Be TV-ready for good publicity

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Wendy Gillette, television reporter and anchor, talking to travel advisors about media training during ASTA’s Premium Business Summit.
Wendy Gillette, television reporter and anchor, talking to travel advisors about media training during ASTA’s Premium Business Summit.
Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Extra publicity for your business is almost never a bad thing, and appearing in consumer news is a good way to get it.

Wendy Gillette, a television news reporter, anchor, producer and radio news anchor, offered travel advisors some media training tips during ASTA's Premium Business Summit in Washington earlier this month.

"Many of you no doubt would like to get some publicity for your business, and you know it's not always easy to get," Gillette said.

Gillette previously worked with ASTA to develop a media training course as part of the Society's Verified Travel Advisor certification program. She offered a "crash course" at the Premium Business Summit.

One of the biggest no-nos when dealing with the media is saying "no comment," Gillette said.

"Even if you're dealing with a crisis or negative publicity, you always want to say something," she said. "A good approach is to answer the reporter's question but then pin it to something positive."

For example, let's say there was a major incident with a cruise ship, several of which have happened lately. Gillette advised agents to say something to the effect of, "Yes, there are isolated incidents, but the cruise industry is overall extremely safe."

Then, she suggested citing some statistics, which reporters like to include in their stories. You might, for instance, cite some CLIA data: While cruise capacity has gone up 55% from 2009-2018, operational incidents have decreased by 37% in the same time period.

After that, she suggested, advisors should explain what they personally do for their clients if anything goes wrong on a trip.

"So then, you've answered the reporter's question, you've injected a little perspective and you've put in a plug for your business," Gillette said. "You can always turn that negative into a positive."

Getting approached to appear on television is different than for a print article. Gillette told agents to look polished. Advisors who appear on TV frequently might want to consider keeping a screen-ready outfit at the office.

Gillette advised wearing colors that pop, like red, pink, bright yellow and green. She advised staying away from white for TV appearances. Patterns, especially checks, on shirts tend to read strangely on camera and should be avoided. Men should aim for light-blue shirts, but white shirts are OK if they're wearing a tie with a color that pops.

While those with blonde hair can get away with wearing black, Gillette said darker-haired advisors should stick with something more colorful  lenses tend to have difficulty differentiating dark hair from black clothes, meaning the subject won't pop.

As far as communicating during TV interviews, she said, "You need to think about speaking in sound bites, only one thought per sentence. Try to communicate clearly, concisely and crisply."

Finally, Gillette said it's a good idea to form relationships within TV stations if advisors want to get called on to appear regularly. While larger media markets like New York and Washington might be hard to break into, smaller media markets are easier. Concise pitches to act as a source should be sent in a timely manner, usually early in the morning before a station's morning meeting (usually around 9). Make sure the pitches are about commenting on actual news, Gillette said, not public relations for your business.

She urged advisors to meet TV reporters during community or charity events if possible to establish a rapport.

"We like to work with people we like," she said, "and if we know who you are and have established some kind of relationship, that's a definite plus."

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