Can you suggest a project to me

How do we get on television with our social project?

Are you even sure that you and your project or club want to be on television? This medium has its pitfalls, and they shouldn't be underestimated. So that you know what you are getting yourself into, a warning about the risks and side effects in advance.

Background - rules and risks of the medium
For TV makers, the most important good is the viewer's attention. If he is no longer interested, he switches over or off. Television makers try to prevent that at all costs. That is why television programs are as entertaining as possible. An average magazine article today takes about three minutes. This is where the first risk lies dormant for you: Try telling everything that is interesting about your project or club in three minutes - you will find out how difficult it is.

Entertaining is not enough to attract viewers' interest. That is why television producers report less and less, they tell! They try to make their contributions - which are also called stories internally - exciting. There are rules of dramaturgy for this, and you can be sure that a television producer will impose these dramaturgical rules on every contribution. It doesn't have to be bad, but you should prepare for it or take advantage of it.

The last risk that should be mentioned here is the powerlessness you will feel when someone else makes a film about you, a project that is important to you, or your club. Do not believe that a television report is necessarily unpaid advertising or that you can determine the tenor of a report - even if there are ways to influence it. So that’s enough of the warning and back to the question: How do you get on television?

TV editing - structure and working method
The standard answer is: with a press release. But honestly, this remedy is not very effective in most cases. Another way seems more promising. But this first requires a few thoughts about the structure of a television editorial office.

Most television newsrooms have two different types of journalists. Some are editors, the other authors. The difference between them is that the former are responsible for a program: They choose the topics of the program, commission contributions and also accept them, so they control their quality. The authors, in turn, make contributions. In most editorial offices, the editors are permanently employed by the broadcaster and receive a fixed salary, while the authors are freelancers and are paid per film.

Editors and authors hold thematic conferences at regular intervals. In these, everyone can suggest topics for the show. If an author presents a topic that the editors would like to have in the show, then he will be allowed to implement it and earn money with it. If the author does not suggest any topics or only those that the editors do not consider interesting, he may be left with nothing. That means: An author has an interest of his own in “selling” topics particularly well in the above-mentioned conference and then implementing them in order to earn money.

Therefore, it is best to approach authors specifically with your topic. In this way you can win a lawyer in an editorial office who is committed to your topic. It's the safest way to get on TV.

The question remains: How did you get this author? That needs some attention. From today on, just put a pen and a piece of paper near the TV. Either in the introduction to a contribution or in a fade-in at the beginning or at the end, the author is usually named by name. If you particularly enjoyed a post - perhaps one on a social, cultural, or charitable topic - write down the name of the author. If it is not mentioned or shown, or you have missed it, call the sender, ask for the name or ask for a contact. If possible, have them put you through immediately or call them directly later. Tell him how much you liked his post. And then ask him if he might be interested in a different topic - better in a different story, yours and that of your club or project.

What makes your project interesting? A story to empathize with
And that brings us to the next question. Namely: How do you make your topic or your story as interesting as possible for an author?

When watching television, viewers are hardly just pure viewers, they feel for it. The better name for them would therefore be: Compassion. TV makers try to stimulate this empathy and do it with a dramaturgical trick. Almost every good story for them consists of a main character, a challenge, and a change. The best main character is the one who has the greatest challenge to overcome. The larger this is, the more the viewer empathizes with the person.

So if you want to make a report about your project appealing to a television producer, then you have to prepare your story accordingly - the main character, great challenge and change should not be missing.

Let us illustrate this with an example: An association arranges sponsors for children of Turkish origin. The godparents meet regularly with “their” child, help him learn German, get by in school and society, and do something together. Your goal is to win new sponsors for your club with a TV report.

You can now summarize everything you need to know, such as the date of foundation, number of members and activities, and try, perhaps with a press release, to encourage TV editors to contribute. I advise against that. Better tell a story from your club and offer it to an author. Such a story could be:

A Turkish boy has big problems at school. He had to repeat a class, speaks bad German and has no friends. But your association has found him a sponsor who will take care of the boy. The two meet every week. The godfather helps him with his homework, reads his own old youth books with him, meets his parents and teachers. In the end, he manages to get the boy better at school again. This creates the transfer, speaks better and better German and thus also plays more with other children. The only current problem is, and this is how the story can end quietly: The boy's brother, who is two years younger, now has the same problems as his older brother. But unfortunately the club lacks a suitable sponsor. There is no one to be found who could help the brother ...

One more trick at the end: try to find an appointment that fits your topic. Maybe there is a theme week on volunteering, an integration day or an anniversary (e.g. 60 years ago the first guest worker came to Germany). Such an occasion is another selling point for the author, who later has to make your story palatable to colleagues at the thematic conference.

Either way, approaching an author personally and preparing a story according to the rules mentioned above will increase the chances of your topic getting on TV. If so, then the author of the post will be someone you have chosen! This journalist has already convinced you with his work. This means that the chance is much greater that the contribution will also be designed in your interests!

Briefly summarized once again the five most important points:

  • First, ask yourself what goal you want to achieve with a TV report (e.g. call for donations, look for helpers, gain a foothold in a new city with your project).
  • Look for stories from your club / project that work according to the principle of main character - challenge - change.
  • Put a pen and paper next to the television. When you see posts that you enjoyed, write down the names of the TV authors, stations, and shows.
  • Contact the authors via the broadcaster and ask them if you can suggest a story for them.
  • Make use of appointments! E.g. the day of volunteering, a debate in the Bundestag on the subject of integration, an anniversary or another occasion that is related to your association / project.

I wish you every success in your work!

Johannes Büchs is the presenter of the children's news magazine nine and a half in the First and the show Can it Johannes? in the KiKA. He also works for the show with the mouse and as a live reporter for the ARD morning magazine. Johannes Büchs was nominated for the Grimme Prize in 2012, received the DEG Journalist Prize in 2013 and the Environmental Media Prize in 2014.

In addition, Johannes Büchs trains moderators, management consultants and executives on topics such as creativity, presentation, storytelling and strategic dramaturgy. Since 2007 he has been teaching at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen.