer of Live! with Regis, with Regis and Kathie Lee, with Regis and Kelly, with Kelly and Michael and now the Live! with Kelly show.
Backstage, Gelman told Nancy how the show would go down. As a customer service expert, she would pretend she was a clerk. Regis would pretend he’d bought a toaster that didn’t work, and would come back to return it. He told her that Regis would get very angry with her and she would have to handle that. Without remembering the principle of “the producer is king,” she said “That’s not going to work. You can’t diffuse false anger. No matter how good I am as a customer service rep, this is a situation I can’t possibly win.”
Gelman insisted. And, as she had predicted, the segment dropped like a bomb. What she learned: make friends with the show’s producer. It’s their show; not yours. The outcome: while Gelman may have hated the segment, Regis enjoyed the experience thoroughly. He phoned Friedman at the hotel later in the day and invited her to appear on his cable show as a fun and enjoyable guest. It was a different show, a different producer and the event came out well. As for business results, however, little to no additional traction occurred.
Now for Friedman’s brush with the famous and infamous “Oprah Effect.” During Friedman’s most active press years someone had suggested the epitome of PR exposure would be an appearance on the Oprah show. So she found a producer (show websites make it possible to find at least a preliminary level of contact information even without a press database) and made her pitch. On a scale of 1-10, they rated the visit about a 4-5 in their interest and asked for more information, which she provided.
A year later, Oprah had emerged as the queen of the broadcast world. The producer called Friedman and said, “We’re doing a segment on crisis management and we’d like you to appear.” Friedman’s gut said the fit wasn’t there. “Look, I’d kill to be on Oprah. But what I know about crisis management you could put in a thimble.” The producer persisted. “It’s for women who get stalked. My notes from our last conversation indicate you can do this.” Friedman’s wiser instincts prevailed and she declined, but compelled the producer to consider her their “go to” expert on customer service/communication when the topic might arise. The producer agreed.
Six months later, the opportunity came. In Chicago, she went through six pre-interviews with different producers, all rehearsing what “she” (Oprah) would say and how Friedman, as the expert guest, would respond. Finally, the day of the broadcast arrived. The first guest, a man, was interviewed, left after the commercial, and Friedman was on. But guess what? All six pre-interviews were out the window as Oprah changed her mind on the topic (of course it’s her right. It’s her show.) Instead of customer service, she chose a topic that was of personal interest to her—the irritation of being put on hold. The audience loved it. After the taping, Oprah came over and said “You’ll be back. I enjoyed you,” and slipped away, never to be heard from again.
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So how much business did Friedman gain from her appearance on Oprah? None at all. In hindsight, she realized her services are designed for a business target, and the Oprah audience was housewives. In fact, business participant or not, the only male in the audience, she later discovered, had been her own spouse.
My own words to the wise: not only is it important to consider the applicability of your topic, as Friedman did, and to consider the makeup of the audience you’ll be addressing, but it’s important also to research and consider the “after market” effects of the show. In Nancy’s case, the show segment she appeared on is available on You Tube. This is cool.
For one of my own former clients who appeared on Oprah, however (on the topic of internet filtering), the company was required to sign documents before appearing that their segment was not to be used for any kind of promotion at all. The only thing we were able to do was encourage our local ABC affiliate to highlight the fact the regional company had appeared on the network’s national show. In contrast, a regional entrepreneur I know who’s natural deodorant product appeared on the Rachael Ray show has been milking the after-market credibility the show has brought him for years. While the Rachael Ray Show received nowhere near the “Oprah Effect” in its overall ratings, the fact there were no restrictions on his use of the appearance or the footage afterwards was promotional gold.
A final footnote from Friedman: her first broadcast appearance, in her local town of St. Louis, proved in some respects to be her greatest early PR opportunity of all. Calling upon her theater background, she developed a quick two-sentence pitch she knew she could deliver with confidence. Bingo. With her first call and first pitch she was booked.
After the five-minute segment she was sorely disappointed when the phones didn’t ring. But three days later, the payoff arrived. An executive from Ford called up and said “I was in the hospital for a few weeks. I happened to catch your interview a few days before I was released, and it was the best thing on TV all day. I’d like to discuss some ideas.” The result: a 10-city tour with Ford Motor Company and a client relationship that lasted multiple years. As she travelled with Ford and other clients, she learned to consider the regional news at noon in each city to be some of her greatest PR visibility wins.