'You’re going to be on nationwide TV!’*

*'...at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning and we need a check for $30,000'

More times than I can remember, a client has asked me to look into a request they’ve received to be part of a TV business “news” program.  The request usually goes something like this:

“Mr. or Ms. CEO, our producers have identified your company as one of the most exciting, dynamic companies in America.  That’s why we’d like to showcase your accomplishments in our program, ‘Happening Now in America,’ hosted by a guy who played professional football 40 years ago and is now a respected journalist. Isn’t that exciting?!”

The “producer” on the other end of the phone is really a sales associate. He or she has been trained to flatter the CEO, drop the name of the former athlete or D-list celebrity host several times, and appeal the CEO’s ego with promises of “NATIONWIDE TV COVERAGE OF YOUR AMAZING AND INCREDIBLE BUSINESS EXPLOITS!”

What the “producer” doesn’t mention, at least not yet, is that this wonderful TV program requires a five-figure fee for your company to be included. They figure that once they plant stars in the eyes of the CEO, he or she will gladly cough up the $25,000 (minimum) fee to be on the show.  By the way, yes, it does air nationally but usually at terrible times when very few people are watching, let alone anyone in your company’s target market.  Hey, at least you get to keep a copy of the video!

Why do I strongly urge clients to steer clear of these programs? Because they are scams. They deliberately mislead with the idea that they are legitimate news programs, which they most certainly are not. They avoid the issue of cost as long as possible. And they absolutely hate it when someone who actually knows their way around the media and PR world starts asking challenging questions about fees, audience size and demographics or metrics. 

A few of these “producers” have gotten pretty hostile with me, demanding to speak with the CEO and no one else. They know a PR/marketing professional will not be easily impressed and will ask the hard questions they really don’t want to answer. 

Legitimate news programs are an entirely different proposition.The value of being interviewed on, say, a popular cable business news program lies in its credibility as a serious news source. The scam “news” shows, by contrast, are just a variation on the infomercial format, and their deceptive sales practices tell you all you need to know about their credibility.

But, you know, it  is kind of fun to field these sales, er, “producer” pitches and make the caller squirm. Keep ‘em coming!

-Eric Whittington