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Aug 13, 2004

PR Interview: How to Get Your CEO onto Canada's Only Primetime Business TV Show

SUMMARY: More than half a million Canadians (and some US viewers) watch The Business News, an hourly primetime show. Producer Grant Ellis tells us he's seeking CEOs to be interviewed on air -- and it's not limited to Canadians-only. Is your CEO right for this show? Find out:
Grant Ellis, Producer The Business News Report on Business Television 720 King Street West, 10th Floor Toronto, Ontario M5V 2T3 416-957-8101

-> Reach

561,000 viewers weekly Broadcast coast to coast throughout Canada and in some places in the US

-> Ellis' background

Ellis has worked at RobTV as a producer for "about five years," for some of the station's different business shows. Before that, he worked for Dow Jones News Service, "then newspapers before that," he says.

Ellis enjoys business news because, "It's a fairly serious endeavor," he says. "I like the fact that it's interconnected with politics, world affairs, and economics."

-> Current editorial coverage

The Business News is Canada's only primetime business news hour. It provides the Canadian perspective on the important business stories of the day, including original reports, executive interviews, analysis, and expert opinion. While the show focuses on Canada, it also covers US business news.

"Our biggest strength is the interviews with top CEOs from corporations across North America," says Ellis. Guests have a longer time on the show than on many of its US counterparts: where an interview may run only four minutes on a US show, The Business News will keep a guest on for five to seven minutes or even longer "if it's a big, big guest," says Ellis. He adds, "But that's rare."

The show covers industries across the board, as long as the story has three key components: It has to be "something big, newsy, and fresh," Ellis says.

And when he says big, he means big companies. "We're not interested in any US companies that are just average middle cap," he explains. "The chances of our viewership being interested in that are very slim."

Instead, he looks for interviews from the top 100 or 150 companies, or a top leader in an emerging industry.

Executive interviews can cover emerging news -- big issues that are coming down the pike -- or news of the day. If you're pitching an interview for news of the day, be prepared to film within a few hours if your interview is accepted (either remotely from a major US city or from Toronto).

Emerging news may be planned a week or two in advance.

-> Best way to pitch Ellis

Send an email. If you don't hear back from him within a half hour, it's gone and forgotten. Don't follow up, and don't call. "I like to be able to ignore stuff," he says.

Include his name in the subject line and you're more likely to be noticed. "That's a good clue that someone is targeting [us specifically]," he says. "I get so many emails a day, and 99.9% of the ones I get from PR companies are irrelevant."

For example, he often gets emails from a biomed company. "It's all medical stuff, there's no business news. I have no idea where this stuff's coming from."

Try crafting a subject line that lets him know your news will actually make a difference to Canadian investors. "If you can talk on broader issues that are either industry specific or you have something interesting and new to say and are a viable commentator, I'd be interested in that," he says.

-> What Ellis looks for in a story pitch

"Specifically, we want executive interviews and analyst interviews on whatever the top business news is of the day," Ellis explains.

For instance, today he's chasing the topic of oil, how weather affects oil prices, and on a macro level, how that affects the economy. "One day that might be interesting to us, one day it might not be. It depends on the market."

In the pitch, let him know why he should care. For example: X company shot up 60% because of this news and this analyst is available to talk about it.

But he only cares about a major move in a stock if "it's because of something interesting and it's not just some small company that's come up with a new way to do something that's old."

Catch his attention right away or not at all: he decides in just a few seconds whether he's interested or not.

-> Pet peeves

The general volume of unfocused pitches he gets. "I don't want to be just a guy on a list, I want to be able to get new guests, have new sources. Right now, PR people pitching sources is not yielding many stories," he says.

-> Deadlines

"I can't really discuss them, it depends on everything we're doing," says Ellis. "We move on it within hours of getting a story if it's news of the day, or if it's a bigger issue it could be days or weeks."

-> Favorite professional publication

The Globe and Mail

See Also:

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