If there's one noticeable change in the direction of television in recent years, it's reality shows. At one time, reality TV focused on things like who could dance, sing or make it in the Real World. Today, entrepreneurs are using reality TV as a way to grow their businesses faster than a 30-second infomercial can.
Using a reality show to make a name for your business may sound exciting, but you need to know what you are getting into before you start. There are a few requirements that go along with such an approach, and you need to determine whether you have what it takes to make the cut.
What it Takes
When you think about the entrepreneurs on reality TV shows that draw a regular audience, you will notice that most have a larger-than-life personality. Make no mistake -- television is not for the meek. Things like yelling, mocking, laughing and the "unexpected" are sought after. It is certainly an area where normal folks need not apply.
Several factors can go into making a reality TV show work for you. For starters, your business must be visually stimulating. You need to be able to make things, break things, demonstrate things and make people laugh and/or cry. These shows are not exactly for accountants and lawyers.
Take, for example, “American Chopper,” “Ace of Cakes,” or “Brew Masters,” all of which make something. People are interested in watching these things being made and they get wrapped up in the narrative and characters, which helps to create a bond.
By contrast, a show like “Pawn Stars” involves the strange and unexpected with a little mockery stirred in for good measure. Although we sometimes feel like changing the channel, millions of us can’t wait to see what the next thing will be that someone wants to pawn on the Las Vegas Strip. On the flip side, “The Locator” has women across America crying each week due to the heart-felt reunions.
All of these shows stand out and the characters make them interesting and exciting, which motivates viewers to tune in each week. You have to ask yourself -- do you have something beyond an interesting story? Do you have something that is visually interesting or unexpected? Do you have something that will bring out the worst and best in people? If you can say a resounding yes to all three questions, then you might just have a shot.
Of course, there are some things you will need to be prepared for and keep in mind while pursuing these shows. For starters, you need to have a business that can run without you. Making a TV show takes a lot of time. (I should know; I filmed my own pilot show, “Bailout.”) It also takes a lot of effort and commitment. Can you afford to take the focus off your business and put it on a TV show that may or may not go over?
You also need to be prepared for the fact that, like mine, your attempt may not pan out in the end. Sure, you may feel that doing it anyway will still be worth the experience, but there is a chance that it won’t work out, and you need to factor in that loss.
Making the Call
In the end, only you know if you really have what it takes to shine on the screen and put your business into that spotlight. If you don’t (and most of us don’t), then cut your losses and focus your efforts on making a rock star business -- that has a much higher payout rate in the end, anyway.
But if you do think it is a good fit, give it your best go. Just think what would have happened if Paul Teutul, founder of Orange County Choppers, had passed up the chance to do the “American Chopper” show. Rumor has it that he is now worth well over $25 million.
Mike Michalowicz is the Author of the business cult-classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Michalowicz has built three multi-million dollar companies, is a frequent expert guest on MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and other television networks, and is a nationally renowned speaker. His website is http://www.ToiletPaperEntrepreneur.com and his book is available at Amazon.com and all major book stores.