This Just In…
R.I.P. the slow news day. Ask anyone in a TV or radio newsroom to recall the last quiet day and they’ll shrug, scratch their heads, and laugh.
The 2016 presidential campaign ushered in the fastest news cycle I remember, and I spent decades working in broadcast newsrooms.
In the first two years of President Trump’s term, DLPR’s broadcast team grew adept at handling what we came to call the “Trump Bump.” This referred to a client’s scheduled interview getting bumped by the seemingly endless flow of news from the White House, a cabinet member, a member of Congress, a world leader (think Brexit) or an early morning Tweet. Any of these would change the entire focus of the news day.
While the frantic, endless breaking news events have slowed in the second half of the president’s term, PR experts still must help manage our clients’ expectations about appearing on TV, while all the while providing strong results.
We point out the obvious: no one is happy being bumped. A cancelation or postponement is complicated. We know clients change their schedules to accommodate an appearance and it’s frustrating when it doesn’t happen as planned.
A broadcast interview doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of time, strategy and behind-the-scenes work. However, it’s our job to inform our clients about the potential pitfalls and the possibility of a last-minute bump, especially if they’ve promoted the appearance on social media.
Flexibility is key. Given the split-second nature of TV, many opportunities come on the day-of. We tell clients that they need to be reachable so that they don’t miss an opportunity.
I may have to tell a client, “Unfortunately, the show is going in a different direction so they don’t need you today.” On the flip side, I may call back tomorrow to say, “The show is covering tariffs, can you get to the studio in the next hour?”
A sense of humor is a must. I generated the meme below a couple of years ago after walking out of the NYSE with a client who just encountered The Bump.
She was on-set for CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” with her hair and makeup done, and her name on the teleprompter—when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the podium and the gold curtains of the White House East Room. And just like that, the camera shot shifted, and our client was thanked and politely walked off the set!
It’s not personal. Clients should understand that it’s all about the news. A more senior producer can delete or add to a show, disappointing not only the guest but also the team at the network outlet that worked hard to assemble the segment.
Relationships between show staff and PR agencies are important. In some cases we can convince producers to reconsider or adjust the schedule. But more often, we successfully reschedule the interview, sometimes even leading to a better segment.
A PR team that can keep a segment alive goes a long way. The team doesn’t need magic powers, but solid relationships, strong news judgment and the trust of producers and bookers, can be the equivalent to pulling a rabbit out of a hat, turning disappointment to enthusiasm.
I leave you with part of the disclaimer we include at the bottom of every “confirmed” interview email.
*Please note that scheduled appearances are subject to late changes due to breaking news and/or late programming adjustments that are wholly out of our control. …We will work behind the scenes to reschedule the opportunity as soon as possible.”
By Judy Speicher, Director