Interview: Jess Todtfeld

Jess Todtfeld has worked at Fox News ever since its inception eight-and-a-half years ago.

Jess Todtfeld has worked at Fox News ever since its inception eight-and-a-half years ago.

He spent two years at The O'Reilly Factor before switching over to the morning show, Fox & Friends. As an associate producer, he's in charge of both celebrity segments and breaking news, and he's booked and produced at least 4,000 segments for the show. He spoke to PRWeek about the best way to get a guest on a morning show and the glaring mistakes publicists make.

PRWeek: What makes a good morning-show guest?

Jess Todtfeld: I think what makes a great television guest is someone who is compelling and has an interesting point of view. Those are the two most important elements. For Fox & Friends, we'll look at the top three stories of the day and match guests to those stories. We keep it focused on the news.

PRWeek: Is there a surefire way for publicists to get clients on the show?

Todtfeld: If they can position them to talk about one of the top stories of the day, then they can be an instant match. The problem that most publicists have when they pitch is that they aren't clued in to what's going on in the news. It's also important to know who you're pitching. For example, the show may be a hard-news show, but my particular focus is star segments. If you're pitching news, know what is going on that day in the news.

PRWeek: What are some of your pet peeves about PR people?

Todtfeld: People pitch book titles and not story ideas. My feeling is they're saying, "Here's a book, and here's a pile of press notes - you figure out what the segment is. You come up with an idea for it." That won't happen because we get a very high volume of pitches. I'd say I get 10 books a day in the mail, 10 e-mails an hour, and, above what I can answer, I probably get 25 or 30 extra calls. When PR people ask, "Are you busy right now?" that basically says, "Would you like to get off the phone with me?" They're giving us an out because we're always busy or we would not be working in news.

PRWeek: What advice can you give as far as pitching stories?

Todtfeld: I like e-mail, but blast mail has made it very difficult to see everything that comes through. If it's something that really is a perfect news match, then they should pick up the phone. If any PR person can get a human being on the other side and connect and get a "yes" or a "no," then everybody is better off. But what it really comes down to is targeting their pitch, and of course being able to deliver on whatever it is they promise. Most PR people realize that they need to come through, but on occasion it doesn't happen that way. The PR person has to be persistent, not pesky, and of course they have to figure out where that line is.

PRWeek: Do you blacklist PR people?

Todtfeld: If their [pitches] are not targeted, I'll start to recognize their names as [people] I may want to delete. If I'm on their blast-mail list, and I get everything under the sun that they can come up with, then they're going to be on my delete list. Anything that's addressed "Dear Editors and Producers" instead of "Dear Jess" will get deleted.

Name: Jess Todtfeld

Outlet: Fox News Channel

Title: Associate producer

Preferred contact method: jess.todtfeld@foxnews.com

Website: www.foxnews.com

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