At an average of dollars 18,000 to dollars 25,000 for a video news release (VNR), PR executives and their clients need to know they are getting the most for their money. The average successful VNR reaches 2 to 5 million people, which translates to approximately dollars 40,000 to dollars 100,000 in advertising value, according to Mike Hill, president of News Broadcast Network in New York.
Clients typically become unhappy, says Hill, if the initial estimate on a VNR project is exceeded.To avoid that kind of price disparity, producers recommend that clients ask up front where extra costs may come into play.
Approximately two-thirds of the costs occur during production, so make sure clients understand all aspects of that process.
Satellite is the preferred method of VNR distribution today, according to Annette Minkalis, SVP, TV at West Glen in New York. 'Almost all VNR distribution is done via satellite feeds,' she reports.
The typical feed, with precut B roll and a podium shot to give it a breaking news feel, costs dollars 5000 to dollars 6000, says John Bailey, VP of News Broadcast Network. Distribution costs vary with the time of day or week, e.g. weekends are more expensive. Some stations, especially major network affiliates in big cities, still request hard copy distribution of VNRs. This can get expensive because broadcast-quality tape is Beta format, which costs dollars 75 to dollars 125 per copy, Bailey says. Some smaller stations don't take satellite feeds, adds West Glen's Minkalis, so they are offered hard copies after the VNR has been produced. These prospects are put on pitch lists, so that the hard copy is sent only upon specific request, she explains. As a rule, producers avoid offering hard copies 'blind,' as some broadcasters simply reuse the originals as a way of cutting their overhead, Bailey adds.
Of course, content is vital. Be sure that the key message is newsworthy and is not too commercial. 'Your VNR will succeed if it is an interesting story that relates to the current news,' says Michael Friedman, executive vice president, DWJ Television in Ridgewood, NJ.
Last-minute changes to a VNR are the most costly. Make sure you know beforehand who needs to be involved in the approval process, explains Mark Manoff, EVP of Medialink in New York. To control editing costs, the client should specify the amount of editing time and preview voice-over scripts before the shoot. To save on studio costs, you might consider doing two shoots at once. 'If you've paid for a whole day in the studio and you have extra time, plan to shoot some other footage for the company,' says David Nemer, president, J-Nex TV in Los Angeles.
But extending a shoot could be counterproductive, since different types may require separate lighting setups, warns Simon. 'A corporate video may warrant more dramatic lighting that wouldn't be appropriate for the news,' he explains. Bear in mind that you may have to schedule extra time for different lighting setups.
Use stock video footage, Hill recommends. But stock video must be broadcast quality to work in a VNR, he warns. 'A VHS tape won't work. Neither will a video shot in advertising style or in lighting that doesn't resemble news style.'
PR professionals should work together with VNR producers to examine ways of purchasing stock video from networks, suggests Doug Simon, president, DS Simon Productions in New York. 'We recently purchased 30 seconds of video from NBC for dollars 1,700,' he reports. 'If you need video from four or five continents, it's a lot cheaper to buy it from the networks than sending crews around the world.'
Consider using B-roll alone, adds Nemer. In some cases, B-roll can tell the story, thus saving dollars 5,000-dollars 10,000 in editing costs. J-Nex recently produced B-Roll alone showing Barbie throwing out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium for Mattel and Ketchum Communications.
Put the story on the Internet for additional pickup, many VNR producers recommend. Orbis Broadcast Group recently joined with PR Newswire to reach 15,000 journalists via Web sites, reports Louis Cafiero, SVP, healthcare division, Orbis Broadcast Group in New York.
Wire stories will also go direct to consumers via links to 650 databases.
Ask for discounts, Cafiero adds. Orbis offers discounts for 'frequent users' and for non-profit groups.
If the VNR idea is good, it may be possible to share costs by combining with other companies in a themed, cooperative VNR, notes Simon. And a weak story can grow stronger when it becomes part of a bigger event, he says. Simon recently combined a notebook computer with a case to carry it in and promoted the two products in a back-to-school VNR. 'Both products ended up getting more exposure,' he says.
GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR BUDGET
1. Examine VNR packages and get approximate cost estimates. One air check (proof that the VNR aired) can cost dollars 200-dollars 1,000; editing time can cost dollars 200 per hour and additional hard copies could cost dollars 60 per tape.
2. Scout the location before a shoot. Make sure the VNR producer has checked that lighting will work and permission to film has been secured. Plan ahead: preview voice-over and complete script editing ahead of time. If the voice-over talent must come back in to re-record, or the finalized script must be re-edited, additional costs occur. One additional day of shooting can cost the client upwards of dollars 2,000.
3. Find out how many satellite feeds will be scheduled. Typically, VNR producers offer two, 30-minute satellite feeds. An additional feed costs approximately dollars 600.
4. Schedule extra time for delays.
1. Over-interview. The more interviews you do, the more time the shoot and editing will take.
2. Make last-minute changes.
3. Plan to shoot in too many locations.
4. Expect all the airings on the first day (unless it's breaking news). Most stories, other than news, may air over several weeks.
5. Be too commercial. Don't try to sneak in too many product mentions. Show them the news value.