This past December, CBS Television Distribution named Sharon Hoffman to the role of Executive Producer of Entertainment Tonight and the Insider. Hoffman is a veteran of the industry, previously working as the Executive Producer of Weekend News at CBS, and helping to re-launch CBS This Morning back in 2012.
This week, Sharon sat down with me to discuss her passion for the industry, how social media has changed journalism, and how to stay ahead in the industry!
Congratulations on your new role as Executive Producer with Entertainment Tonight and The Insider! What are you most looking forward to in this new position?
Thank you very much! Two things: One, to set and meet the kinds of goals you can accomplish with an extremely talented production staff… the people at ET and Insider are the best in the business and capable of playing at a very high level. I’m excited to be working with them. And two, to evolve a legendary brand in the digital age, keeping it relevant for a well-connected audience and introducing it to a whole new one.
How did you discover your passion for communication?
I joined the high school paper — I started as a sportswriter. Then I saw All the President’s Men, Broadcast News, The Year of Living Dangerously, Up Close and Personal and The Paper, and I developed a conviction that informing people about their world was an important thing to do for a living. Along the way I got addicted to covering breaking news. My fellow news junkies know exactly what I’m talking about.
What has been your favorite moment or accomplishment in your career thus far?
I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to have a few of those… but among the most memorable for me was writing and producing a documentary for Dateline NBC on the heroes of Flight 93, three weeks after 9/11. Jane Pauley anchored it, and the team won an Emmy for Best News Magazine Report of 2001. The recognition was especially meaningful because we worked so hard to tell that story the right way.
What role does social media play in your job? How has social media transformed strategic communication?
It’s where I get my first pieces of information. It’s where I follow breaking news. It’s where I find out what people are arguing or excited about. It’s how I find people. And social media has forced all of us to get better at what we do — it’s not near adequate just to repeat things that already happened. You have to bring your audience information that’s new, meaningful, and worth their time. And you have to tell great stories. I think social has forced people who message for a living to raise their game, too — to be smarter about their pitches and more authentic in their language. Color-by-numbers press releases aren’t good enough anymore.
What advice do you have for PR professionals who are trying to build rapport and strengthen relationships with reporters and editors?
Find media professionals you trust… and then actually give them a chance and trust them. Take the time to understand what they cover, how and why, and then show them you did your homework.
How do you envision the future of the communication industry, and how is Entertainment Tonight working to stay ahead?
I’ll leave predictions to fortune tellers! The business is changing so rapidly. Obviously, we put a ton of effort into staying in front on digital, and that’s how our news desk is oriented; the site always takes priority for breaking news. That’s how we keep our brand relevant, and it’s why we’re one of hte top entertainment news sites in the world. The mission for the show is to give you 30 minutes that are absolutely worth your time. So we tell great stories, we come up with original angles, we get big exclusives, and we entertain and excite you from the first minute to the last. If you are a longtime viewer, you’ve probably noticed the show is being produced at a faster pace, and we are doing a lot more breaking news. It’s what a sophisticated 2017 audience expects. Plus, the ET vault – 36 years’ worth of archival material – is priceless, and we utilize it in a smart way. We have an outstanding reputation, but we don’t take it for granted… we work hard to earn our viewers every day.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in this field?
You’d better love it. It’s way too hard if you don’t.
Rapid Fire Round:
- The song that is my anthem is….I’ve had many. At the moment it’s “Soulshine” by the Allman Brothers.
- My favorite holiday is… St. Patrick’s Day. I adore the Irish.
- My biggest fear is… Rats.
- What is your favorite sport to watch? Basketball. Participate in? Spinning. If that counts.
- I feel accomplished when… My children are happy.
- If I had a billion dollars, I would… Travel the world with my boys… really, really well. I’d come back and fund major initiatives to preserve and maintain an independent and robust press. And then I’d help kids whose families don’t have a lot go to college, and help their parents retire so those kids could go on without worries to change the world.
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