When people around Australia saw Belle Baker from Adelaide Hills & Fleurieu Farm Services on Weekend Sunrise one Sunday morning recently, little did they realise how much planning and energy went into making that four minutes of screentime actually happen.
And just like most "overnight success" stories are typically 10 years in the making, so, too, this story was the culmination of a vision and months of effort.
So, if you're curious about how to get you and your business on TV, here's one story about how it happened, so you can look for some lessons and see if there are any similarities between your pathway and Belle's.
Hey, Steve, I have an idea
The TV interview about Belle Baker's Tractoring For Women course, started at the beginning of 2023, when she rang me to say, I have an idea.
Belle and her partner, Pods (Patrick O'Driscoll), both come from generations of farming and had been carrying out farm services in the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu area for a few years, when Belle had "yet another" woman ask if they could teach her the basics of running a tractor.
The motivation was twofold:
- Firstly, so they could get things done on their property when their "bloke" was offsite
- Secondly, it was the overall drive in most people on the land, of wanting to be able to turn their hand to anything needed to run their farm
Having decided to scratch the itch these women were feeling, Belle nutted out the elements that would be needed:
- A property to base the course (their property at Currency Creek was perfect for this)
- A course to give structure to the knowledge (between her, Pods, and their friend and colleague, David Evans, they were able to achieve this within a conventional VET (Vocational Education and Training) framework, without getting bogged down on the "boring bits")
- Tractors to use (Belle contacted half a dozen local tractor dealerships and found overwhelming support, resulting in having tractors freely-supplied on the day)
- A promotional plan (Belle used the base of listeners to her then podcast, The Farmcast, along with tapping into her blogging skills and social network presence - including membership of some local Facebook groups in her area)
- Planning amenities (catering, classroom space, portaloos, etc)
This resulted in the inaugural event taking place on May 11, 2023.
Running the event and filming it
Apart from running the event successfully, Belle had the foresight of making sure the action was captured for future promotional use.
I was there on the day to photograph and film anything that moved, with my gimbal, tripod, and drone, all getting a workout throughout the day.
As it happens, a good deal of footage shot with my iPhone was used by Channel 7 as B Roll (footage played on screen while the guest is talking, to break up the vision to avoid spending too long with one talking head as the only image).
Plus, Belle always has her mobile phone out and about, and she supplemented the shooting from her immersive position.
This footage has been invaluable in everything that followed.
Applying for the Augusta Zadow Award
A few months after the event, Belle noticed a call for applications for the Augusta Zadow Awards, which offers grants of up to $25,000 for work health and safety initiatives benefitting women and young workers in South Australia.
SafeWork SA runs the awards to commemorate the work of South Australia's first female inspector of factories, Augusta Zadow, who fought for the work health and safety rights of women and young workers.
And so, five months after the one-off event, which took a considerable investment of time, money, and risk, Belle was invited to Government House to be presented with a $10,000 grant to further develop the pilot course into one that could be replicated and delivered around South Australia and Australia.
When SafeWork SA put out their media release, announcing the winners, the media fuse was lit.
From little interviews, big things can grow
The Stock Journal and ABC News were the first organisations to seek an interview with Belle about Tractoring For Women.
For the Stock Journal, this was grist for the mill, because we had a farmer with generations of experience doing something innovative in the agricultural sector.
For the ABC, it's charter of covering stories of regional interest, especially through their Country Hour programming, made it a no-brainer to cover this story.
I am emphasising these points because what we see here is the power and potential of doing something significant within a niche.
Because Tractoring For Women was "worth talking about" in those media outlets, journalists from other publications saw the headlines, especially when the story made its way onto the ABC News App.
The picture of Belle in her trademark pink shirts and pink glasses, grabbed a slice of fresh attention, including that of the team at Channel 7 in Sydney.
Weekend Sunrise logistics
On the Wednesday before her appearance on Weekend Sunrise, Belle got a call from one of the researchers, asking if she'd be interested in being on the TV show that Saturday.
It took us two seconds to decide the answer was yes, given that Belle's ultimate mission is to spread the word about tractor safety, especially for women.
Then the logistics entered into the equation.
A planning call was booked on the Thursday morning, to discuss where the segment would be shot and what sorts of content would be covered.
As it turns out, despite preferring the shoot to happen on Belle and Pods' property at Currency Creek, we were conscious of making our involvement as frictionless as possible for the TV team.
After all, we needed them more than they needed us.
The Bush Telegraph swung into action.
Before too long, a property at Littlehampton was made available, two tractor dealerships agreed to deliver tractors to ensure the major brands were in shot, and five volunteer women said they'd appear to be on or near tractors to give colour, movement, and substance to the story.
After the 30-minute planning call on Thursday, Channel 7 confirmed they had a camera operator booked but then advised they needed to shift us to Sunday instead of Saturday. This ate into some personal plans for Belle and Pods, but that was put aside in service to the greater glory of getting the story out.
Background footage was supplied to Channel 7 and the researcher commented, again, how much the girls in the office loved Belle's pink glasses and overall, bright demeanour. Note to self: be yourself, don't ever try to blend in and be like anyone else.
On the day, Belle and Pods arrived on the property at 6.30am to manoeuvre the required tractors into the right locations.
I arrived at 7 to be the point of contact for the camera person who was arriving between 7 and 7.30 to prepare for the segment going live at 9.10am SA time.
Our volunteer drivers arrived around 7.30.
With walkie talkies all passed around, the women hopped in their allotted tractors and started doing a procession around the large paddock we were in, so background footage could be shot of women in tractors. On TV, they prefer us to SHOW and not just TELL.
That was done by 8.10am, which left an hour for waiting (and coffee).
Around 8.00am, Belle was connected to an earpiece and microphone and stood in front of the camera, with the women placed next to each of the five tractors in the background.
The first live footage happened briefly when the hosts in the studio announced that Belle would be on and Belle's job was simple: Look at the camera, smile, and wave, with the women waving in the background.
That was 15 seconds of air time.
Then, after news and sport and ads, the interview took place.
For us, in the field, we saw Belle stand to attention and laugh and chat and interact with the hosts.
For the people at home, they saw her in a small screen next to the hosts, then full screen, then background imagery of women driving tractors, then back to Belle, then back to Belle and the hosts, etc.
The 3-4 minutes whizzed by in a moment, and then it was done.
As tractors began being put back into sheds and debriefing discussions held by those involved, it was noted that friends in SA hadn't commented yet because the show comes to us, delayed by 30 minutes due to timezones.
Finally, 30 minutes later, gathered around a couple of smartphones, the team was able to watch the interview go out "live".
Publicity begets publicity
Later that day, Belle's phone started getting busy.
Enquiries arrived from women's magazines, local papers, and lots of women around Australia who wanted to learn more and get involved.
Furthermore, with a rising tide of media coverage, Belle is now in a position to tap a few other outlets on the shoulder; outlets she's keen to get coverage in to talk to "her women".
The way this all works is that very few media people want to take too much of a risk with an "unknown" person or business.
However, once others have shown there is story value, it helps make it easier for busy journalists or editors to "get it".
Screenshots of stories, video footage, all become useful assets for future publicity to help participants (customers, supporters, sponsors) trust that there is something of substance and worthiness in what your venture is.
It was a heady activity that seemed to be over and done in the blink of an eye, but it was truly a worthwhile experience and helped spread the word about Belle's important mission.
And one final thought: It was made even more intense because we knew that if a big news story broke that morning, we'd be dropped like a hot potato. So it's not an adventure for the fainthearted but as George Bernard Shaw said:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.