Broadcast Television: Achieving success with your VNR in 2005

Guaranteed placement, extending a VNR's life, and scientific medical stories. All of these and more are trends that broadcast PR will see continue in 2005.

Guaranteed placement, extending a VNR's life, and scientific medical stories. All of these and more are trends that broadcast PR will see continue in 2005.

Video news releases have always been an important tool for the PR industry. While the most popular subjects for VNRs remain more or less the same, where and how they're being used has certainly changed. Last year brought a noticeable increase in certain trends that could become even more common this year. Navigating those trends, and deciding which are here to stay, could be the key to getting your client's VNR on the air.

Factors such as a shrinking news hole and increased competition have prompted companies to explore other ways to get VNRs aired. In fact, most broadcast PR companies are now encountering requests to ensure placement in a non-traditional way for the PR industry - by paying for it.

Ed Lamoureaux, SVP of sales and marketing for West Glen Communications, says he has noticed a significant rise in the use of guaranteed or paid placements for VNRs.

"The idea of securing a placement and using a VNR is more of a grassroots outreach and has become very popular," Lamoureaux says. "It goes hand in hand with the coming together of advertising and PR."

And Lamoureaux is hardly a stranger to the concept. For the past 17 years, West Glen has been producing Health and Home Report, a 30-minute news magazine program that guarantees VNR placement. There are several of these guaranteed-placement shows being produced, some of which appear on cable stations like PAX.

For some companies, guaranteed VNR placement is a better way to spend marketing dollars, says Lidj Lewis, VP of media relations for Medialink. "It uses a PR technique to diversify the marketing mix," he adds.

Michelle Williams, director of production for Medialink, says she has seen an increase in the use of guaranteed placements and has had a lot of success with them. One of the biggest advantages, she points out, is that guaranteed placement programs often target a very specific demographic, which helps when producing a VNR. "You know the audience," she says. "You can cater your story to that audience."

Another option within the guaranteed-placement arena is the captured audience, says Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions. These are networks that air in controlled environments, such as health clubs and airplanes.

But Simon cautions that guaranteed placements should be used as a value-added service and not as the means for reaching the VNR's entire intended audience. "If 20% of [a VNR's] audience comes from paid time, it is not a good thing," says Simon. "PR's roots are about earned media."

In fact, Simon adds, guaranteed placement is not always the best option. "It's not for every client," he says.

Many companies today are choosing to get use out of their VNR after it has been broadcast. Jack Trammell, president of VNR-1, says he has noticed a trend of clients repackaging VNRs for future use - either as a corporate video or in-house communication. "Agencies are finally starting to realize there is life after a VNR," he says.

Many corporate PR departments are also editing VNRs for intranet use within their company, providing valuable information for employees. "PR is adapting to new responsibilities," adds Trammell.

For clients who choose to be traditional in terms of VNR use and placement, many of the standard rules still apply. As far as subject matter, most industry professionals agree that healthcare VNRs are still the most popular. "Healthcare is just exploding," says Jeff Wurtz, SVP of sales and marketing at News Broadcast Network. "But it doesn't mean it's a home run to get it on TV."

Diana Penna, health reporter for TV station KOVR in Sacramento, says that there is an abundance of health topics on news broadcasts, providing an opportunity to get those types of VNRs aired. "Health news brings value to the newscast," she says.

Although Penna uses VNRs, she is discriminating in her use of them, especially because she covers such a sensitive topic. "We really go through them with a fine-tooth comb," she says. "It must have the scientific backing to air. You can't just put [on] something from Johnson & Johnson because they made a VNR."

Williams acknowledges the continued popularity of healthcare VNRs, but says that there has also been a resurgence of kicker (or "fluff") pieces. In addition, behind-the-scenes stories are becoming increasingly popular because they appeal to mass audiences. "That's footage that the public normally doesn't see," she says. Other story areas that are picking up, according to Simon, are technology and "infotainment."

As far as requirements for airing a VNR, Penna says hers haven't changed. Healthcare VNRs should always feature an expert from a reputable college or association, or include statistics from a clinical study.

An important component of a VNR continues to be the local angle. "Localizing has been the story for years, but it still rings true," says Wurtz. Not only should the VNR be localized, but the pitch should as well, adds Lewis. Make sure to add local statistics when pitching to the reporter or producer. "We want to do all the work for the station," he says.

Tim Bahr, president of MultiVu, says that when producing a VNR for an earned media audience, length is key. "We always [advise] clients to stay under two minutes," he says. "We like to keep it at 90 seconds."

Sometimes, however, the most important thing is the packaging. While some companies may choose to send out b-roll, instead of a packaged VNR, Bahr says the VNR is the most important part. "When people send b-roll, I always say, 'Would you send your press kit without the lead release?'"


Technique tips

Do consider guaranteed placement or captured audience options

Do remember to localize all VNRs

Do repackage VNRs for use in corporate videos or intranet

Don't use guaranteed placement as the only option; use it as a value-added service

Don't send pitches without statistics and local information

Don't send healthcare VNRs without independent statistics to back it up

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