BROADCAST PR: Using the web for video

Internet programming is a key part of any broadcast PR campaign. Helen Gregory looks at a changing sector.

Modern technology has blurred the lines between traditional and online broadcasting
Modern technology has blurred the lines between traditional and online broadcasting

News that the BBC is to launch a nightly minute-long bulletin in a bid to attract younger viewers illustrates just how the broadcast landscape is changing.

In a world of IPTV, YouTube and Broadcast 2.0, fewer people are likely to settle down in front of the Ten O’Clock News every night. This applies particularly to young viewers, who ­Ofcom reckons spend 21 minutes more per week online than adults, but seven hours fewer watching TV.

‘The internet-savvy generation don’t want just news – they want context,’ says World Television’s sales and marketing director Amanda Alexander. ‘A 25-year-old might watch a one-minute TV news bulletin, then go onto the internet to research a story.’

Five years ago online content was the domain of the traditional PR agency. But broadcast PR specialists who have spent their careers focused on ­radio and TV are starting to see online coverage as part and parcel of a broadcast PR campaign. Where broadcast PR companies used to concentrate on delivering B-roll footage to traditional broadcasters, they are now creating moving pictures for web content.

Broadcast outfits are starting to offer corporate client video development as well as producing virals, podcasts and interactive blog content. For example, The Television Consultancy has just launched to create film that clients can drag and drop or embed in their websites.

New technologies
The broadcast PR industry is responding to this evolution with a raft of new technological concepts. World Television’s Channel Player enables firms to generate and manage their own online broadcast content, as well as check who their viewers are and how long they watch for.

‘Clients like being able to track the people watching. They now want to find out what they’re doing while they’re listening to a podcast and ensure they drive traffic back again,’ says Bite PR head of broadcast Justin O’Kelly.

These new technologies are not benefiting just the end user either. World Television’s online Video News Manager allows journalists to search companies’ video archives, previewing ­video clips before downloading them in broadcast-quality format.

Meanwhile, video news releases (VNRs) are becoming more prevalent. Broadcast agencies are developing increasingly slick multi-media news releases in HTML, which include a press release, JPEGs, related website links and downloadable broadcast-quality video. These help make broadcasters’ lives easier and boost a story’s reach.

When Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Mus­eum reopened it distributed a VNR. Nancy McLardie, head of PR at Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, says the video reached key international markets in a way it could not have done other­wise. ‘Little touches, such as providing testimonials from visitors in foreign languages, helped improve pick-up internationally, and resulting reports have been seen by 600 million people worldwide,’ she estimates.

Paul Borge, account director at Fleishman-Hillard, helped arrange an online broadcast to launch the ­announcement of a Harry Potter theme park in the US, with a real-time Q&A for specific webcasters, before packaging it as a video download. ‘It wasn’t just about pushing our message in geographical locations, but going after ­specific communities,’ he explains.

Spreading the reach
User-generated content sites are also being used to spread the reach of online broadcasts. The charity Missing People has a small budget but has managed to become its own broadcaster with the help of Its ongoing campaign includes regular vodcast appeals for specific missing people, while a ­video Message From Mum campaign – vodcasts put on YouTube – proved a success, reports head of comms Ross Miller. ‘It increased awareness of our work and appealed to a whole new ­audience of younger people,’ he adds.

Meanwhile, – the environmental online channel – uses content from charities and government agencies but also does video production. It has just started letting people upload content. As MD Ade Thomas says: ‘The audience needs to feel part of the site.’

Encouraging interactivity can save money too. The raw footage used to make a B-roll can be packaged into a report for a firm’s website.

But successful sites take a long time to build up and require a lot of promotion, says Mark Foster, manager of Land Rover’s corporate communications. With the help of Exposure Promotions, the car maker recently launched a 24-hour broadband TV channel to increase awareness of the brand. Land Rover enables viewers to upload their own adventure vid­eos.

Foster admits it is competing with giants such as YouTube, but he, like many in-house PROs, realises it is not enough just to broadcast online – you have to offer viewers the chance to interact too.

The potential offered by marrying the web and broadcast PR still eludes many agency PROs.

Cow PR co-founder Dirk Singer warns: ‘Some agencies are still treating broadcast PR as an ­afterthought, but the internet has given it the potential to be a two-way dialogue rather than a one-way channel.

He adds: ‘Anyone, not just brands with big budgets, can become a broadcaster now.’ This is why the relatively small consumer shop has invested in its own broadcast division, Cowshed Productions, to offer a TV, radio, production and editorial service.

Getting the balance right
But brands also need to be careful that their input is not too corporate, advises Heather Ogie, director at Exposure. If it is a clumsy attempt, for example a blog which is clearly manufactured by a brand, then the audience will reject it.

Despite the raft of new opportunities, clients are not abandoning traditional broadcast PR altogether. Shout Communications founding ­director Keren Haynes says: ‘A hit on ­Radio 4’s Today programme or News At Ten is as alluring as ever, but in the last 12 months or so we have noticed a big increase in the number of clients who want to combine a traditional ­radio campaign or TV sell-in with online coverage.

‘Online channels such as MSN also afford opportunities for certain stories that traditional broadcasters such as the BBC or ITN would possibly reject.’

Besides, clients adapt to new technology best when it is introduced as an extension to a more traditional campaign. What brands should remember, Haynes adds, is that the essential tools of broadcast PR remain the same. ‘Content is king,’ she says. ‘New technology has made it relatively simple to record a podcast or a vodcast, but people won’t watch it if the content is dull.’

But before clients can be educated, PR agencies need to be up to speed. ‘Agencies know they’ve got to do digital,’ says Pam Sharpless, new business director at broadcast production outfit USP Content. ‘The ones who understand this technology will do well, but those who don’t will suffer.’

Online broadcast: Holiday ’07

The popularity of online travel sites prompted Markettiers4DC to launch its own interactive travel-themed web TV. ‘Consumers increasingly research holidays online,’ explains MD Howard Kosky.

Getting these websites to pre-promote the series was a key part of its strategy, as a way to generate traffic to the broad­casts, and more than 20 travel websites have linked up so far.

‘We came up with the concept of an impartial programme and approached organistions such as tele­, who said they would promote it on their website. Then we spoke to travel clients and asked them if they would like to own an episode,’ he says.

This is how the channel – – is funded. The half-hour long programmes are advertised weeks in advance so that viewers can email in their questions to be discussed live on air, and Markettiers4DC says a few thousand have tuned in to each show. Destinations covered so far include Texas, Tenerife and the Balearics, with Oman next on the list.

Launched in January, Holiday ’07 aims to tap into an increasing need for credible, expert advice that is delivered in a fresh, dynamic and enter­taining way. The information is impartial and no advertising is allowed – just a link to the relevant organisation’s website.

Shows take the form of studio-based ‘on the couch’ style interviews with spokespeople, interspersed with relevant travel footage.

ABTA head of corporate affairs Keith Betton and travel expert Russell Amerasekera present the programmes, interviewing tourism bosses and celebrities such as former Arsenal goalie David Seaman, who was filmed on a Caribbean cruise. The shows are then archived on the site for the public to view on demand, along with a transcript.

Markettiers4DC makes just enough from the venture to cover its costs, although client exposure is the key goal, Kosky explains. But although there is the ability to buy holidays through the website, none of the clients has used this yet. ‘We’re very pleased with how it’s going and brands are seeing the con­cept work,’ adds Kosky. ‘It’s hassle-free and we are now looking at other channels.

Traditional broadcast: MTV Awards

World Television producers have worked with MTV Networks International since 1995 on a brief to make the MTV Europe Music Awards ‘one of the highest profile music shows in the world’.

Its flagship event demands global TV coverage each November. Senior producer Caroline Jackson (l) explains: ‘We’re not a broadcaster but we take the pain away for MTV.’

The event is a massive co-ordination job, involving dozens of camera crews from different production outfits.

About 15 people at World Television are involved, including those doing live feeds on the red carpet, media relations staff dealing with requests, broadcast liaison people who help broadcasters coming into the press room to link up to press feeds, along with engineers, editors and senior producers.

It liaises with about 50 broadcasters attending the event up to a month before.

Two days beforehand, World Television crews shoot B-rolls, including interviews with stars and band rehearsals. It also shoots footage of the local area and gets music videos of nominees from MTV.

This 15-minute video release is sent out globally on the news wires.

On the day of the event, World Television provides a satellite truck so broadcasters can do live feeds. It has the only camera in a press room where artists are interviewed. ‘That way it’s not bedlam,’ explains Jackson.

The stream is made available to broadcasters who are told to bring recorder, cables and tape stock – although back-ups can be provided if they forget.

It also has pole position on the red carpet, where a reporter will interview as many people as possible.

Jackson gets the streamed live feed as it goes out and edits the main video news release while the programme is on air.

‘By the time it’s finished, we’ve got half an hour leeway before we need to send out a 15-minute edited video of the best of the show, which goes on the news wire,’ she explains.

MTV gets a fully comprehensive written and taped report of the broadcast usage worldwide after the event, and World Television’s efforts usually mean it achieves more than 36 hours of broadcast coverage.


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