What is a VNR?
A video news release is exactly what it sounds like --
the video equivalent of a press release.
With a press
release you write a news story, using journalistic
style, with a sharp news angle, in order to get a newspaper editor
to treat it as news and assign a reporter to write essentially the
same story for the paper.
With a video news release
you produce a TV news item, with a sharp news
angle, in order to get a news director at a television station to
treat it as news and assign a reporter to prepare essentially the
same story to
air on the news program.
Since broadcast news leans more toward entertainment than
information, the news angle doesn't have to be
quite so sharp -- as long as it's entertaining.
A video news release is a videotaped story that you
write and produce and
distribute, ready to air on television. Most TV stations
won't use your VNR as is -- just as most newspapers won't use your
press release as is. In both cases, the editors will want to use
your ideas to create their own, "original" story.
The VNR has been described by USA Today as
"Hamburger Helper for newscasters." A good deal of the
footage you see on TV is not filmed by journalists, but
supplied by a PR writer. Only occasionally will a TV station
identify the real source of the footage.
For example, you're watching a news story about a
new candy bar being produced in Chicago by a (fictional) candy
company called Dandy.
- The news anchor begins by giving the 5 W's -- she says
something like, "If you think Chicago seems even sweeter than
usual this week, you're right ..." and she goes on to give the
details of the story...
- As she speaks, "voice over," you see a shot of the chocolate being
poured, with factory workers in their candy-striped work jackets
with the "Dandy" logo on it...
- Then you see a shot of nougat being
- Then there's a shot showing the automated wrapping
machine stamping the distinctive "Dandy Candy" striped packaging
around each bar...
- While the announcer talks about how the new Dandy
product will create new jobs for Chicago workers, you see a shot
of the Dandy factory down on South Halstead, with the Dandy logo
out front, and the American flag flying proudly...
- The news item may
end with the news anchors biting into the new Dandy chocolate bar
and ad libbing their comments...
Most of that footage came to the TV station courtesy of
the PR agency that handles the Dandy account. The TV station
didn't need to send a TV crew down to the factory. Instead, the PR
agency did the taping and sent a VNR and a B-roll
to the station, along with a script.
A small TV station might use the entire VNR on the air.
But most stations will use the VNR as inspiration, and
create their own news story. But they'll be able to do the whole
story right in their studio, by cutting & pasting the videotape
you sent as B-roll. They might not have done the story if they'd
needed to send a TV crew to get the footage.
VNR's are not a recent development - they've been around for over a decade. Take a moment now to check out this "ancient" (but still quite representative) VNR example from
the PR Newswire.
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