All Trump All the Time: Why Pitching Clients to Cable News Outlets Has Become Nearly Impossible


There once was a time, before the summer of 2015 when a certain man came down an escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for President of the United States, that PR firms such as ours could pitch cable TV news bookers with a reasonable chance at success.

Yes, you had to have all the ingredients of a good TV pitch.  Strong spokesperson, timely story offer, key demo appeal and, in an ideal scenario, great visuals to go with the pitch.  And even with those elements in place, by no means would you be guaranteed success.   But you could try and work it to a “yes” or “no,” with the latter at least generating a useful “here’s why not” response from the TV news booker.

Now, three years later, the situation has become untenable, with successful pitching of clients for cable news appearances becoming nearly impossible.  There are occasional exceptions, if your client is a child missing for days in the desert or the family of someone found brutally murdered in a cornfield.  Sorry to be cynical, but it sometimes seems to take that much real-life drama to interrupt the Donald Trump Show.

What are the options for PR pros in this Trumpian era of TV pitch frustration?  Here are five thoughts:

  1. Pitch business news outlets such as CNBC, Fox Business Network and Bloomberg. Yes, they too have succumbed somewhat to the demands of Trump-dominated news cycles, but they still have a lot of air to fill and like to try out new guests, especially when pitched by trusted sources;
  2. Tie your pitch to President Trump in some way, but with eyes wide open to the risks and doing it only if it makes sense. Take tariffs.  You may have a client that is absolutely devastated by Trump’s trade policies, and/or you may have another client who is making 10x in profits due to those vary same policies.  There could be upside on coverage for either client, but downsides also present themselves for both scenarios.
  3. Go local with TV pitches, trying to work your way around the country in whatever market order makes sense in conjunction with your client. Sometimes the best laid scheduling plans can get waylaid at the last minute, so try not to get too intricate with your calendar.
  4. Develop a YouTube strategy. Even Donald Trump can’t “take over” YouTube, so plan, develop and execute a strategy that takes advantage of YouTube’s momentum, searchability and scale.
  5. Go big on other channels. While radio is to some lesser degree also experiencing this inadvertent “Trump takeover” of the news, print still has its various sections of the newspaper, its niche magazines and, of course, its digital content that can be shared in so many ways.  Just as I plan to share this piece far and wide via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you must develop a sharing and amplification strategy for the content you create for your clients.

If you have any Trumpian Era Tales of Pitching Success to share, please let me know and I can share it in a future blog.  Or, if you are so inclined, please share your successes direct by commenting below if you are reading this on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.