An expert wants to get on television. So how should she/he do it? We’ve featured general advice on getting onto TV in previous articles but now we take one interesting expert and apply advice to her particular situation.
The Case study: Lorraine Holloway-White
Lorraine is a ‘sceptical medium’ which she explains as “a natural born medium who is not convinced information being received is necessarily from dead people.” She has written a few books on the subject, she writes a blog, providing interesting reading and ‘readings’ (she can read from people, including remotely from tissues, photographs, handwriting and by holding personal objects). She also posts videos regularly on YouTube and on her blog.
Lorraine already has a following and is very active on the web but, like so many other experts she struggles to get the television and media exposure that would raise her profile and help get her message across. She asked me for advice and kindly agreed to let me use her as a case study.
First step is, of course, to establish what she does and what her goal is. Here is her summary:
‘Lorraine teaches that spiritualism is dangerous the way it is practised and taught today, because too many mediums accept anyone into their open circles regardless of mental instability or severe depression and without making any checks. Her main aim is to change the teachings of spiritualism throughout the world by educating them and others as to why their practises are so wrong. This educational process has already started in her books but especially in, ‘A Guide’s Guide to Mediumship and Healing’. What she has to say on the subject of spiritualists and their teachings is proving to be hugely popular with people all over the world, but for it to be seen further afield and of any benefit, she wants to reach far more people on a national and international scale than she is able to do on her own’.
Your Way or the Producer’s Way?
Here’s Lorraine first challenge.
She has a particular goal and a specific message she wants to get across by becoming an expert or personality on television. However television producers will generally have their own ideas about how they want to use an expert; they will often be looking for someone to fit a format they have already developed; they will generally want to provide entertainment as well as information, and will be under pressure to deliver strong and often ‘sensationalist’ formats. They are not interested in giving someone a ‘platform’ to deliver a message unless that message is newsworthy or contributes to their format. This, of course, applies to the factual entertainment kind of programming. If you can get a documentary team interested in you then you have a much better chance of achieving such a platform.
So assuming you are interested in getting regular work in the factual entertainment arena, perhaps in a series of shows, you need to ask yourself this question: are you willing to compromise your vision or your work for the sake of getting on screen?
What Lorraine has in her favour is her feisty attitude and her controversial stand on the work of other mediums. Conflict makes for good telly – it provides drama and an interesting counterpoint. However she may find that television producers will be asking for her to work in ways she is not keen on.
Most people will agree to creative and professional compromises to get the coveted TV slot and only you can decide if you want to do that. Of course the more established and well-known you become the more you can start dictating how things work. It’s the age-old dilemma of the creative – hold fast to your vision and your art, or compromise for the sake of a wider audience?
Lorraine already has a clear goal but she also needs to focus on what she is ‘selling’ to the media. She has several web sites covering different aspects of her personal and professional life and has posted several videos. All of which is great. However it is highly unlikely that any television producer, executive or agent will spend more than a few minutes looking at them. These are very busy people. If the information being presented to them is too dense, too long or too complicated they will often give up and move on to the next potential expert.
For this reason a well-written summary of you, your skills and your qualifications is very important. Basically you need to write your own press release.
It’s a good exercise anyway. It will help you to focus on what you are offering and means you will have a document ready to send to anyone of interest at any time. One side, two at the very most, of A4 explaining to an editor or journalist exactly who you are, what you do and how you do it. Include a link to your web site if you have one and a good photograph. You can always update this document as you go along but if you approach anyone in the media they are likely to ask you to send them details. Have your press release ready. Make it look really professional. Remember it’s your sales pitch.
In Lorraine’s case I would suggest she focus on one web site – the one that best demonstrates the skills she is offering. By all means offer the others but lead them directly to the one you most want them to see. A busy producer won’t want to be wading through four websites to get information.
Lorraine is already doing videos on-line but she needs to make these videos more watchable, more dynamic. Easier said than done if you are not conversant with editing software but it’s worth paying an enthusiastic teenager or IT student to help you. Say what you want to say but don’t stop there. Adding music with a montage of pictures can really add energy and rhythm to a video. Record people you have worked with expounding your talents and add in the best lines from them. All this helps break up what would otherwise be a monologue.
Again busy producers often make a decision within the first 60 seconds of watching a show reel. If you haven’t captured their interest by then you are in danger of being ejected! Keep it short, interesting and a clear demonstration of your skills.
Raise your public profile
Lorraine already has a presence on-line by virtue of her writing, blogging and videoing but she needs to feature in newspapers and magazines too. Aim to get any press you can anywhere and keep a portfolio of any mentions you get in print. Even the local paper would start getting you into the mainstream press. Nationals often take their lead from interesting regional news stories. Every time you are mentioned in a publication you raise the chances of a Google search of your name, or the word referring to your area of expertise (in this case ‘medium’), coming up with the article. This all helps to give you extra credibility when people are researching you or the subject.
Lorraine has already featured in her local press and she should include a link to the article in her pitch document. This allows producers and agents to jump straight to evidence of previous media interest in her.
Don’t forget specialist publications. Lorraine, for example, is already known to the likes of Spirit and Destiny magazine.
And if you think you’ve got a really good story to tell try and get it in print. Central Features specialises in placing good human interest and lifestyle stories with the press: http://www.centralfeatures.com/
Get an Angle
Lorraine’s next challenge is to get a strong, and I hate to say it, but ’sensational’ angle. To get yourself noticed these days generally requires a headline that grabs you by the throat.
Women’s magazines are on the search for increasingly compelling headlines. Lorraine may need, at the very least, a case study of someone she has read for that had quite a dramatic revelation or had a significant impact on their lives. The fact that she is ‘sceptical’ of mediumship is a good line but not necessarily controversial enough for the average, ratings-driven editor. Consider your story. Imagine it in the magazine of your choice. What would be the banner headline at the top of the page that will make readers want to stop and read it?
Get a PR Agent
If you have contacts in that area or are serious enough to want to spend money on it, think about hiring a PR person to help develop and publicise you. A good PR should have relevant contacts and some good ideas on how to make you interesting to the public. Remember just about any publicity is good publicity (unless you’re Ryan Giggs right now!).
Get a Talent Agent
Again easier said than done but if they like you, have the right contacts and know the business they should be able to at least get you introductions to useful TV producers. (We are featuring a couple of top talent agents in an article coming up soon with more detail on how to find an agent, plus advice on how to promote yourself. Watch out for it or better still subscribe if you haven’t already done so.)
As Lorraine is already quite established and has a very specific skill to offer I have suggested she join http://www.findatvexpert.com/. It costs to register but I think in her case it may provide some leads.
Lorraine is an expert with plenty to say. All she needs now is the programme idea or the producer to help launch her. Anyone out there ready to take on a feisty sceptical medium?
Where to find Lorraine:
Her blog: http://askamedium.wordpress.com/
Previous articles on this subject:
http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/im-an-expert-get-me-on-the-television/ … and there’ll be more advice coming up soon….