Broadcast: When broadcast is just the beginning

A VNR production company can do much more for your campaign than just shooting and pitching. Erica Iacono explores the add-on services you should expect

A VNR production company can do much more for your campaign than just shooting and pitching. Erica Iacono explores the add-on services you should expect

Broadcast television often plays a critical part in PR campaigns. But whether the vehicle is a video news release or satellite media tour, there are certain things above and beyond airtime that you can expect from a provider.

Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions, says clients should take advantage of the vendor's consulting services from the very beginning.

"The most important added value they can get is up front, before they decide to move forward on the project," he says, adding that clients should expect a frank and honest assessment of whether an SMT or VNR is going to be the right vehicle to pursue. "That's the key thing, and it's often overlooked. A lot of times agencies might come to a vendor with a fully fleshed-out idea."

Jack Trammell, president of VNR-1 Communications, agrees that clients can sometimes get the most value from broadcasters before the project has even begun.

"We try to start with the supposition of asking the client to outline the campaign, and then we decide if broadcast can be of assistance," he says. "I'd much rather explain to a client why their project will not work than why their project did not work."

Maya Burghardt, general manager of On the Scene Productions (OTSP), says that the initial consultation is what could set the tone for the relationship and the success of the project.

In fact, several years ago, OTSP established an advisory committee that evaluates a potential project's viability in the media free of charge. In many cases, the committee makes small suggestions to enhance a story's reach potential, sometimes conducting a "soft sound" of the story to the media to get feedback and evaluation that helps determine whether a project should go forward.

"I really think it's crucial in a way, for the success of a project on the other end, that a client be aware of what will and won't work in the media," Burghardt says.

Once it has been determined that the topic is one that will work for broadcast, clients should then make sure to take advantage of the expertise the production team has to offer, says Michelle Williams, director of production at Medialink. She says that broadcast providers should also offer research on such things as the demographics of the target broadcast areas during the first stages of planning.

"Within a week, they should be coming back with statistics and where they think this piece would do the best," she says. "That [information] is really invaluable."

Communication with the production team working on the VNR or SMT is also of the utmost importance. Williams adds that clients should expect to have unlimited access to their producers and media relations strategists. This way, should issues like a changing news climate arise, the client can work with the team to figure out other options.

"You want to be brainstorming with them throughout the project," she says. "You should be able to have full access to them."

Burghardt says that clients should expect consultation to continue throughout the course of the project, even after a VNR has been sent out, especially if it's not resonating with producers.

"When dealing with a broadcast provider, [clients] should expect that if something is not going well, every effort is made to change the course," she says.

During production of the VNR or SMT, broadcast providers should offer to repurpose the piece for future use, such as by creating a corporate video, Williams says. "You want your company to be thinking of you and thinking of your future."

It's also important to ask how the piece can be repurposed so that any additional shooting that needs to be done can be completed at the same time. "If you do it all at once, it's a lot cheaper," Williams adds.

Trammell says that clients should also expect VNRs to be streamed on a promoted, media-accessible website, something that his company provides as an ancillary service. The website should feature hyperlinks of the production available so that the client can use it for additional pitching to media.

"For the internet, nothing is snappier than a one-and-a-half-minute story in broadcast quality that encapsulates what the organization is trying to do," he says. For evergreen stories, the video can have a life span of one to two years. "That's a great value," adds Trammell.

The video also can be distributed via the internet by the client before it airs in the media to drum up excitement about the initiative the company is working on. "It's a morale builder and internal communications tool," he says.

Larry Thomas, president of MultiVu, says for clients of his company who do a VNR, the scripted package can be used again as part of the multi-media news release, a product that uses parent company PR Newswire's distribution system to broaden the reach of a broadcast product.

"It guarantees our client [that] whether the media are interested in the content that we distribute or not ... end users will be able to access their message on the internet," he says" It's a natural reach to extend the message directly to the target audience."

The array of services broadcast providers offer today is sometimes a surprise to certain clients who think of such companies as solely VNR or SMT providers, says Burghardt, whose company also handles crisis management, web placement, event planning, and media training.

"I think broadcast providers have come a long way in terms of all that we can encompass," she says, identifying everything from scriptwriting to set design to web components as services that broadcast providers are now offering. "A lot of those things can be taken care of by one vendor."

Technique tips

Do take advantage of a vendor's consulting services before deciding whether broadcast TV is the best option

Do expect to have full access to the production team and strategist at all times

Do make sure the broadcast provider has done research on demographics of the intended audience

Don't fully prepare a story idea without consulting the production team

Don't forget to ask about repurposing VNRs for corporate videos or other uses

Don't hesitate to ask the broadcast provider about repurposing VNRs or SMTs to get the most value

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