PR TECHNIQUE: Getting ready for the world premiere

A video news release may have international appeal, but before unleashing it on the world, several tasks must be crossed off the checklist.

A video news release may have international appeal, but before unleashing it on the world, several tasks must be crossed off the checklist.

The increasing popularity - and in many cases, necessity - of global marketing programs has made it imperative that PR situate itself in the mix. To make broadcast PR, namely VNRs, effective globally, both vendors and the clients they service must be mindful of the technological and cultural disparities between the US and other countries. Nick Peters, SVP for Medialink, says, "TV is TV. What is visual here will be visual elsewhere, and the basic notion of what is a good story will transcend country lines. The differences, however, are technological and cultural." To start, the format for video in the US differs from other nations. The US standard is NTSC, while Europe and other countries use PAL or SECAM. If a VNR is produced domestically in NTSC, it must be converted to the appropriate format before being sent overseas. Doug Simon, president of DS Simon Productions, advises in-house or agency PR teams interested in developing an international VNR to "make sure your vendor is factoring in the cost of standards conversion" when getting a price quote. Distribution methodology is equally important, as not all international newsrooms have comparable capabilities to those in the US. The widely preferred form of delivery here is via satellite, but overseas outlets are sometimes still partial to tape. Additional expenses for sending hard copies should be factored into budgets on global projects. Another concern is language, which is an issue when companies decide to format their VNR for international audiences. Despite the fact that English is considered the global broadcast language, VNRs should be produced with flexibility in mind to avoid eliminating the possibility of adding a native tongue. Sound bites of local languages are sometimes sent along with the original English version so that stations can mute and dub over the English and add their own language. Other times, international stations will just run the release in English, but with local-language subtitles on the screen. Making the process as simple as possible for global recipients is optimum, but "from a production standpoint, you waste money by producing the same story in multiple languages," says Peters. Instead, he adds, "when you're pitching, alert them to the personalized sound bites." Tim Bahr, president of MultiVu, agrees. "It is better to include b-roll with sound bites in an unedited format, with complete textual story information in appropriate languages," he says. The emphasis on b-roll when producing a VNR with global potential is important, in part, because of the difference in the length of news segments in the US and those outside the country. On average, a total VNR package in the US, including the story itself, b-roll, and any added footage, is approximately three to five minutes. In Europe, they run about five to seven minutes. In the US, the general rule of broadcast news, says Peters, is "less is more." He explains, "We like shorter sound bites and stories because we have shorter attention spans. The attitude is, get it in, get it done, and move on. Exceptions exist, but in general, internationally, the opposite is true. They want more pictures and longer segments." Another distinction between domestic and global VNRs is in the types of stories that are of interest. But technology - consumer product and trend - tends to transcend borders. Similarly, entertainment VNRs, particularly for movie releases or premieres, are popular overseas. "Celebrity American culture is celebrated around the world," tells Peters. "US business stories, because of their profound effect on the worldwide economy, are also well received." Healthcare topics can work well internationally, but with a caveat. Product stories are rarely conducive across borders because pharmaceuticals, devices, and other healthcare products obtain regulatory approval on a country-specific basis. A new anti-depressant hitting American shelves, for example, is likely to be of little interest in Europe, where the drug may have been approved over a year earlier. Medical studies, however, regardless of where they take place, tend to have widespread appeal because they affect such a significant number of people. This works, says Simon, because "internationally, things are more concentrated at the network level. They want to do stories that are of interest to a large portion of the population. In the US, there is more local control." Regardless of industry or subject, Peters warns against some of the blatant commercialization that has become commonplace in the US when producing a VNR for global purposes. He explains, "International broadcasters are much more worried about overt branding than US broadcasters are. Commercialization is an art in this country, but internationally, it is still a bugaboo. The more branding, the less likely it is that it will get international pickup." "If your marketing people are insisting on branding, you almost want to try and hide it," Peters recommends. Steve Gold, director of NBN healthcare, a News Broadcast Network division, agrees. "What flies abroad is hard news," he says. "It needn't be breaking news, but it has to be hard." ----- Technique tips Do anticipate the potential for global distribution as far in advance as possible to avoid the high costs of added production Do know the preferred reception methods of the international outlets. Via satellite is the widely preferred method in the US, but several international stations are still keen on hard copies Do understand the attitudes of global broadcast outlets to overt branding in VNRs. Reactions to it will vary outside the US Don't forget who is on the receiving end of your VNR. If it's going to a newsroom in France, don't make the first sound bite in German Don't ever send a VNR in NTSC format overseas. The conversion should be done here, prior to it being sent out Don't discount the differences in length between the average VNR story in the US (1.5 minutes) and in other countries (3-5 minutes in Europe, for example)

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