Video news releases roll back into newsrooms

First produced in Canada by The Gabor Group in 1980, video news releases took PR into a whole new medium. The idea of sending pre-taped visuals to cash-strapped TV newsrooms caught on like wildfire. Then, in the late '90s they went out of style. Now Agota Gabor says VNRs are back again.

* 26 television hits equaling one broadcast hour of coverage

* 30 radio reports equaling 80

minutes of broadcast time

* 32 print stories and a quality piece on the Internet

That’s the sort of national media response we received for an Insurance Bureau of Canada VNR distributed via satellite last April.

Entitled ‘Canada’s Newest Millionaires,’ the VNR showed the various ways cars are stolen in Canada. Through dramatizations, it demonstrated how thieves can steal cars in less than 60 seconds.

Animated maps, showing where your car most likely will end up

if stolen from Toronto, Montreal

and Vancouver were also included, topped off by an exclusive interview with one of Canada’s

crime bosses, who told us he makes a million dollars a year by stealing cars to order, and he will even kill to do so.

This video news release succeeded because it had all the qualities a good VNR should have: strong visuals including dramatizations, an exclusive interview, interesting statistics and support via proactive media relations.

In today’s television environment, where more and more channels are fighting for viewers and advertising revenue, materials costing just $12,000 to $25,000 to produce are once again being aired, giving the client hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of exposure.

So far this year, we have produced seven VNRs and four B-Rolls (which consist of visuals only – the news announcer does the voice-over). In content they varied from car-theft to incontinence, synchronized swimming and cosmetic surgery.

Some of them had good budgets and included great visuals and graphics. In other cases, we didn’t have the money to hire professional actors, so I had to act out the roles myself. (I constantly get worried calls from friends regarding the illnesses they see me suffer on television.)

A few years ago, I needed exceptional ideas and lots of money to get television attention, such as when we distributed a video of dancing General Motors robots, edited to the Dance of the Flowers from the Nutcracker. Today, a simple well-shot and interesting interview with

some relevant visuals will most likely make air.

In fact, when comparing the media response of today to that of four or five years ago, I find that our media pick-up has almost doubled.

Even so, VNRs must include all the elements needed for a television report or you’re wasting your money. Stories should be edited loosely and without dissolves or other video effects. This is important, for a video news release should not appear to be a finished story. It should give television editors all the material they need, so that they can put together their own version.

While video news releases can

be produced about any issue,

campaign or product, it’s most important that the content be treated factually. VNRs should be shot and edited in the style of news stories. If the copy or the visuals appear to be commercial or hard sell, the item won’t be aired.

Done right, VNRs can assist in almost any public relations or public education campaign. They’re also excellent tools to create a groundswell of interest to kick off a new ad campaign or product launch.

Agota Gabor (gabor@gabor.net) is president of Toronto-based communication agency The Gabor Group.