Monday October 25, 2004
What’s a poor publicist to do? When it comes to getting your clients on TV nowadays there are more chat shows than you can shake a remote at – currently over a dozen on terrestrial TV alone – but the five daily daytime slots are the hungriest. BBC Breakfast, GMTV, Des & Mel, Richard & Judy, and now Paul O’Grady all need good guests, and it’s often down to the publicists to choose which shows to pitch for.
In the fight to secure your client an appearance, long-term relationships with producers and researchers count for a lot. However, you can’t be everybody’s friend because you’re always refusing or being refused, or changing your mind or reacting to someone else’s change of mind.
The marketing brain will usually plump for the show with the biggest viewing figures, but the PR way is to identify the interview-chemistry likely to give the viewer the most memorable entertainment and guarantee both parties look good.
Which show you want to get on depends on the time of day, the audience profile, your client’s status in the eyes of the interviewer (Ross loves movie stars, Skinner loves lads ‘n’ totty) and the show’s “agenda”.
Also, particularly if your client is American, any inducements being offered by way of airfares, hotels, fees and so on, can make all the difference. Money talks. All the big British shows try to maintain a presence in California so that when an A-list star pitches up in London he or she has a vague idea who Frank is, and why they might want to appear on his show.
And now there’s a whole new category of show around, featuring the “Trevor McDonald factor”, when someone in the headlines, such as Rebecca Loos, appears not in the context of entertainment but as a populist news item, marketable via widespread syndication. Chat then comes second, and is happy to wait its turn.
Ratings rule. Was the spat between Richard and Judy’s production team and Paul O’Grady’s genuine? Or was it just a scam to whip up some better viewing figures for both? The hapless publicist gets lumbered whatever happens. If the celeb is obnoxious, drunk or performs poorly, it’s the publicist’s fault, and if the interviewer is badly briefed and forgets the client’s name then it’s also the publicist’s fault. And if everything runs perfectly? Did you ever see a publicist in the credits?