From First TV to Dr. Oz – How to Get Local Media…Then National Media

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(Photo: Dyobmit)

Let’s start with what you think you want.

“I want to get on Oprah eventually, and we’ve been pitching The New York Times, who’s interested.”

Good news or game over?

I hear some version of this on a weekly basis from start-up founders. Sadly, most of them aren’t prepared for national media and do more harm than good with a premature (and non-strategic) jump into the spotlight. The New York Times doesn’t often do two major stories on a single company, so that first — and possibly only — appearance is what counts.

But what of lack of media attention? Indeed. There are two main media challenges:

How do you get media interest? Big media interest?
How do you ensure you’re prepared when a big opportunity presents itself?

In both cases, you chart a course and execute. In this post, I’ll show how I went from my first real TV exposure to appearing repeatedly as a guest on national TV shows. I’ll also share the exact e-mail pitch that led to a Wired feature, as well as recorded radio interviews.

Media coverage isn’t magic, and it need not depend on luck. It can be a step-by-step process…

Step 1 – Create a Reel

The time was mid-February, 2007. The 4-Hour Workweek was slated to publish on April 27th, and I had a problem: no one in television knew who I was, and I wanted to be on national TV for the launch.

The chicken-or-the-egg problem was simple: big TV doesn’t want you on until you’ve proven yourself on big TV. What to do?

My answer was: look for a local affiliate of big networks like ABC, CBS, or NBC, and find something controversial and timely to discuss. I began to read the news (a rare event) and realized that a soon-to-be-published book was making waves — Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports.

I knew a few people directly involved with BALCO, and — as a sports nutrition company CEO at the time — I was in a qualified position to talk about drugs in sports. Digging into advanced excerpts of Game of Shadows (GOS), which was billed as a “drug-by-drug account” of high-level athletics, I formulated a simple and valid position: far from decreasing drug use, the book would end up serving as a how-to guide.

GOS was going to be published on March 1, 2007. The week before publication, I reached out to all local San Jose or bay area-based big networks. I called the switchboard or main number, requested “the newsroom,” and started the pitch, which was written out on paper in front of me and never lasted more than 20 seconds:

“My name is Tim Ferriss and I have a timely pitch for you. I work with professional athletes and… [establish credibility as CEO and someone with experience in drugs in sports]”

Game of Shadows, about Barry Bonds and BALCO, comes out next week and it’s getting a lot of attention. Most of the world is viewing it as an exposé that will decrease drug use. They’re wrong. I can discuss why it will actually increase steroid and drug use.”

Most calls went to voicemail, a few people said they’d get back to me, and only one did: NBC 11 in San Jose.

But one is all it takes. The short NBC clip ended up being the social proof later needed to get me on The Today Show and others for The 4-Hour Workweek.

Remember: make it timely and controversial. “Controversial” doesn’t necessarily mean scandalous; it means a position that runs counter to the mainstream or expectations.

But does the “reel” only apply to TV?

Not at all. The same can be done for radio, which is a far easier sandbox to play in, as there are more players. I started with Lamont and Tonelli on KSJO 92.3 and a stunt for Fairtex kickboxing. I invited the hosts to a demo and encouraged their sidekick, Sully, to get in the ring and do some light sparring.

It was fun and had absolutely nothing to do with anything I’d do in media later. It didn’t matter. The producers of radio — just as in TV — simply want to know you’ll speak clearly, be entertaining, and not embarrass them. The subject matter doesn’t matter. On a higher level, they want to know: can you help design a fun segment?

I later parlayed this early radio, along with other random samples, into booking “radio satellite tours” with the help of Peter Marchese. “Radio satellite tours” entail sitting in a room with obscene quantities of coffee and doing back-to-back 10-30-minute radio interviews from 7am to 5pm with almost no space for even bathroom breaks. It’s batching at its efficient best… and punishing worst.

Here are four of my 20+ interviews, here listed in order from December 16, 2009. You’ll note that I launched the revised edition of The 4-Hour Workweek in the same week as I later launched The 4-Hour Body. It was a dress rehearsal for the big game, a dry run for understanding the dynamics and competition of the X-mas season.

Note the talking points (we’ll return to this) and examples, which I repeat ad nauseam with slightly different segues:

0920-0930 – Reg IA-Nebraska
1105-1115 – Albuquerque-SantaFe
1145-1155 – Denver
1410-1420 – National

But what of these talking points?

Step 2 – Know Your Subject: In Depth vs. Talking Points

To prepare for the NBC TV interview, I had to:

First, visit a Borders and literally get on bended knee to beg for a copy of Game of Shadows the afternoon before release. The simple begging didn’t work. Several book chains had been shipped Harry Potter late as punishment for releasing a prior Potter before the mandated midnight release time. I finally offered, “What if I do headspins for you? I’m totally serious. Puleeeeease?” after which, I jumped into a breakdancing freeze on the floor. I’m not kidding. Pretty pathetic, but they laughed, relented, and went to the back storage room to get the book.

Second, digest a 368-page book in one evening, which I did over espresso (limit: two singles per hour) and wine (limit one glass pinot noir per hour) at Santana Row in San Jose. Here is a one-page index from that session:

Third, prepare main talking points and sound bites. This involved taking the above notes and observations (I had several other pages) and whittling them down to 3-6 major points I could convey in a total of 120 seconds, 20 seconds or so per point.

Here are the talking points I used for a recent Newsweek interview on The 4-Hour Body, which became a feature piece called “The World’s Best Guinea Pig”:


(Click here for larger version)

I answer a few things on this small sheet:

“Why is what I’m doing different or controversial?” (Answer: using new tools to scientifically test all of the myths and old wives’ tales on myself and others)

“Why is this timely and important?” (Answer: I’m part of a much larger trend; cite books and growth of Quantified Self, etc.)

“What are some actionable examples of counter-intuitive findings?” (Answers: 30g within 30 min of waking, replacing milk in coffee with cinnamon, etc.)

For the last group of actionable takeaways, I list them first, then number them in descending order of priority for inclusion. If these sound familiar, you’re right. They’re the same talking points I used in the above radio satellite clips.

NEVER assume you’ll get to cover everything you hope or rehearse. Media is unpredictable. I had to account for this in my recent appearance on The View, as just one example (notice we skipped over half of an entire table, as questions from Barbara required it). I didn’t get frazzled, as I had planned for this and prioritized my points, both mentally and logistically — the latter by ordering props on the tables.

Step 3 – Pitch Properly

Why is pitching step 3 instead of step 1?

Because it makes no sense to pitch until you have your prep (reel or sample clips) and basic positioning (timely and controversial angle with examples) in place.

Then, before you start spamming people with template emails, keep in mind: Thou shalt know thy media outlets. Don’t pitch the same thing — or something general — to niche outlets. It’s a waste of their time and yours. Know the magazine or program and customize.

Here is the actual pitch I used for Wired Magazine that ultimately led to the 4+-page feature entitled “Tim Ferriss Wants to Hack Your Body.” It lacks a self-intro, as I’d met this editor in person, an approach I always encourage, as e-mail is the most crowded channel.

Notice that I provide different options/ideas for different lengths:

Hi [Name],

OK, here are a few ideas. They’re in three categories:

1) Feature
2) Shorter 1-2 page piece
3) Book mention in Playlist

My preference if possible, no big surprise, would be 1, 2, and then 3. Here are the toplines:

1) Feature:

For Wired readers, being one myself and having been in the mag before, I think one of my chapters as an exclusive excerpt would be the least work for Wired and the best fit. It’s ready to go and would just need to be tightened for space. I’ve attached the latest version (sorry for the hand edits). Here are some headlines and toplines:

BLOOD HACKING: Creating the Perfect Fat-Loss Protoplasm

I implanted a medical device in my side that sampled interstitial glucose levels every 5 seconds. It’s used by cutting-edge Type 1 diabetics, but I used it to figure out which foods and meals would make me fat. I wore it 24/7 for weeks, including a trip through customs to Nicaragua. There some sweet graphics and nice how-to takeaways I can provide.

Other potential headlines:

Tracking Blood to Lose Bodyfat
BLOOD: Self-Experimentation for Losing Bodyfat (could appear on the cover like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/timferriss/5388565667/ [NOTE: In the actual e-mail I used a private Skitch link]
Diary of a Blood Tracker

2) Shorter 1-2 page piece

This would detail 5 or so of the coolest and craziest drugs and tools I used in my experiments over the last 3 years, ranging from the above medical device to stem cell growth factors, anabolic steroids, IGF-1, and more. I could write it or it could be a Q&A with me. Potential headlines/titles:

BECOMING SUPERHUMAN: Drugs and Gadgets to Make You a Mutant
Gadgets and Tools for Becoming Superhuman [this one would omit drugs]
BECOMING SUPERHUMAN: An Interview with Human Guinea Pig Tim Ferriss

3) Mention in Playlist — Pretty straightforward here. Just a book mention and little blurb.

Look forward to your thoughts, [name]. Wired is a great place to break this one.

Cheers,

Tim

###

Afterword: Is this type of media how-to of interest? If so, I’ll do a “Part 2″ continuation of this post and talk about media training and other little-known aspects of the game. In the meantime, please find my most recent Dr. Oz clips below.

Also, if you’ve read The 4-Hour Body and haven’t yet left an Amazon review, please take 30 seconds to do so here — I need a few more to pass 1,000 reviews (currently 965)! Thanks for your feedback, all. It’s what keeps me going.




Elsewhere on the web:
Financial Times – The Last Word: Lessons in Online Marketing
AskMen – Long Q&A, including questions on anabolics and other performance-enhancing drugs

Posted on: January 25, 2011.

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203 comments on “From First TV to Dr. Oz – How to Get Local Media…Then National Media

    • This was great. I particulary got inspired by the way to get national attention in a short period of time. I am struggling to get my product in the right hands. It is a great viral media delivery system created for newtworks or inclusive users. It can be viral and when tested has been very powerful. It is hard it seems to show how my player is out of browser and offers full control to the professional content gerneator. Just discovered this blog and Tim Ferris. hoping to figure out what I am doing wrong. Experts are telling us we have lightening in a bottle. I am still trying everything to get the word out and to no avail. Thanks! Gene

      Like

  1. Seriously, thank you Tim for being open and sharing some of your trade secrets of PR/marketing. Regardless if someone enjoys your work or not, no can ever say you’re not a creative SOB with marketing.

    Like

  2. Tim, you kick ass. I have been working on getting local coverage since I’ve moved to Florida. It’s been a slow, but steady climb. I eventually would love to get onto national media, but I don’t feel I am ready YET.

    I now know what I need to do to prepare so that I will be ready when the time is right.

    Thanks for always sharing so much value.

    By the way, I’m 3 weeks into doing kettlebell swings and minimalist workouts. I feel great and have noticed an increase in lifting weights. I’m working on sculpting the perfect posterior. Your book is the shit.

    Like

  3. Hey there Tim.

    Such a timely post. You said above: “I’m part of a much larger trend…” I’d agree, as I run an “Experimental Fitness” club at my college. I will certainly borrow from your (and others’) marketing ploys to promote my club, looking forward to part deux.

    Maybe off topic for this post, but my exercise science director is very skeptical of your claims. I (mostly) trust you, but I wanted to have some fun, so I’m organizing an independent study, in tandem with my club, to test your claims in the Damage Control, Geek to Freak, and Effortless Superhuman experiments. I’ll try not to kill myself.

    That said, if you have any more details about what to track or *how* to track the data, such details would improve the outcome of my indy study and I would greatly appreciate it. I’ve been tracking workouts since age 16 and nutrition for the past year or so, but I’m still not very good at data collection or crunching. Maybe this topic warrants a blog post in itself?

    I plan on crafting a paper discussing my findings at the end of spring quarter, and I could certainly link to it on the blog for 4HB community to review. Hopefully I won’t expose you as a fraud, but I can’t guarantee anything. I’m very skeptical of the Damage Control and Superhuman chapters, but we shall see how the indy study goes.

    Mahalo,
    Ben

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      • A tip for all out there who like to have top position in Tim’s comments and think it’s all for publicity.: if I click on _Reply_ in this little box here I get a top position in the comments.

        Now we happily can go on with our lives! Keep on going Tim! :-)

        Like

      • Dairy is off limits in the Slow Carb Diet, except for cottage cheese. What about Greek Yogurt. (Many good bacteria and tons of protein..???)

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  4. Thanks Tim! I have been super curious about this nugget of information to get my language stories covered in the media. I’ve been asking a few people in the media how I should approach this, but their replies were not so useful. The best thing is to see someone with experience say what they did. Thanks! :)

    Like

      • Hey Tim
        in your video from dr oz, i noticed you had like a rash or red spot on your neck, do you recall, what that was, I have been taking PAGG, Huperzine A, Vitamin D-3 for about 3 weeks and have broken out with little red spots all over the place, no pain, itching, or burning, just red spots, doc told me to stop taking the supplements, so i am trying that, I have lost a total of 10 lbs in 3 weeks, just with cold showers that blow my mind, and eating within 30min to 1 hour of waking and have been hitting the gym 3 times a week, you replied to my comment before I was the 390lb guy who my dr. keeps pushing gastric bypass onto and denied me a DEXA scan, just slapped a number of 55 bmi on me. ruined my day. just wondering if you broke out from any of the supplements you were taking. also if you do a documentary you can use me, I will be your guinea pig.

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      • Hi John- I’m Tim’s assistant, and just read your comment. I strongly suggest staying off PAGG and the other supplements/vitamins for now, and seeing your doctor again if the breakout persists.

        Congrats on the weight loss :) Please keep us posted!

        – Charlie

        Like

      • Thanks for the reply charlie, I havent been taking the supplements, the dermatologist suspects, pitiryisis rosia or exema. not sure yet, will keep you posted.

        Like

  5. Tim,
    This is a great post! I really like the step-by-step approach that you described for getting media coverage in various venues. It is very interesting how you can start with just a few contacts and then make it big. Thanks, Brandon

    Like

  6. Great breakdown and I agree one small step at a time with a strategic plan is going to take you places.

    My Biz program is in week 4 right now which is How to create a S.T.O.R.M of publicity and attract all the right attention and it’s definitely a process

    Thanks for sharing your expertise Tim

    Natalie

    Like

  7. Good stuff Tim.

    I worked in radio and television for over 10 years and all I can say is this:

    -The emails and faxes can often be relentless coming in about “getting on” a show or TV, but namely many are from national syndicates/agencies and are merely being blasted out. Phone calls work best and yes, just call the main number and ask for the newsroom, or find the newsroom number and call it. You’ll at worst get voicemail, at best get better information on either who to talk to or when to call back. If they just spit an email to said news “talent” ask for their extension as well to try and get them at their desk.

    -Unless you have something to offer that’s news-worthy (“now”), or your expertise can be of benefit to being a regular “sound bite” for stories you won’t get far (if you do get in with a reporter for a story, keep in touch because they can use you again at some point).

    -If you get on, as Tim says, you MUST be short and to the point. Ramblings may get you cut off or not allow you to say as much as you would like or hope to.

    Like

  8. The world’s best guinea pig indeed. Should have known you had a system for media coverage too! I’ll keep it in mind if I ever get to that point. Great info, that is the first and last time in my life I have ever watched the view!

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  9. Simply amazing Tim!! I’ve been a fan since my business teacher had us read your book 4HWW for class… I have to now get my hands on 4HB; I’d say since you’ve officially reached Dr. Oz, you’re LEGIT!! Thanks for the advice on your blog!

    Like

  10. Hey Tim! Awesome piece! I’m in chiropractic school right now and have been doing self experiments with everything from clearing my acne to weight lifting to dissolving gallstones… If you ever want a subject that has a scientific background and good feedback I’m your guy! I look forward to meeting you one of these days!

    Also why didn’t you get chiropractic treatment for your shoulder? If it were me I’d check your ct (cervical thoracic) junction..I bet it’s locked up. I’d want to see your gait which oftens times leads to instablitity and hypertonicity in your shoulders (I reversed my old baseball injuries correcting my feet.. Crazy!?) and I’d also look at serratus anterior. It’s prob inhibited and causing instability in your scap which oftens shows up in all shoulder injuries. O and one last thing make sure your using your diaphragm to recruit proper breathing muscles instead of relying on tertiary breathing muscles like ur scalenes, scm, and trap..that can lock down your neck..and the number one rule of joints is if they don’t move they degenerate. I wonder If that could contribute to helping you feel less pain without drug intervention!!

    Hope all is well Tim and if there’s anything you need shoot me an email!

    Pura Vida,
    christian

    Like

  11. Tim, I think it’s awesome how transparent you are and the tremendous value your books and blog provide. You’re basically posting cheats/hacks/tips to do stuff and breakdown things that seem “big and scary”. Awesome!

    Like