Monday, July 12, 2010

10 Steps to Becoming a TV Expert

Britain’s Got Talent and The X-Factor are fantastic opportunities for singers and dancers to promote themselves to the industry. But if you’re an expert – historian, scientist, property guru, chef, lawyer, businessman, tradesman, doctor, dentist, designer, criminologist, psychologist, marine biologist, etc – and you want to promote yourself to the TV industry, you have to understand the market, figure out what you have to offer and start making some noise. In other words, you need to get to work!

Step 1: Define your USP. There are thousands of experts like you out there. What makes you stand out from the rest? What’s going to make TV producers, commissioners and – ultimately – viewers, sit up and take notice of you? Is it your contagious enthusiasm for the subject matter? Your quirky personality? Your sense of humour? Or maybe the projects you’re working on or the people you have access to?

Step 2: Understand the market. If you’re applying for a job, you research the company and figure out what you what you have to offer. If you want to get on TV, the same applies. Watch TV. Think TV. Understand TV. Read the media sections of the nationals and sign up for the trade magazines to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s being commissioned, which shows are getting the highest ratings, who’s making them and, more importantly, why you’d be perfect for them.

Step 3: Write a book & become the authority. Researchers and producers often browse online bookshops to find out who has written books about the subject/area of expertise that’s relevant to the programme they’re developing. It's what I used to do at the end of each series of Changing Rooms when we were looking for new designers to join the team. So if you’ve got a book in you, write it.

Step 4: Get Noticed. Give presentations at consumer fairs, trade fairs, networking events & exhibitions. You never know who’ll be listening - or on the hunt for talent.

Step 5: Be at the top of Google/Yahoo/Bing searches under key words that relate to your expertise. Words that a researcher would type in to find experts like you. Story has it that's how Gareth Malone (The Choir, BBC2) was found. They typed in 'choirmaster' and he came up in the search results. And I'd be happy to bet my bottom dollar that when the Icelandic 'ash cloud' started covering our skies a lot of reseachers and producers were typing "volcano+expert" or "volcanologist" into Google. So if you want to be a TV expert, make sure the TV industry can find you.

Step 6: Join clubs, associations & networking groups that are relevant to your area of expertise and make sure you’re on their list of experts who are happy to be contacted by the media. Here's why. When I was working at L!VETV, I was asked to develop & produce the pilot for 'Bouncy Weather', a weather forecast which featured a dwarf on a trampoline infront of a weather map (don't ask!). Anyway, my first port of call was The Restricted Growth Association. I explained what we were going to do and they put me in touch with Willow Management, a management agency that represents short actors. And as a result we found and hired the lovely Rusty Goffe. Enough said.

Step 7: Join the online directories of experts which TV production companies turn to when they’re looking for an expert to comment on a subject or be part of a show. Ok, now it's time for a bit of self promotion. There are a few online directories of experts out there, but is the only one that's run by a TV producer with 15 years experience making & developing programmes and looking for talent (see my CV). In other words, findaTVexpert is run by someone who understands the needs of the experts and of the industry. By registering you'll be in a directory that's actively promoted to the TV industry - and that more and more members of the industry are turning to when they're looking for experts, ideas & inspiration. You'll also be in my little black book (which I take to my regular meetings with heads of development, creative directors, executive producers, etc) and you'll have a chance for extra PR in my newsletters to the TV industry. See recent copies here. Ok, self promotion over. But you get the message. If you want to be a TV expert, the TV industry has to be able to find you.

Step 8: Get quoted. Researchers and development producers scour newspapers and magazines for experts and ideas. And if an article in which you’re quoted catches their eye, you could be the first expert they contact – assuming they can find you. That’s why Steps 5, 6 & 7 are so important.

Step 9: Be pro-active. Watch the programmes which feature experts like you, find who makes them (check the credits at the end for the name of the production company and the executive producer) and contact them directly. When I series produced Changing Rooms for the BBC, I was surprised at how few letters and showreels I received from interior designers who wanted to get on my radar and be considered for the programme. In three years I think I had less than 10. And most of the people who contacted me hadn't done Steps 1 & 2 - ie identified what made them stand out from the other designers and outlined why they'd be perfect for the show. So be pro-active. But do your homework first. And keep your email to the point: a 'pitch paragraph' and a photo.

Step 10: Get a showreel. TV’s a visual medium so promote yourself to it in a visual way. Photos are good but showreels or video pitches are better because the industry can see what you look and sound like on camera. Keep your videos short (1-2 minutes maximum), engaging and to the point. And remember: they’ll know within the first 10 seconds if you’re what they’re looking for. It's like a first date. You just know. So make those first 10 seconds count: big smile, great eye contact and lots of energy. At least 50% more than normal. You've got to really switch it on if you want to stand out and make an impression.

The harder you work at promoting yourself and increasing your visibility, the "luckier" you will be. Because the TV industry is always on the hunt for new experts, new ideas and the next big thing.

Good luck. And if I can be of any help, just give me a call.


Emma said...

Hello Claire thanks for sharing that how caqn i be a tv expert will i am also looking forward to create a tv show .. hope it will get success

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire

I agree with all your points. But would also add 'Be available.' If you're rung up by a TV station, make sure you are free to do the interview, or have time to do the filming. Generally producers have a list of potential experts, and if one can't make it, they'll go onto the next.