What Do Producers Do?

Multi-screen workspace

When it comes to media, many think only of the talent or hosts of shows, but there are so many more people behind the scenes when it comes to getting a program on the air or published.

As you move forward to book your own interviews, you will be working with producers, and depending on the types of interviews and campaigns you design, they may include podcast, radio, television, and various content producers. You’ll run into different versions of the title “producer,” but they all perform basically the same duties.

I thought it might be good to share a little more about exactly what they do so that not only will you be better informed about their work when you are pitching them, but also simply to understand the nature of some jobs in media.

It might seem like a glamorous career — and it can be — but the job of a podcast, radio, or TV talk show producer also involves a lot of hard work including plenty of details to handle. And, believe me, there are a lot of details. Just as YOU have lots of details when you’re booking yourself on shows, for example, date, time, length, topic, talking points, platform, who contacts whom, emergency backup info, copy of the book, press kit sent, make up ready, car pick up etc., producers manage the same details multiplied by all the guests they book for the show. (Hint: The more you can handle in one single email, the easier everyone’s life will be!)

In addition to booking guests, producers also plan the sequence of segments, monitor the activities in the control room, and always look for ways to promote and enhance the quality of the show. They want fabulous guests, of course. A producer not only wants to hear from his or her boss, “Great guest!”, they also want to hear that from the audience as well, especially via social media.

This is one reason why it’s so important that you know how to deliver a great interview. In fact, when pitching, it’s good to include a link to another interview you’ve done (Hint: Not that of a competing outlet though). Producers don’t have to take a chance on any guest; send them your interview or snippet of a presentation so that they can see you and feel confident that booking you is a good idea.

Booking Guests

With the help of others on the team, such as hosts, writers, and executive producers, producers research guests for the show. As we often discuss here, talk shows are usually based on current events, news stories, topical themes in our culture, and the dates on the calendar, so remember that as you’re pitching an idea. The question running in the back of their minds that you must answer is “Why you, why now?” If you offer a reminder of something in our culture that is coming up, and it’s something that he or she hasn’t thought of or remembered yet, all the better for you!

A producer starts the day by searching and reading the local and national news and researching trending topics. Then, once a show topic in mind, he or she will seek out show guests and book them into time slots on the program. (Hint: You, as a potential guest, may pitch your ideas just at the time when they are looking to cover your topic. This is another reason why tying your ideas into something that is happening now makes you newsworthy.)

Developing the Show

Another big part of a producer’s job is developing the “rundown” for the show. This is basically the timed outline of how the show will be put together and coordinating the various elements that make up the show. Music will be chosen, guests and various segments will be put into a logical order and they’ll work with graphic artists to create visuals for both the show and its web presence. With a rundown created, the producer will then assign a team of writers to draft the show script. The show hosts might help with this process by developing questions for guests as well as introductions and closing statements. (Hint: This is another reason to put a press kit or one-sheet together that has interview questions on it. A short bio is a good idea too.)

During the Show

Whether the show is live or taped, the producer will be on hand, either in the control room or studio, to monitor the production and see that it goes according to his or her plan. This means working closely with the show’s technical director, who’s typically in charge of cameras, lighting, sound, and video, and graphics professionals. If a segment runs long, the producer might have to bump something, and that can be a guest sometimes. If a guest doesn’t show (heaven forbid!) or if there are other problems or conflicts with guests, the producer might have to come up with alternative material on the fly, which requires good judgment and quick thinking. (Hint: If you are bumped, be gracious about it and follow up soon to see about securing another date.)

Promoting the Show

Whatever form of media, there is an online presence to consider, and that means the material must be distributed there too. After a talk show has finished recording and/or airing, the producer might select segments of it to be posted on the show’s website, or he or she might make the show available in its entirety. They might also be responsible for developing ideas for further marketing of the show, such as placing ads and recording promos. The producer, or more likely, the executive producer might conduct long-term planning to determine the show’s overall direction or to make significant changes to its look or focus. (Hint: Before you go on with your segment, see if you can find out if he or she is planning to post your segment. It may depend on how you do — no pressure there — but it’s worthwhile asking. You can use it to promote afterwards.)

If you’re planning to book interviews for yourself, it’s helpful to understand the job of the person you’re pitching. It’s always better to “pitch the hungry dog,” or the producer who isn’t at the top but is hungry for great guests. Unless you know the executive producer personally, you can skip that person as he or she is involved in other aspects of programming.

Oh, and one last little tip. Be mindful of when you’re sending your pitch. If it’s an hour before going live, you will want to wait on sending that. If there is a big breaking news story, that is another time to wait. Example: sending a pitch about gardening when news of the bombing in Afghanistan is breaking. You don’t want to look like you’re oblivious.) The show may be interrupted by going live to their anchors for breaking news.

Bottom Line

As I’m fond of saying, it isn’t rocket science, but there are fundamentals you need to keep in mind. Hopefully a better understanding of the producer’s role will help you in securing interviews so you can talk about your topic and your book. Good luck!

To your success!


P.S. Time to get goin’. You gotta be…





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