In my last post, we talked about getting the press’ attention, and how to craft a good story pitch. Certainly, at some point, whether are you do the media pitching yourself or have someone else do it for you someone is going to give you a call. Are you ready to maximize your exposure?

Determine the needs of the media outlet

Being asked to do a demonstration on television or provide a recipe for a newspaper or magazine section may sound exciting, but there is much work to do. For one thing, do not waste any time in responding. All TV producers and print reporters are under demanding deadlines, and if they don’t hear back from you immediately, they’ll the move on to the next person.

If a TV producer is interested in having you come on the morning show to make, let’s say, a chipotle shrimp appetizer for a “Cinco de Mayo” segment, consider the following:

*          You’ll only have about three minutes on air, so you should bring a finished version of the dish, just in case you run out of time.

*          Assume the TV station has a table, and that’s it. Bring the linens, props, extra food products to display – even portable burners, if necessary.

*          Bring enough to feed the morning anchor crew, but ask if anyone has allergies or dietary restrictions.

*          In addition to the mise en place for your dish, bring a second dish from the restaurant to show off, just in case you have extra time.

*          Since most TV anchors know next to nothing about food, be prepared to take control of the interview, and talk throughout the entire demo – avoid “dead air” when there is no one talking; come prepared to tell an anecdote or story.

*          Feed the anchor on the air at the end of your demo. While they are chewing/swallowing, this will give you a chance to slip in any further messages about the restaurant or the menu.

*          Have fun and make a concerted effort to ramp up your energy level. Smile!

If a newspaper calls, and the section editor or reporter wants to include you in a story, chances are you’ll do an interview over the phone, or they’ll come to see you at the restaurant. A few things to keep in mind:

*          If you’re supplying a recipe, make sure it’s been tested. Don’t make the mistake of taking an existing recipe and dividing by four. If it doesn’t work back at the paper or magazine, he’ll never get asked to submit one again.

*          Be prepared for a photo. Sometimes a reporter will request a photographer meet them at the restaurant, and they won’t let you know.

*          Everything is on the record, unless you specify ahead of time it is not. This is easy to forget when talking on the phone or schmoozing at a charity event.

*          If you’re going to be talking to more than one media outlet in the same market, be sure to give them different angles. They always like to have “exclusive” information for their readers.

Getting ready for television

I spent a great deal of time on the road, working with chefs to improve their on-camera performance. One thing I find helps immensely is to “cook and clear.” After you’ve added something and emptied out a custard cup or ramekin, get rid of it. But not having a shelf to put dirty utensils or empty vessels on poses a problem. In that case, always carry along two milk crates, lay a hotel pan on top of them, and you’ve got an instant hideaway shelf. Also, don’t be afraid to use your hands to point to the things you want the camera to see. For example, after you’ve made a chipotle shrimp appetizer, and you have 20 to 30 seconds left in the demo, direct the anchors attention to the beautiful array of Mexican desserts you brought along, and as you talk about them, keep your hand and arm in that direction. This kind of body language sends a non-verbal message to the director, back in the control room, to make sure one of the floor cameras gets a shot of the tres leches cake and dulce de leche flan you’re referring to.

Finally, grooming is more important than ever. Since it’s a visual medium, you might want to think about getting a manicure – remember, the camera is going to see your fingers along with the food close-up. Keep your hair back (if it’s long) and remove all jewelry, except for wedding rings. Guys, invest the $10 in a nose/ear hair clipper if necessary. And, since most local TV stations do not have a full-time make up artist, go to a local department store, ask someone behind the counter for some powder (tell them what it’s for) and have them show you how to eliminate shine that will eventually appear on your forehead and upper cheek bones when under the lights.

Like all things in life, the more exposure you get, the easier it is going to be to prepare for a segment. Just remember to respond quickly to requests, be accurate in your descriptions, don’t worry about jamming too much information into the segment, and most of all, have fun. Your energy level and passion about the subject will definitely shine through, even if you forget how many chipotles are in the food processor.