The mid-morning treasure trove

Daytime talk shows have a devoted audience who influence family buying decisions.

Daytime talk shows have a devoted audience who influence family buying decisions.

There is little doubt in anyone's mind just how influential Oprah Winfrey is, and her daytime talk show reigns supreme in the category.

But lost amid the image of Oprah as the ultimate celebrity-getter and backer of big issues is the notion of just how effective daytime talk shows have always been, not just for celebrities and issues, but as a showcase for traditional products and services.

"They remain very important because it's a third-party endorsement," notes Krisse Mansfield, senior account supervisor with the New York office of Formula PR. "Whether it's Tyra Banks mentioning your client or getting recommended by Oprah, it's a huge deal."

As the recent cancellation of The Tony Danza Show can attest, daytime talk is also a very Darwinian world littered with celebrities, such as Caroline Rhea, Jane Pauley, Jenny Jones, Martin Short, and Gayle King, who ultimately failed to establish enough of a connection with viewers.

"If you watch a lot of daytime talk, you'll see they aren't just celebrity- and product-driven," says Mansfield. "The reason people regularly watch shows like Oprah is because they bond with the host."

Oprah remains the queen of daytime talk, but Rachel Greene, SVP of media relations at GolinHarris, says clients are increasingly willing to look at alternatives. "They've become more educated about the demographics of these shows and know that Ellen DeGeneres, for example, actually skews to a higher socioeconomic level.

Greene notes that these shows do require a different strategy. "With daytime talk, it's best to come in as general as possible," she says. "I give them the broadest time frame and all the products at my disposal, along with my budget and any stars. That way the producer can mix and match, and plug a client into what they're already working on."

Shirley Sandler, SAE with Boston-based Newman Communications, says clients should be made aware that sitting down with Regis and Kelly or the hosts of The View is a much different experience from a one-on-one print or TV interview.

"We always make sure that our spokesperson can deliver a message in 15 seconds and in a personable manner," she says. "You also have to be flexible and let your client know that until it airs, nothing is guaranteed. If Tom Cruise decides to get married, even if they have your client's show in the can, they're going to go with Tom Cruise."

Ketchum senior media specialist Suzanne Lyons adds: "You always want to lead your pitch with an expert whom they can't find anyplace else. If Oprah's doing a show on amazing weight-loss stories, contact the producers to find out if they want the Duchess of York, who's a Weight Watchers spokesperson, or if they're interested in a personal story that you can provide."

Some daytime talk shows look to branded entertainment as a way to boost their ad revenues, with sponsors providing products or money in exchange for a mention
by the host. But Lyons argues that, like Oprah's famous giveaway of hundreds of Pontiac's G6, there's often a charitable cause behind these giveaways.

"When Ellen DeGeneres had her Ellen's Toys for Tots for Hurricane Katrina victims, my client, Baby Einstein, ponied up $250,000 in toys, and we had Marlee Matlin to go on the show and make the donations," she says. "It enabled us to get into a breaking news story and show the client in a favorable light."

Finally, it's important to know that daytime talk is mostly a female world. "That doesn't mean you can't pitch male products, but there must be a female angle to it, like how to help your guy dress better," says Greene. "In the end, it's got to be a product the woman will buy for the man."

Technique tips

Do

Make your pitch as general as possible. Let producers figure out how to fit your product, celebrity, or author into the show

Target a female audience. Even with men's products, you need to make it relevant to women

Look for a charitable angle. Hosts love a good cause, especially if there is a celebrity associated with it


Don't

Just pitch Oprah. Tyra Banks' or Ellen DeGeneres' crowd may fit your client better

Over media-train. Going over potential questions is fine, but part of daytime talk's appeal is spontaneity

Pitch to the middle. Products and services that work for daytime talk tend to be upscale or cheap deals. It's the extremes that get the attention the quickest

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