Every morning, newsrooms across TV land are flooded with videotape.
Every morning, newsrooms across TV land are flooded with
Miles of it. It comes in over the transom, through the satellite dish
and via the Internet 24/7. It’s news you can use. It’s presidential
photo ops, the celebrity sound bite, and the big breaking story. And
every day, the flood reappears, to once again overwhelm the news
producers, editors and reporters with the task of sifting through it to
find a few nuggets that will keep the viewer’s hand off the remote.
So, where does your VNR on your client’s breakthrough sugar coating fit
in? Well, in a word, it doesn’t. Not if it’s produced the way the
majority of VNRs I see are produced. No, they aren’t going to air the
CEO’s 60-second sound bite. No, they aren’t going to air those staged
Hell, Jennings’ lead story on Clinton last night was only 50
It amazes me that so much time, energy and money is wasted on producing
VNRs that will never see the light of day. The people creating these
electronic atrocities want to believe their client’s story is telegenic,
and that’s quite natural. It’s the power of positive thinking, a trait
shared by many a PR person. But, like theater-goers, these folks are
suspending their disbelief if they think the hard-boiled TV journalists
calling the shots are going to buy a two-minute narrated VNR touting the
fresh lemon scent of Sudsy Soap.
I blame the guys who have the most to lose by questioning these
misbegotten VNRs before they’re committed to tape. The ones who,
literally, shoot first and ask questions (or make excuses) later. When
you’re listening to a pitch from one of them, ask yourself: am I being
counseled or am I being cornered? Is this person telling what they think
I want to hear, or are they telling me what I need to know?
VNRs can and do work, but the new reality in TV newsrooms demands that
you think like a producer, not a client. One of the PR greats, Artie
Solomon, once told me that you write the press release first, then place
the client in it once you’re convinced you have a story that will work
The same goes for VNRs. But also make sure it’s supported by great
visuals. TV is a visual medium, after all. Product shots? They better
not be gratuitous.
VNRs are probably one of the most overused yet curiously underutilized
weapons in the PR arsenal. Good ones can reach tens of millions of
viewers and make you a star with the client. Bad ones are piled up in
newsroom closets coast to coast, a veritable graveyard of VNR white
Let me suggest you carefully think through the cost-benefit relationship
before you produce your next VNR.