Package Your Ideas with Sound Bites
Once you have found three to four stances you want to take, you need to package them with soundbites. A soundbite is just a fancy word for saying “this stuff is more interesting than all”.
There are ten categories of soundbites you can use to package your ideas, including analogies, bold action, cliches, humor, and pop culture references.
For a pundit, one of the most successful ways to create a soundbite is by attacking. When you attack another politician, pundit, a school of thought, or an idea, it brings in more interest and attention. That’s what producers of TV shows look for; attack and controversy.
However, it doesn’t mean that you should run around and attack with no rational basis. You must have a rationale behind it. For instance, if you’re a politician, you can attack someone when you think they are doing something wrong, impolite, or destructive to society.
In addition to the attack, you can use humor or ridicule to make your ideas more quotable. You can even package it with a cliché. What matters is that you get to the point where you are able to instantly think of soundbites in real-time when you are on the air. You have to make it quotable for producers and attractive for viewers.
Now it’s your turn to look at the three or four issues you have picked. Look at how you came up with your message for these issues, and then pack your messages with soundbites.
Have Your Unique Style to Leverage Fame
Along with packaging your ideas with soundbites, you also need to have your own style which comes across in those soundbites. The style makes you sound more interesting. Take the example of Ann Coulter who is such a successful pundit that her books sell tons and tons of copies and make her millions of dollars. She has earned this fame from her TV talk show appearances, and her fame generates wildly lucrative speaking fees.
It means that you can make a lot of money being a TV pundit (not just because TV networks are paying you). You can leverage fame in many ways, but I want to stress the cultural model. Ann Coulter is probably the most renowned practitioner of the negative attacking sound bite.
Disseminate Your Opinions
If you want to be on TV, you have to be everywhere else because TV producers are looking for people with a following. They’re looking for someone who is already out there and heard. It means that you need to think of yourself as as more of a multimedia pundit rather than a TV pundit. You should be disseminating your opinions and ideas on your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Quora, blog, through emails, and every other possible form of communication.
In addition to this, you need to start building relationships with television producers at the national level and, for that matter, international level. In this digital era, it’s quite easy to do live TV and reach the whole world regardless of where you’re based. You can be in a small town in Alabama, and still, have some arm in television punditry.
Make sure to get your ideas out there quickly. For example, if a story related to your field of expertise breaks at 10:15 a.m. You’re far better getting your sound bite analysis out by 10:25 am the same day, rather than writing a detailed, thoughtful, serious thousand-word critique and releasing it the next morning. You’re not going to get any TV coverage if it comes out the next morning. You need speed. That’s how you can be of use to the producers.
Practice with YouTube
Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it helps a lot, and perfect practice can make perfect. Malcolm Gladwell says, “To become a true expert at something, you need to put in ten thousand hours at it”. If you look at the great pundits, they have all spent a lot more than ten thousand hours on camera, at least on-air, giving their opinions. Rush Limbaugh became a pundit because he had been on the radio for three hours a day, every single day for more than a quarter-century.
Becoming a pundit is a skill. The more you do it, the better you get at it. And you don’t have to wait for a major TV network to become a pundit. Do your own TV and create your own TV network. You can achieve this by creating videos on YouTube or other video-sharing platforms every day.
However, creating videos alone is not enough. Your video content should be valuable and interesting. Think about new ways, innovations, new wrinkles of looking at your perspective and getting your ideas in the videos. This can help you build your audience over time. The more audience you have, the more attractive you’re going to be to any other TV network or TV channel.
So that’s your homework now. If you don’t already have a YouTube channel, create one now and start posting videos.
The Perfect Way to Pitch the TV Procedures
Once you have done everything we have discussed above, it’s time to pitch TV producers. The best way to do this is by writing an email to the producer which contains a one-sentence summary for a breaking story that relates to your area of expertise, followed by a quote with three to four sentences about your ideas. It should be full of provocative sound bites such as attacks, analogies, cliches, emotions, or just anything that reflects your expertise on the issue. It should be clear enough for someone with an eighth-grade education to summarize exactly what your opinion is.
And here’s the kicker. Attach a link to a video on YouTube where you’re saying exactly the same thing you have quoted. However, make sure the video is really short (30-90 seconds). You want to show producers that you are someone who can talk about the subject in a quick, concise manner. This can help you catch the attention of the producer and be on their show for the day.
But remember that timing is critical. For example, if the story breaks at 10, you should be able to produce your video and send an email to the producer by 10:30 (ideally a 30-minute window). If you do this consistently, you will start to get bookings.
How to Look Good on TV?
If you want to be a regular TV pundit, you have to look great on TV. You have to act like you want to be there, and that means just having a smile on your face or at least being really expressive. Perhaps your demeanor can be being grumpy. Charles Krauthammer on Fox News Channel always looks grumpy, but he is consistent, and he brings a certain cheer when he’s ripping apart some hapless Democrat or liberal. So he does still, in his own way, exude certain energy, positive energy.
When you’re on the set, you need to look like there’s no place else in the world you’d rather be. You’re at home, you’re comfortable and relaxed, and really just having a conversation with a few smart friends now.
It’s easy to say that. How do you actually do that? Because if you haven’t been on TV before, the chances are you get scared. You tense up, speak too quickly, sound like robots, and often forget your talking points, messages, and soundbites. You cannot do that if you are a pundit.
So, here are a few tips to look more confident and comfortable on TV:
- Look at the person you are talking with. If there’s no one around then look at the camera.
- Move your head, hands, face, and body because if your body is stiff and frozen, you look nervous.
- Lean forward about 15 degrees because it makes you look good, more confident, and comfortable.
- Use the full range of your voice to sound your best. That means occasionally louder, occasionally softer. Sometimes you get excited and you’re faster, sometimes a little slower, and sometimes a little pause.
To Wrap it Up
If you follow all the exercises shared in part 1 and part 2, you’ll soon be able to become a successful pundit. You will be at the point where you feel comfortable and confident about how you come across on TV, exactly what you should be doing, how to look your best, sound your best, and look like a real pro. Any time you’re in front of the camera, you should have gained a better sense of how to pitch Tv producers and bookers. But most importantly, you should be energized and excited about creating your own punditry by putting your own ideas and your own videos on YouTube every day and building your audience. Over time, you will build an audience. You’ll reach a lot of people. You may change minds; you may build a new consensus around something you think should be done in society, and you will be heard.
Good luck with your future and TV punditry!