From Author to TV Expert

Claire Richmond on how television companies need expert commentators which is good news for authors who can use television to build their profile .

Authors have a lot to offer the TV industry but if you want to be a TV expert you have to ask yourself two questions: what are you doing to promote yourself to the TV industry and what kind of TV opportunities are you interested in?

TV researchers, producers, heads of development and commissioners find experts and ideas for new programmes in lots of different places. The bookshop is definitely one of them. And I know, because I spent 15 years making and developing TV programmes – and looking for new talent.

I got my big break on C4’sThe Big Breakfast in 1993 and went on to series produce Changing Rooms, Ready Steady Cook and Don’t Get Done Get Dom for BBC1. I developed, launched & headed up digital and mobile TV channels (London TV for Visit London and Today on 3 Live for 3 mobile) and produced shows ranging from Dial-a-Doc to Fate & Fortune for L!VETV.

Finding expert guests, expert contributors and expert presenters was always part of my job, because experts bring authority, passion and credibility to a programme. They make it come alive. Experts also bring new ideas to the table and access to people, places and projects that have the potential to inspire viewers, attract new audiences and set new trends.

That’s good news for the broadcaster, because programmes that attract new or huge audiences develop brand loyalty. It’s great news for the production company, because the series gets re-commissioned and the format can be sold worldwide. And its fantastic news for all the experts involved because their media profile goes through the roof. So everyone wins: the broadcaster, the production company, the experts involved and - ultimately - the viewers who benefit from engaging & inspiring programmes.

So it’s no surprise the TV industry is always on the hunt for new experts. But it has to be able to find them. And the more ways it can find them – bookshops, google searches, associations, universities, etc - the better.

That’s why I set up findaTVexpert.com, the online database of experts for TV. It’s aimed specifically at the TV industry and it is run by a TV professional who understands the needs of the industry – and of the experts.

In a nutshell, findaTVexpert helps bridge the gap between the professionals and the programme makers by giving experts who want to be considered for TV & Media opportunities another way of showcasing their expertise to the industry and members of the media (primarily TV but also radio & press) a fast and easy way of finding experts to comment on a subject or be part of a show.

From antique dealers to zoo owners and everyone in between. Because you never know what the TV industry will be looking for next. Who would have been able to predict that in 2003 Channel 4 would be looking for ‘expert cleaners’ to go into filthy homes and give them a once over. Yet that’s what happened and ‘How Clean is Your House’ - with cleaning experts Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie - was a ratings success.

So if you’re an author who wants to be a TV expert, you need to think about how you’re promoting yourself to the TV industry. Having a book on the shelf is fantastic. But you can’t rely on your book alone to catch the eye of a TV Producer. And remember there’s a huge difference between promoting yourself and promoting your book. TV producers are interested in people. The book makes you an expert, but it’s your personality & passion that will get you on TV.

Then you have to figure out what kind of TV opportunities you’re interested in. Obviously it would be great to have your book made into a series but are you open to other suggestions? Could your knowledge be used in an item on This Morning, for example? Is there an existing TV series - relevant to your area of expertise - which you could put yourself forwards for as a contributor?

If there is, be pro-active and get in touch with the production team. When I was series producing Changing Rooms for the BBC, I was always on the hunt for new designers. Yet very few designers contacted me directly. This amazed me because Changing Rooms was a huge success and I thought interior designers who wanted to raise their profiles would do whatever they could to attract my attention and get on my radar. But they didn’t. So I asked for recommendations from friends, went to bookshops, did random google searches, scoured newspapers & magazines and tracked down potential new designers myself.

Some made it onto the shortlist. Some didn’t. Some were fantastic but not quite right for the show (once the expertise box has been ticked you have to take into account the personality, the chemistry with the other designers, etc). Others couldn’t imagine anything worse than being on TV and/or being on Changing Rooms.

And that’s what it all boils down to: do you really want to be a TV expert? Do you believe your passion, your personality and your expertise could make a producer, a commissioner - and ultimately million of viewers - sit up and take notice of you? What makes you stand out from the rest? And are you prepared to do whatever it takes to get on TV and start raising your profile? Or do you want publicity for your book?

If it’s the former, make sure researchers, producers and commissioners can hear you, read about you and find you in as many places as possible. Because the TV industry’s always on the hunt for new experts, new ideas and new personalities. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it!

Claire Richmond, TV producer and founder of findaTVexpert.com Findatvexpert.com has teamed up with Mentorn Media’s Head of On-Screen Talent to host a series of ‘Could You be a TV Expert?’ seminars across the UK in a ground breaking hunt for new TV talent in 2011. The 6-location tour kicks of in Manchester in March (10/03/11) and then heads to Bristol (07/04/10), Glasgow (12/05/11), Cardiff (09/06/11) Birmingham (7/07/11) and London (08/09/11). Tickets cost £30 per person and must be purchased in advance as spaces are limited. For more information or to book your place email claire@findatvexpert.com