Broadcast PR has to be proactive to move ahead

By now, it is news to no one that broadcast PR tools such as VNRs are being scrutinized, both by watchdog groups and by the media that report findings.

By now, it is news to no one that broadcast PR tools such as VNRs are being scrutinized, both by watchdog groups and by the media that report findings.

And regardless of whether broadcast PR companies will admit it publicly, such scrutiny, whether by the media reporting on the scandals or media using the tools, has affected business.

So it's a step in the right direction that, as PRWeek reported last week, a group of more than a dozen companies in the space have formed a union to respond to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), should it move toward changing disclosure rules for VNRs. In a corner of the PR industry where there have long been differing opinions on everything from usage numbers to guaranteed placement, a cohesive union with a strong message is a welcome change.

Unfortunately, such efforts are more reactive than active. Last summer, virtually the same group of companies drafted a response to the FCC public notice on VNR usage, stating that no further regulation was needed.

Perhaps it is finally time for this group to engage in a proactive, PR/education campaign of its own. TV stations are obviously well-versed in the value of VNRs, b-roll, and SMTs, but judging from the coverage the issue has received elsewhere, the print media and general public are apparently clueless.

When asked, broadcast PR producers will recount stories about those who have benefited from VNRs. Why not share those stories? If a 30-second VNR about skin cancer prevention that happened to be produced by Coppertone helped people detect the disease early, then publicize it. The broadcast PR industry may shy away from self-promotion as a salve for its own image, but it's strong medicine. At the moment, it may be the only one in the cabinet.

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