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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 blended in...
  • 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. Don't neglect to take a look at the Script by clicking on the blue oval button on that page. When you're done browsing there, just close the browser window to return here -- and go on to the next page.


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