FOCUS: BROADCAST PR; Getting through in sound and vision

TELEVISION: Multi channels mean a wealth of opportunities for promotions as well as PR headaches GAINING COVERAGE: Understanding of editorial needs is essential to get coverage on radio and television RADIO: The once poor relation of TV is enjoying a resurgence in popularity resulting in huge diversity

TELEVISION: Multi channels mean a wealth of opportunities for promotions

as well as PR headaches

GAINING COVERAGE: Understanding of editorial needs is essential to get

coverage on radio and television

RADIO: The once poor relation of TV is enjoying a resurgence in

popularity resulting in huge diversity

As the borders of television and radio grow ever wider through

technological development, PR firms are discovering an even greater

potential for promotion.

Despite Rupert Murdoch’s tireless striving to loosen the grip that

terrestrial broadcasters have on our viewing habits, only about a fifth

of households in the UK have cable or satellite television. That may

sound a relatively substantial number but it pales in comparison with

the Benelux countries, much of Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland and

several other European nations where penetration is well over 50 per


Indeed, in Germany, where the number of cable channels has grown

spectacularly in the past few years, they are close to saturation level

and experiencing real problems finding enough capacity. It seems that

the new digital compression techniques, which can increase capacity

exponentially, are arriving in the nick of time, which means that the

international growth of television should maintain its impetus.

Europe is now firmly in the multi-channel age and many channels offer

pan-European or at least cross-border broadcasting. This presents both a

myriad of opportunities and a giant headache for PRs as they try to keep

up with developments and establish what they can and can’t do.

‘International TV is much more flexible than terrestrial TV at providing

promotional opportunities,’ says Frances Whitehead marketing director at

European Business News. She says there are opportunities for companies

involved with significant business events to talk to EBN about

developing a programme or slot linked to it.

The diversity of channels and gradual change in viewing habits has made

it increasingly important for PRs to think internationally when

developing TV campaigns as demonstrated by the work Fleet PR and WTN

Productions did on the launch of P&O’s cruise ship Oriana last year.

WTN put together a VNR on the construction of the ship using archive

footage and also handled a satellite feed of the naming ceremony,

performed by the Queen, in Southampton. The result was 44 ‘hits’ in the

UK and 13 in Germany where the liner was built.

‘I don’t think the PR industry is really in step with the developments

that have been taking place in television in the last few years,’ says

WTN Productions senior producer Tony Charlesworth. ‘I don’t mean that to

sound patronising, it’s our job not theirs, but it can be frustrating

when PR companies don’t see the opportunities. Maybe some are a little

too parochial.’

As many of the newer channels have quite limited resources with which to

fill their editorial airtime, opportunities for coverage abound. In this

respect, the VNR is a powerful tool, although it should not be seen as a

panacea that will work on its own. There is no substitute for the

demanding legwork of building up good contacts with TV producers and


But no matter how good your contacts, a VNR is unlikely to work unless

the story is strong enough editorially and the pictures of sufficient

quality. Even then, some stations are loath to use them.

‘As a rule I don’t like VNRs because we’re taking the material on

faith,’ says Charles Hough head of CNN International’s London bureau.

‘We’ve no idea really about the circumstances in which it was shot. In

fact I killed a story today that was based on a VNR because I couldn’t

substantiate it.’

Hough has further words of advice for anyone seeking editorial coverage

on what is probably the principal global TV channel. ‘If anybody starts

to put restrictions on us [on use of footage] I think I’m being used

more than usual. Alarm bells go off when someone is too pushy or

restrictive. But when an agency or business becomes involved in a story

that is not particularly advantageous to them but are frank and treat us

well, we tend to remember that and treat them favourably when there’s a

positive story about them.’

If anything, the growth of television in Asia is even more startling

than the European media explosion. Not only are new audiences being

opened up to Western companies but powerful broadcasters are also coming

into the picture.

Like their European counterparts many of these are establishing links

with broadcasters on other continents to allow them to bid for the

global rights to certain large events. There has been a real surge in

the power of TV and event owners are requiring expert advice to secure

the best possible deal on a worldwide basis.

The Swiss-based Federation Internationale de Volleyball, for example,

recently appointed agency Atkinson Courage to handle the co-ordination

and distribution of its global television rights. The contract is

believed to be worth more than pounds 100,000.

Meanwhile, as the number of channels increases some will be forced to

become highly specialised in order to stand out from the crowd. Turner

International Network Sales acting managing director Randy Freedman

believes Europe will see a situation similar to the States where

channels on golf and even Elvis Presley have sprung up.

Product placement, despite some quite stringent codes governing undue

prominence, will also continue to thrive. As long as talking about a

product on air can be justified editorially, there are no grounds for

preventing it.

‘The point really is - is what we are offering the broadcasters good

entertainment value for the viewer?’ says Hill and Knowlton managing

director, marketing communications MaryLee Sachs. ‘If it is, it’s worth

talking to them about it.’

A good example of this is the work Hill and Knowlton has been doing for

crisp brand Walkers. Using the launch of Walkers’ new ad featuring

footballers Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne as a peg, the agency secured

coverage on, among others, the Big Breakfast, How Do They Do That? and

London Tonight.

VNR specialists Bulletin and Medialink are also now experimenting with

World Wide Web sites. At the moment the thinking is just to use them to

give broadcasters and prospective clients a taster, but if technology

improves sufficiently, the sites may eventually be used as a delivery

medium accessible by broadcasters around the world. Medialink also plans

to introduce electronic marking of VNRs distributed in Europe. Medialink

says it hopes to introduce decoders to monitor Europe’s ‘100 or so top

stations’ at some point next year. These decoders identify when footage

from a tagged VNR is broadcast, making monitoring far easier and more

comprehensive than it has been before.

TV is no longer an insular pursuit and anyone putting together a

broadcast strategy needs to bear that in mind. ‘Borders as we have known

them have come down and are not likely to go back up,’ says Hough.

There’s a brave new world of choice out there.

Case study: IBM promotes the ‘silicon valley’ of Europe

In November 1995 IBM opened its manufacturing plant for computer hard

disk drives at Szekesfehervar, 40 miles from the Hungarian capital

Budapest. The IT giant wanted to publicise the commitment it was making

to Europe with this factory and had earlier commissioned Medialink to

produce a VNR highlighting the fact.

Medialink filmed the opening ceremony featuring senior Hungarian

Government officials and leading IBM executives to mark the occasion.

But it also shot a wide range of background material in advance so that

the VNR could be rushed out to be as newsworthy as possible.

The VNR included scenes of the ‘clean room’ where the disks were made

and other parts of the plant in action. There was also footage taken

outside the plant showing some of the architecture and historic sites

of the area.

IBM also wanted TV coverage to underscore its long-term commitment to

Hungary - where it had been operating since 1932 and was now creating

1,000 jobs. IBM felt it was important to highlight the choice of

Szekesfehervar for the new site, which is said by some to be the new

‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe.

The VNR was released at a time when there were many strong news stories

around, including Princess Diana’s revelations on Panorama, Lech

Walesa’s defeat in the Polish presidential elections, the Bosnia peace

agreement brokered by the US in Dayton, Ohio and president Bill

Clinton’s visit to Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the IBM story still

received comprehensive coverage across Europe, with Medialink claiming

an audience of 13.9 million viewers in a score of European countries.

European Business News, Euronews, Deutsche Welle and WTN all broadcast

the story.

Medialink also turned some of the footage it shot into a corporate video

that IBM shows to its staff in Hungary and Germany and to its clients.

The cost of producing the VNR and corporate video came to just under

pounds 20,000.

Medialink is now to produce a series of VNRs for IBM in the coming

months relating to its sponsorship of this year’s Olympic Games in

Atlanta, Georgia.

Asia: The new tiger of television

Liberalisation of broadcasting regulations and the strong growth in the

so-called tiger economies of the Pacific Rim has led to a proliferation

of new cable and satellite TV channels serving both local and pan-

national audiences.

‘Broadcast media is developing very very quickly here,’ says Chris

Dillon of Hong Kong-based agency Impetus. ‘Hong Kong is being wired

faster than any other place in television history.’

And what goes for Hong Kong holds true for much of the rest of the

region. China has literally hundreds of cable channels, Malaysia just

launched a satellite with capacity for 25 new channels, Japan is

liberalising its TV regulations, the Singapore Government is actively

encouraging broadcasters to locate there and the number of broadcasters

in India and South Korea is growing.

Many international broadcasters have spotted the potential and have been

pouring money into their Asian operations. Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV has

made huge inroads into Taiwan, China and India by tailoring programming

for different countries, offering Hindi and Mandarin language output as

well as English and it is now available in over 50 million homes.

CNN and European Business News’ sister station Asia Business News are

both strong in the region, providing business news for terrestrial

broadcasters in Malaysia as well as for their own channels. They have

been joined by CNBC which is setting up its rival operation in

Singapore, also home to MTV’s Asian operation.

The region’s economic boom has spurred the proliferation of new TV

stations and has also boosted PR there. Hardly surprising then that the

VNR specialists have identified Asia as a market with tremendous


Last year Bulletin International opened an office in Singapore and in

early February Medialink launched its Asian ‘hub’ in Japan by

formalising a joint venture with Tokyo-based TV news production company

Globe Net Productions. Medialink already has a partnership with a Hong

Kong production company and says it intends to open offices in South

Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and India.

‘The VNR is still relatively unknown here and there are enormous

opportunities,’ says Bulletin director Far East & Pacific, Shoba

Purushothaman. ‘The difference is that the broadcasters here don’t have

a problem doing good news stories. They are happy to say this company is

doing very well.’

Among Bulletin’s clients is KLCC, the consortium building the world’s

tallest twin buildings in Kuala Lumpur. Medialink Japan, meanwhile, has

already produced and distributed its first exported project with the

satellite distribution of a VNR on MCA’s planned dollars 1.6 billion

development of a Universal Studios complex in Osaka.

‘The initial reaction to the VNR concept [in Japan] exceeded our highest

expectations because everyone we met recognised and accepted the logic

of video news releases,’ says Medialink vice chairman David Davis.

Case study: The ITU triumphs in cross-border relations

Last year the International Telecommunication Union, a Geneva-based

United Nations agency with a remit to promote cross-border telecoms use,

integration and standardisation, hired Bulletin International to help it

maximise worldwide coverage for Telecom 95. This is the ITU’s most

important event - a combination of summit conference and exhibition that

is held only once every four years.

Bulletin’s first step was to release a pre-event background VNR tape to

selected broadcasters around the world. The tape featured old footage

from Telecom 91, ITU branding and pictures of some of the latest cutting

edge telecoms products and systems provided by important exhibitors

such as Hewlett Packard, Cable & Wireless and BT.

The Bulletin team developed different sell-ins for developed and less

developed nations and worked out separate storylines for national news,

business news and science and technology correspondents in various

countries. More than 25 sets of written information were made available

in six languages.

A seven-strong team was sent to Geneva to cover the conference and

produce daily satellite feeds that went out to broadcasters across the

world who had already been primed about the material by Bulletin’s

multi-lingual ‘broadcast liaison’ team.

Daily feeds included pictures of the latest product announcements and

demonstrations and interviews with leading telecoms industry figures.

The crew even obtained an exclusive interview with South African

president Nelson Mandela who attended Telecom 95’s opening ceremony.

Work on such a scale cannot be done for next to nothing. The cost of

the project was pounds 63,000.

‘We took a highly-tailored approach to each country and had human beings

selling-in to human beings,’says Bulletin managing director Anthony

Hayward. ‘To get the results you need to have people talking to people;

it’s like classic media relations.

‘There were cheaper options for the project. But you get what you pay

for and it’s paid off beautifully for them.’

Coverage ran to 164 confirmed reports around the world (not including

syndicated or repeated stories) taking up nine hours and 31 minutes of

airtime. Broadcasters who took material included BBC, CNN, ARD (Germany)

and TF1 (France). Bulletin estimates that the eventual TV audience was

over 163 million. The equivalent advertising airtime cost would be about

pounds 2 million, says Hayward.

‘We were really happy with the amount of coverage we got, particularly

in countries we didn’t expect to reach,’ says ITU press officer Sarah

Parkes. ‘For example, in African countries such as Cameroon.’

Parkes thinks that the approach taken was ‘ideal for reaching a global

audience’. ITU was ‘extremely happy’ that Bulletin managed to obtain

significant coverage in Africa and other parts of the developing world

where in the past it had failed to make a ‘significant’ impact.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in