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Move from Being On TV to Becoming a TV Personality

5 Ways to Make a Name for Yourself in Any TV Market


A journalist reports on the news.

Become a TV personality instead of someone who's just on TV.

Photo © DreamPictures / Getty Images
If you work on the air at a television station, you've realized the people who make the most money are the ones who have carved themselves a niche as a TV personality. They're the ones who are the most recognized people in your city. While it may have taken them years to position themseves as irreplaceable TV personalities, you can jump start your way to achieving the same status by examining how you come across to viewers.

1. Find a Look
Everyone knows Gene Shalit from NBC's Today Show by his curly hair and moustache. While an evening news anchor won't likely be allowed to duplicate Shalit's unique style, there are small changes you can make to create a longer-lasting impression with viewers. Retired ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson always wore red neckties.

Decide whether there's something memorable you can do to your appearance. Major adjustments will have to be discussed with your managers, so that your plans to wear a fedora while delivering the 6 o'clock news aren't nixed.

2. Find a Cause
An easy way to create a loyal following is to adopt a charitable cause. An anchorwoman who survived breast cancer is likely beloved by the local breast cancer-fighting foundation, even though she didn't plan to get cancer just to get more viewers. If a health-related charity isn't your thing, find a way to help public schools in a high-profile way. Parents take notice of people wanting to improve classrooms.

Try to become "the face" associated with the cause. You and the charity will both benefit from the exposure.

3. Find a Style
The most legendary TV personalities have a style that's all their own. Think of Peter Jennings, David Brinkley or Barbara Walters from ABC, Mike Wallace, Dan Rather or Andy Rooney from CBS. These people are sometimes imitated on Saturday Night Live because they are so unique.

While you shouldn't decide that you want to sound like Tom Brokaw while reading the news, look through your recent stories or newscasts to see if there's a thread that binds them together. Do you like to demonstrate something while on the air? Do you want to be known for asking tough questions? Those can be the building blocks for developing your on-air style.

4. Find Your Place in the Community
Most on-air people come and go so quickly that viewers don't even notice them. That's why managers often don't invest money or promotion in people they think will be gone in two years.

You can show them you're worth the money by inserting yourself into the community, especially when there's no TV camera around. Teach Sunday school at your church, join a civic club or find a leadership class. You will accomplish two things: Touch small groups of people in a meaningful way; and show your bosses that you have a commitment to something other than finding your next job.

5. Be Consistent
This may be the toughest point to follow because on-air people are used to change. You have to learn to pace yourself for the long haul. It's true that personalities like Oprah Winfrey found instant success on the national stage, but dig into their past and you'll find it took a lot of hard work to get them there. Volunteering at the humane society one day a month won't turn you into an overnight TV personality.

If you are truly interested in making an impact in your city, you have to dedicate your personal time and be patient while awaiting the payoff. It never hurts to remind your bosses of how you spend your off time.

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