Television viewers simply can't get enough celebrity news. It's
also one of the most competitive markets when it comes to getting
Craig McGuire dishes the ins and outs of getting on Entertainment
We can't help ourselves. We're simply obsessed with celebrity. From Tom
cruising Penelope, to what Robert Downey Jr. wore to his latest hearing,
Entertainment Tonight (ET), produced by Paramount Domestic Television in
association with Cox Broadcasting, has tapped into that addiction,
providing millions of viewers with their daily A-list fix for the past
From a publicist's viewpoint, ET represents the pinnacle of mainstream
media penetration. After all, it claims more than two million nightly
viewers spread across more than 70 countries. But to get to the
mountaintop, you're going to have to sign up some A-list talent. Just
make sure, unlike the Kim Cattrall-Nikon saga, that your celebrity has
more to say than just plug your product.
"You need to pitch ET that they can catch up with the celebrity on the
set of their new movie or music video," says Lisa Giassa, senior
publicity manager of Prentice Hall Press, and a former regular ET
pitcher while at Porter Novelli.
"You have to train the celebrity to plug the product, much the way
(Porter Novelli) did with Polaroid and Britney Spears," she explains.
"During the interview, Britney was snapping photos of the ET cameramen
and interviewer with her Polaroid for her journal."
Sometimes, it seems so right, like when Billy Joel headlined for Piano
Grand, a PBS special presentation with the Smithsonian in celebration of
the piano's 300th anniversary.
"The hook for Joel was that he was going to debut his first classical
music piece on the show," says Lisa Shenkle from Verb!
"The original Piano Man gives his piano a new sound! Looking for
something unique, new, or unavailable anywhere else is the key."
Building relationships becomes crucial when you're trying to catch the
attention of a show like ET. Though not in entertainment communications
per se, as a VP at Venice, CA-based PR agency The Blaze Company, Steve
Valentine realizes the importance of keeping in touch with ET producer
Bonnie Tiegel, who he's known for years.
"I make sure to call and offer tips when I have them," he says. "By
offering something they can use, especially when I don't have anything
to pitch, I'm establishing the right kind of relationship. When I do go
in with a pitch, I can trade on that relationship."
ET producers are always on deadline, so don't kill too many trees
developing pitch material. "Never send along a long-winded press
release," says Giassa.
"They just won't read it. I would send two paragraphs offering the who,
the what, and the where, with the who obviously the most important piece
Keep in mind that ET producers seek out one-on-ones with
Make sure they have access as celebs hit the red carpet, or they'll kill
the segment. "I pitched Lauryn Hill for a partnership she was doing with
Alta Vista, and ET was into covering Lauryn's free concert at Irving
Plaza, but only if they could interview her," says Giassa. "One-on-one
interviews were not part of Lauryn's agreement, so she didn't agree to
an interview, and ET never came to our event."
Also bear in mind the need to bring something unique. Though it was the
first of its kind when the show debuted in 1981, ET now faces off
nightly with a cadre of competitors, including Access Hollywood and
Extra. While they vary in focus, these other shows are celebrity-driven,
prompting strong, and at times heated behind-the-scenes competition.
"They demand that exclusivity, getting more than what Extra and Access
Hollywood has," explains Giassa. "So don't think you can get your
product or celebrity spokesperson on all these shows the same night,
that is, unless you're able to hire Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise."
Address: 555 Melrose Avenue, Mae West Building, 2nd Floor, Los Angeles,
Locations: Entertainment Tonight is taped in Hollywood, CA. Bureaus are
located in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, London, and Tokyo.
Senior Television Segment Producer: Mylin Watkins, (323) 956-4918
Senior Film Segment Producer: Bridgette Shanks, (323) 956-4652
Senior Film Segment Producer: Rob Sheiffele, (323) 956-4958.