Consumer media's relevance, bolstering a VNR, and more

What is consumer-generated media and should I be tracking it as part of my monitoring strategy?

What is consumer-generated media and should I be tracking it as part of my monitoring strategy?

By definition, consumer-generated media (CGM) is content created online by anyone (other than a pro journalist) that is made available to other consumers through digital technology, says Cindy Sullivan of Cymfony. Blogs, message boards, online forums, usenet groups, and consumer feedback sites are the most common examples.

"CGM contains a wealth of insights about your brand image, how well your product meets consumers' needs, and how your ads resonate in the market," she says. "Think of it as a large scale, continuous, spontaneous focus group."

Companies have the chance to listen directly to this new form of consumer-generated media to create compelling brands, devise messages to meet their needs, and truly understand a consumer's impact on reputation. Sullivan suggests that marketers and communications pros continue to track traditional media, but if they haven't already, they should monitor consumer-generated media, too.


How important is a personal story for a healthcare VNR?
"It is extremely important," says Amy Goldwert Eskridge of AGE Productions. A TV viewer will likely be interested in hearing from a person who has a particular condition or disease. "While an expert may have good information to impart, someone who can speak from first-hand experience is nearly always viewed as a credible source," she adds.

A personal story will also increase a VNR's chances of pick-up. "A news station doesn't want to appear as if it is promoting a product," says Eskridge. "Someone who has a personal story to tell, if videotaped correctly, will be viewed as a Good Samaritan who wants to help others in his position, not merely as a spokesperson. That gives a producer or reporter justification to run the story."

Breaking news

What are my options if a breaking news story develops the same day as my VNR or b-roll distribution?
Be aware of the TV news environment that is unfolding as a result of breaking news, says John Gordon of Gordon Productions. "If your team has started phone pitching stations, they should be sensitive to the stations' needs," he adds. "It's best to get off the phones and not antagonize them."

Technology can be helpful in improving the longevity of your story. Pathfire is now available on computer servers in more than 700 US TV stations, and allows newsrooms to download a VNR or b-roll for several weeks, so you can re-pitch the story after the drumbeat of the breaking news story has subsided. You can also reschedule another satellite feed and draft a revised media alert.

"Most VNRs and b-roll have a longer shelf life than we tend to believe," he adds. Even stories that are tied to a particular event are used by some TV stations weeks after the initial launch date. It is worthwhile to look at guaranteed placement options and podcasts for your VNR.

Risk communications
What are the benefits of effective risk communications?
Education can help identify existing risks and avoid surprise ones, says Jim Lukaszewski of The Lukaszewski Group. It also empowers others to look for risks in their life space, while creating an environment of sensitivity to risks that come into the work space.

Preparation and preemptive action are also key factors. "Disseminate the learning derived from response and preparation to the widest possible audience," Lukaszewski advises, adding that information sharing goes a long way to managing risk and significantly reducing your risk profile. 

Send your questions to Please contact Lisa LaMotta if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.

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