A good VNR vendor knows more than how TV stations operate; it knows your client's industry as well. Sara Calabro offers several tips on how to narrow the field.
Most PR agencies and corporate communications departments have a select group of VNR vendors they work with. To compile such a shortlist, it's necessary to quiz vendors to determine which one will best satisfy your clients' needs.
Marina Maher Communications recently "dramatically culled down its video vendor list to create more partnership-like relationships, according to Suzanne Haber, SVP of the firm's media department. The agency had several vendors complete an eight-page questionnaire about the specifics of their services before inviting a select group to further discuss their credentials.
There are several key criteria on which PR pros should quiz possible producers of their VNRs. Those vendors that have contracts with network feeds, for example, may up their fees by $10,000 or so for making use of this potential for extended reach. While this is often a perk, it's important to get the specifics on what markets their contract includes to ensure the extra expense is worth it. A client message designed to speak to audiences in major metropolitan areas is not likely to be very effective if aired over a network feed that only reaches small suburban towns in the Midwest.
Bob Carlson, manager of media relations for Porsche Cars North America, feels that the background of a vendor's staff should be the primary interest.
"The first thing to look for is whether someone has newsroom experience. You want to be working with a production team that understands that side of the business, he says.
Bobby Holcombe, VP of CKPR, agrees. "Proof of an effective vendor is not in the production, but rather in delivering the message, he says.
Also, it helps to work with a producer who's aware of what subject matter typically airs at certain times. "All content does not necessarily fit at every time, points out Holcombe. "It's nice to hear a vendor offer suggestions on what times a particular VNR might work. It shows they know how TV stations operate, and also about your client's industry."
The pitching process is also important. Each client's needs ultimately determine who does the majority of the pitching - the VNR company or the PR team - but most agree that a healthy mix of both is ideal. Having staffers from the production side pitch your releases can free up PR to work on other aspects of the account. Additionally, vendor pitchers may have relationships with TV stations and their reporters, which is often helpful.
"When a vendor has enough volume, they have full-time staffers doing the pitching, opposed to freelancers, says Joan Cear, SVP of GS Schwartz.
"If this is the case, they have a better idea of what will fly with stations because they are in constant contact with them. Additionally, Holcombe recommends actually talking to relevant journalists as part of the selection process to see which vendors they work well with.
On the flip side, "I always like to have a couple of internal people pitching VNRs too because the vendors don't have the passion of being the client business that we do, explains Eric Rayvid, director of business and consumer technology for Evins Communications.
Cear sees both sides as well. "There's definitely value in having an active part in the pitching process. At the end of the day, if the production company does not get the results your client expected, your team is still going to be held responsible. You can't turn to a client and say, 'It was the VNR company's fault that you didn't get a placement.'"
1 Do investigate how extensive a vendor's tracking/monitoring reports are. Ask to see samples
2 Do find out beforehand the cost of services not included in the flat rate. You never know what will come up during the production process
3 Do ask to see samples of past projects. Producers with experience in specific markets may know about key nuances
1 Don't blame a VNR company's staff if a client is not satisfied. The PR team is responsible for the client's needs
2 Don't assume all network contracts improve results. Though it's often a perk, sometimes the cost increase isn't worth it
3 Don't go with a VNR company that fails to show its ability to pay attention to news value, in addition to client messages
CAN DO WOMAN New York; Specialty: New product launches and trends Contact: David Post (212) 244-1444, ext. 18
DOGMATIC New York; Specialty: Entertainment, fashion, hospitality Contact: Stephanie Vaughan (646) 336-7977
DS SIMON PRODUCTIONS New York; Specialty: Healthcare Contact: Doug Simon (212) 736-2727
DWJ TELEVISION Ridgewood, NJ; Specialty: Healthcare, technology, product launches Contact: Dan Johnson (201) 445-1711, ext. 212
GLOBAL NEWS & ENTERTAINMENT Longwood, FL; Specialty: Automotive, technology, healthcare Contact: Matt Hamill (407) 682-1502
GORDON PRODUCTIONS San Francisco; Specialty: Healthcare, technology Contact: John Gordon (800) 818-7763
THE HOFFMAN AGENCY San Jose, CA ; Specialty: Hi-tech and consumer electronics Contact: Sheri Baer (408) 975-3035
KEF MEDIA Atlanta; Specialty: Healthcare Contact: Kevin Foley (404) 605-0009, ext. 303
KVO PUBLIC RELATIONS Portland, OR; Specialty: Product launches, healthcare Contact: Melissa Moore (503) 721-4247
MEDIALINK New York; Specialty: FDA approvals, automotive, entertainment Contact: Ryan Barr (212) 682-8300
MH3/MARK HAEFELI PRODUCTIONS New York; Specialty: Entertainment, fashion Contact: Josh Cook (212) 334-2164
MULTIVU New York; Specialty: Healthcare, entertainment, technology Contact: Larry Thomas (212) 596-1513
NATIONAL SATELLITE PRODUCTION MEDIA SERVICES Los Angeles; Specialty: Event coverage Contact: Gil CoFrancesco (323) 857-0777, ext. 318
NEWS BROADCAST NETWORK New York; Specialty: Fast turnaround projects Contact: Jeff Wurtz (800) 840-6397
ON THE SCENE PRODUCTIONS Los Angeles; Specialty: Healthcare Contact: Ken Fry (323) 930-1030
ORBIS BROADCAST GROUP Chicago; Specialty: Healthcare, food Contact: Randy Seffren (312) 942-1199, ext. 218
TIMES SQUARE STUDIOS New York; Specialty: Product launches Contact: Tim Hayes (212) 930-7751
TVN COMMUNICATIONS New York; Specialty: Healthcare Contact: Brian Unge (212) 889-2323
WEST GLEN COMMUNICATIONS New York; Specialty: Healthcare, consumer news, technology Contact: Mark Dembo (212) 921-2800, ext. 291.