How Advisors Can Take Their Message to the Local News

Wendy Gillette says local TV can get the emotional message of a story across in a way that print cannot.

At ASTA Global Live, travel advisors got the full scoop on how to present themselves as travel experts on local and national news. In a conversation entitled, “Travel Advisor Media Mobilization,” Erika Richter, senior director, communications for the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) held a special training session with Wendy Gillette of CBS News providing great tips for broadcast appearances.

The presentation was especially timely since ASTA is mobilizing its advisor membership to get Congress back to work and support small businesses. “We need your help to take our message to the airwaves, and that’s why we’re starting a grassroots media mobilization effort to get travel advisors across the country to tell their story to their local news stations,” said Richter, who advised that getting on your local news is easier than you think. “But it’s important to hone your message and have a strategy in place. We’re talking about broadcast TV, not print, so if you’re a little shy about broadcast, that’s okay. We have an easy letter to the editor portal on that lets you ship off a pre-written letter to your local paper, and we will even find that local paper for you.”

Following is a synopsis of the presentation.

Erika Richter, senior director, communications
for ASTA

Richter: Why is the local media an important and effective advocacy tool for travel advisors?

Gillette: Local TV stations are what members of Congress are watching when they go home for the summer recess; their local TV stations get the pulse of the community. Many local newspapers are really only using national content at this point as national corporations start to gobble up the local newspapers; not to say there isn’t local content in the local newspaper, but it’s becoming more and more nationally driven. Local newsrooms in terms of local affiliates and local TV, newsrooms are still locally produced. So, when Congressmen want to know what the community is dealing with, they turn on the news.

So, this is the time when you really want to get your message out there, when they are home.

Also, local TV can get the emotional message of a story across in a way that print cannot. Because when you watch something visually, you really feel more than you do when you read about it. So, when you see the visual images, when you hear the emotion in someone’s voice, when you see their heartbreak or hear and see what is happening in their life, that can be a more powerful message than just reading about what they’re going through. 

Richter: So, if I’m a travel advisor and my relief options are running dry and I want to share my story, what do I do?

Gillette: You want to mine any kind of relationships that you have. If you have them with your Congress people, that’s the best. It’s the same thing with anyone in the media and those relationships can be with anyone. It doesn’t have to be a reporter, it doesn’t have to be an anchor, just anyone who works for the TV newsroom and they can be the conduit to the right people in the newsroom. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone on the front lines. If you know someone who works for the TV network, then you can say, “Hey, look, I’ve got a story. I think it’s a good one. Can you bring this to the right people?”

Of course, the best relationships to have are with the people who are actually doing the reporting. So you want to go to events and try to meet those people in the community because you want to have those relationships.

You’re going to have to look up the way the stations in the market take story ideas. Sometimes it’s just by filling out an email. Every station is different. Sometimes they’ll take phone calls, but a lot of times that’s not the best method because when you call a TV newsroom, you’re going to usually get an assignment desk and that person is handling the crews in the field, they are handling who is going to what story and they’re handling any breaking news in the market. So, if you call a TV newsroom, do not call during a newscast, do not call when there’s breaking news on a national level or especially on the local level.  You have to be cognizant of what is going on when you reach out. Mid-morning can be okay if it’s a slower news day.

Richter: So, let’s talk about being to the point with your most compelling details up at the top.

Gillette: You want to tell your personal story and why it matters to the community. It has to matter to other people. If you were a travel advisor who helped people get home at the beginning of the pandemic, you matter. You have done a great service for people in the community. So, raise that point and why travel advisors are important. And, if your business goes out of business, how many people are going to be out of work? 

Also, TV news is a visual medium. It’s good to say, “I have video of some of the people I helped get home from the pandemic, I have their vacation videos, or I have video from when I was overseas.”  You have to just think, how is this story going to be told?

Richter: And you want to get all of your information together first and make it as easy as possible (for reporters), right?

Gillette: Also, when you’re developing relationships with your reporters, pay attention to previous stories that they’ve run and weave that in. Maybe the reporter just did a story on some local businesses that were going out of business because of this crisis. So when you put together your pitch, say, “I recently saw your segment on a business in my community that went out of business, and I just wanted to add my story to that, here are some details.” 

Wendy Gillette has also stressed on the need to look neat and polished on TV. // Photo: Getty Images

Richter: Do you have any tips for making the best appearance for an interview?

Gillette: Let’s start with Zoom. You want to have the computer at eye level and to have a nice background. You want to have nice lighting. You can buy a nice ring light on Amazon for only $15, and it makes a huge difference. Right, now I have my computer on top of a box. It’s a great idea to put your computer on a couple of books; that raises the computer to eye level. 

Whether it’s a phone or Zoom or on camera in a television studio, TV is a visual medium so you want to look neat and polished. So for women, you have to think about makeup. You have to think about hair. You probably put on a bit more makeup than you usually do because the camera tends to make people look more pale.

The best colors on TV are colors that pop like red, pink, anything bright. For men, of course, wear a suit. Make sure it fits well. Make sure you pull down the shirt, so it’s not all rumpled, and when you sit down unbutton the suit jacket. In terms of a shirt, light blue or a white can be okay. You don’t want to wear anything that’s distracting. You want your message and your face to be really what people are concentrating on. So big, jangly earrings, big distracting necklaces, you really don’t want that. Anything that’s patterned, you don’t want that either. 

Richter: We need to also talk in soundbytes, in headlines. So when you’re going through your talking points, try to condense it as much as possible because it’s going to get condensed no matter what. You might as well make every sentence count, right?

Gillette: Yes. Clear, concise language and don’t be afraid to repeat your major points several times, because you don’t know what they’re going to use. Doing your first TV interview is really scary. But once you get that first one done and do a few, you’ll get better and better at it, and you’ll see that it has incredible value.

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