PLATFORM: Tuning into the PR potential of the moving image - In a world dominated by screens, its time for the PR industry to switch on to the pulling power of television, says Stephen Horn

Television has always been something of a difficult area for the public relations industry. It’s those damn cameras. When you’ve got a big announcement to make, how do you maximise the chances of your brand and key messages coming across on TV when all the shots you like end up on the cutting room floor?

Television has always been something of a difficult area for the

public relations industry. It’s those damn cameras. When you’ve got a

big announcement to make, how do you maximise the chances of your brand

and key messages coming across on TV when all the shots you like end up

on the cutting room floor?



In recent years, many people have come to believe they’ve found the Holy

Grail in the corporate video news release (VNR). Gazing fondly across

the Atlantic, supporters of VNRs believe they have already seen their

destiny - a world where the VNR becomes as widely accepted as the press

release.



The argument goes something like this: television is expanding

rapidly.



In a world of 200-plus channels with resources stretched to the minimum

and acres of airtime to fill, broadcasters will come to need VNRs. There

are two very powerful arguments against this vision.



The first is that the advent of the digital age does not just create

vastly increased airtime - it also creates the technology to fill

it.



It’s not too difficult to imagine a future where every producer in a TV

newsroom will have a compact, digital camera in his hand and will be

able to cover a story as easily as a newspaper reporter. In addition,

the new technologies will greatly increase picture sources. Existing

agencies, such as Reuters and Associated Press, will zap moving pictures

to desktops in newsrooms across the globe at the touch of a button, as

they do with stills today. The future for news gathering is bright.



The second argument against VNRs is very much apparent today. It’s a

cultural one. Britain - indeed Europe - is not the US. There is an

intense distrust of VNRs in the mind of the British journalist. And it’s

not going to go away.



The latest BBC producer guidelines make it crystal clear that there have

to be exceptional circumstances before the partial use of a VNR is

considered.



And even then, strict instructions are issued not to use shots which

’promote the supplier or their products’. The hostility across town at

ITN is, if anything, even fiercer, as editor-in-chief Richard Tait has

made know on a number of occasions.



Oh yes, but they do use them, I can hear you say, no matter what the

guidelines state. Yes, sometimes they do use them. Often out of

laziness, often out of ignorance, rarely through choice.



If you’re thinking this all sounds rather gloomy, let me accentuate the

positive. There have never been more opportunities for public relations

in the electronic media, as there are now that the digital revolution

has kicked in.



Towards the end of last year, the BBC’s deputy director of television,

David Docherty, was musing on the fact that, within a very few years,

television will become indistinguishable from the web. The two

technologies will merge into one, creating a holistic, worldwide,

multimedia experience which will do everything for you, from ordering

your shopping to calling up a TV show on demand.



Already visionary CEOs from corporations such as Procter and Gamble and

Bell Atlantic, have foreseen a world where paid-for advertising on

television becomes redundant due to the vast range of consumer choice

which will be created. Conversely, the power of editorial is hugely

increased. The real future for PR lies in the electronic media - no

question.



This new media world calls for communications strategies which are as

sophisticated as the medium they are intended to address. In this world,

the VNR looks increasingly like an expensive, unwieldy and ultimately

ineffective tool.



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