THINKPIECE: With the plethora of poorly produced VNRs, how do you create one that will get aired?

Every morning, newsrooms across TV land are flooded with videotape.

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

product shots.

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.

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