What to look for in an ANR vendor

Radio is a uniquely intimate medium, so it's vital to make sure your ANR vendor has both clout and sophistication. Tom Acitelli discovers how to pick the right one

Radio is a uniquely intimate medium, so it's vital to make sure your ANR vendor has both clout and sophistication. Tom Acitelli discovers how to pick the right one

As late US House Speaker Tip O'Neill once quipped about politics, all audio news releases also are local.

To know what to look for in an ANR vendor, then, ANR experts recommend seeking out those who know how to hook ANRs to local news - that know, essentially, how to think like a radio station's news director.

Those that see ANRs as a linear extension to your brand's ad campaign, then, should be treated with caution. "I don't think you should look for a vendor to be a yes person to you, to take your advertising and pitch it as PR," says John Butler, head of broadcast communications at Z-Communications. "The news directors that are receiving these ANRs are going to give them the smell test, and if they smell too much like advertising, they're not going to get clearance."

When News Generation did an ANR for AARP of Georgia, it was very careful to produce one that was "as timely and newsworthy as possible," says president and cofounder Susan Apgood. The ANR also left room for local stations around the state to add a local angle if they wanted.

The ANR addressed a nursing-home crisis in Georgia. It included comments by the president of the state chapter of AARP, as well as background information on the crisis. It eventually reached an estimated 3 million Georgians and touched off further media coverage of the crisis.

"You do not want to have an ANR become a thinly veiled commercial," Apgood says. "The thing is to make it a really issue-based release, meaning it has news and information that the listener can really use and do something with."

An ANR vendor should have the means of getting across a truly newsworthy release that can get itself on the air, says Bill Polglase, client services manager at North American Network. Some obvious signs a vendor is worth the money for an ANR include how they produce and how they pitch. A vendor, for instance, should be able to get an ANR's message across in 60 seconds or less, or about 160 words.

The information should be delivered in easily understood, concise language, with local references, if possible. And the person doing the voice-over should speak with a clear and commanding voice.

Vendors also should be able to distribute the ANR in all possible ways, says MultiVu president Tim Bahr, from traditional ways like satellite and tape delivery to internet Mpeg files.

An ANR should include a call to action, Apgood says. This can include a way for listeners to get more information about an issue or something to simply remember, such as an event in their community.

A celebrity doesn't hurt either when crafting an effective ANR.

Radio stations sometimes get hooked by the draw of certain celebrities, says Shel Lustig, president of MediaTracks Communications in Des Plaines, IL. That means an ANR with a well-known voice might have a better chance of getting on the air. MediaTracks once used a pre-gubernatorial Arnold Schwarzenegger for a successful ANR on the After- school Alliance in California.

"Radio stations look at news on different levels," Lustig says. "Obviously, radio's a local medium, and radio [stations like] to report on things that are happening in their community, often as their main priority. And then, after that, they look at regional and national news as the next level, and international news after that. But radio stations have a commitment to broadcast local news to their own communities."

Most ANR work these days, though, is national in scope, Lustig points out. When choosing an ANR vendor, then, know which ones can give ANRs the local angles necessary for getting on the air.

Part of nailing the local angle is having a vendor that's familiar with the potential market for the ANR. Clients should look for vendors that have existing relationships with radio stations or networks, says Roberta Facinelli, director of radio services at Medialink. That gives an ANR a leg up on the competition, she says, as busy news directors are more apt to trust a vendor they already know.

Vendors shouldn't be telling clients that an ANR is the same as a video news release, says Michael Hill, president of News Broadcast Network, a player in the ANR field since the 1960s, when sports events and politicians first made wide use of them. ANRs generally have shorter sentences and scripts than VNRs, among other production differences.

"I think clients should be careful," Hill says, "if [vendors] are presenting it as the same thing as TV, which it isn't."

Vendors also need to be careful about tossing too much branding into an ANR. If they do, that can mean the ANR will be lost on a radio station's cutting room floor, so to speak, because branding skirts too close to the cardinal rule of no commercialization.

"You must be careful about branding," Lustig says. "Many PR clients like to get their brand name into a story, and many radio stations don't like to run stories that have brand names in them because they feel it's too commercial. So it's trying to find the fine balance when you're doing a standard audio news release of being able to satisfy what the client wants, yet still delivering bona fide news to the radio station."

Striking this balance comes from the research that vendors do about a radio station's demographics. If they don't do it, then prospective clients should pass them by. More important, says Butler, a client should look for that vendor who's willing to have a frank talk about whether a client's idea or product is actually newsworthy enough to pass a news director's muster.

"You want someone to engage in a give-and-take with you," Butler says. "Think about news managers, directors. They're the gatekeepers, and they're the ones you're ultimately trying to impress."

Technique tips

Do pick a vendor who knows the demographics of the radio stations or networks you want to use

Do keep the ANR to 60 seconds or less

Do pick a vendor with a track record in ANRs

Don't pick a vendor who signs off on everything you propose

Don't add a lot of branding to the ANR

Don't pick a vendor without contacts at the radio stations or networks you want to use

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