PR TECHNIQUE: ANRs - is anybody listening? They’ve been in existence for years. But audio news releases are often treated as inferior tools compared to satellite media tours and video news releases. Rebecca Flass tells you how to reach listeners

The smooth voice of a radio personality reading a company’s news story is music to most presidents’ ears. And in their pre-packaged format, ANRs seem to provide everything a radio station needs to cover a story. But companies should have realistic ideas about the likelihood that their release will be heard.

The smooth voice of a radio personality reading a company’s news story is music to most presidents’ ears. And in their pre-packaged format, ANRs seem to provide everything a radio station needs to cover a story. But companies should have realistic ideas about the likelihood that their release will be heard.

The smooth voice of a radio personality reading a company’s news

story is music to most presidents’ ears. And in their pre-packaged

format, ANRs seem to provide everything a radio station needs to cover a

story. But companies should have realistic ideas about the likelihood

that their release will be heard.



Rick Frishman, president of Planned Television Arts in New York, says

that while ANRs are distributed to virtually every radio station in

America, they’re usually only picked up by the smallest ones. And you

usually don’t know when they’ll run.



Because of this, Frishman says, ANRs work best when they are part of a

broader communications strategy. He recommends that clients combine ANRs

with a morning drive radio tour of the top 20 stations. Paul Reece, VP

and senior producer at KEF Media Associates in Atlanta, says his company

prefers to develop ANRs in conjunction with an SMT or VNR, which can cut

the cost of an ANR since they may use the same sound bites.



Mark Manoff, EVP of Medialink in New York, says that while ANRs may not

get coverage in the top stations in major markets, they have a good

chance of being picked up by some of them.



ANRs are generally no longer than 90 seconds, with a brief introduction

to explain what the story is about, as well as several sound bites, or

’actualities,’ that radio stations can play over the air. Before a

company decides to do an ANR, it should make sure it has a story worthy

of news radio. Experts say ANRs work best for breaking news, consumer

stories and fun features.



Michael Friedman, a partner at DWJ Television in Ridgewood, NJ, advises

companies to think like radio news directors and ask themselves if

they’d expect to hear what they’re developing on their car radios as

they drive to work.



While ANRs can be developed in a few hours during breaking news

situations, most companies say that the process generally takes between

two and three days. Costs can range from dollars 4,000 to dollars 6,000,

more if several versions of the ANR are developed. One problem

multimedia companies face is preventing the story from being

overshadowed by the client’s own promotional interests.



’There’s a dance we often go through with clients who want it to read

like a commercial and want the product mentioned 43 times,’ says

Frishman. ’But you can get the message across without sounding like a

commercial.’



Companies such as Medialink and Planned Television Arts recommend

developing a script for the ANR. However, Jack Burke, president of Sound

Marketing in Thousand Oaks, CA, advises against that. He says that if

companies are willing to answer tough questions, the Q&A format is the

best way to distribute factual information.



Burke recommends conducting a two-to-three-minute interview, editing it

down to two sound bites, and developing two versions of the ANR, one

with the Q&A, the other with only the answers portion, allowing the news

stations to use their own voiceovers. What’s Up (Atlanta) and DWJ take a

similar approach, although DWJ develops an introduction to explain the

sound bites.



Those 20-second sound bites, while short, are important. Reece says that

when KEF develops sound bites, it looks for the ’three exes’ -

experience, examples and experts. Some companies choose to develop ANRs

using only an announcer’s voice, while others include corporate

spokespeople. Experts disagree about whether having a corporate

spokesperson on the release is merely an ego trip for the company or

whether it actually helps get the story aired.



Since radio can be segmented by demographics, companies should develop

different versions of the ANR. Richard Strauss, president of Strauss

Radio Strategies in Washington, DC, says that by targeting

Spanish-language and African-American stations, companies may be able to

penetrate major markets. He says companies should also consider using

different voices depending on the stations they’re targeting.



As for ANR distribution, some companies send cassettes along with a

script so that they can replace the narrator’s voice with one from a

station personality. Others send it via satellite; or call radio

stations directly to pitch the story, then play the ANR for them over

the phone; or fax a media alert to the stations, along with a toll-free

number so they can call in and record the release.



In addition to these older methods, more companies are making ANRs

available on the Internet. This also means that companies can reach

consumers directly.



And Burke says that within the next few months, his company will use MP3

technology to send ANRs as e-mail attachments.



Tracking ANR usage is still an imperfect science. Companies that mail

tapes to radio stations include bounce-back cards, relying on stations

to return the cards once they’ve used the release. Those that rely on

phone pitching and toll-free numbers know when stations record the ANR,

but don’t know if it was used, or when or how many times. Placing ANRs

on Web sites poses similar difficulties.



And while there are companies that attempt to track results and develop

reports, doing so can be expensive. Friedman says that, generally, 20%

to 60% of the stations his company contacts will pick up the story.



DOS AND DON’TS



DO



1. Make sure that the ANR contains a real news hook and is timely. ANRs

are best-suited for breaking news, fun features or consumer stories.



2. Keep sound bites brief and make sure spokespeople are speaking

conversationally.



3. Send a script along with the ANR so that radio news producers can

quickly scan it to see what it’s about.



DON’T



1. Do an ANR if what you really want is a commercial. Stations are less

likely to use ANRs if they mention a company’s name too often.



2. Develop an ANR that is longer than 90 seconds in length. Also, try to

keep each sound bite to 20 seconds.



3. Have unrealistic expectations. ANRs do often get picked up by a

number of stations, but they may not necessarily run on the top stations

or in the top markets.



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