Most people who don’t deal with the media on a daily basis don’t realize that it’s actually not that hard to be on television. Like newspapers and magazine editors, television producers are always looking for content.
They need people to profile, they need experts who are outspoken and articulate.
I’ve appeared live on prime-time TV in Paris, France (France 3), hosted a local round-table discussion on TV in Greenfield, Massachusetts, produced my own television show for local TV (also in Greenfield, Massachusetts) when my book, Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love, came out; and most recently been front and center on a PBS FRONTLINE documentary, “The Vaccine War.”
Sometimes it takes a bit of luck. You need to be in the right place at the right time. And it always takes a bit of work: you need to send out press releases, contact local networks, keep abreast of the news, network, and respond to requests from Help a Reporter Out and other similar outlets.
The not-as-good news is that most people who do land a spot on television often feel duped or disappointed by how they are portrayed, how the footage is edited, or how they come across.
That’s the thing about television–unless the show is LIVE (and even if it is), you really have no control over the final product.
If you do find yourself on the cusp of being in the limelight, some media training with a professional can be invaluable.
Tips that a media professional will teach you about being on TV:
1) WEAR MAKE-UP: You need make-up on TV whether you are male or female. If you’re female and you wear make-up anyway, wear a lot more than you normally would. Consider having someone do it for you if you are completely make-up incompetent like me. While the national networks will have someone make you up, you do it yourself for local television. You especially need FOUNDATION on TV because the camera will really wash you out otherwise.
2) SPEAK IN FULL SENTENCES AND MAKE SURE THE ANTECEDENT IS CLEAR: Don’t say “I think it’s fine,” say “I think letting children roam alone is fine for some parents but I am a worrier and tend to helicopter.” Don’t answer simply “Yes” or “No.” The editors need a full sentence in order to use what you say.
3) REMEMBER THE CAMERAS ARE ALWAYS ROLLING. This is especially true if a film crew comes to your house but it is also true if you go to a studio. Think of all the political scandals that have resulted from politicians thinking the camera and the mic were turned off. The minute you put your guard down is the quote the TV producers will use. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
5) Be friendly and yourself but ALWAYS REMEMBER the camera crew is in it for the STORY not for you or your family.
6) ACT AS NATURAL AND RELAXED AS YOU CAN. If you are too deer-in-headlights they might not use what they film. (Easy to advise, difficult to do…Have a glass of wine or smell lavender or something if you need to before the film crew shows up).
7) HAVE FUN AND KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR: Look engaged (be engaged). Sit forward and speak with enthusiasm. Don’t be afraid to crack jokes, to make fun of yourself (or the anchorman), to be witty, or to enjoy yourself. If you’re enjoying yourself, the viewers will too. If the interviewer is on screen with you, use his or her name, refer to something he said (“That’s a great point, Jack”) or even ask him a question. It’s good to shake things up a bit and show that you are relaxed. A good spontaneous interview will get you invited back.