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Video News Releases

By William Wray Carney

The following is an edited excerpt from "In the News: The Practice of Media Relations in Canada" by William Wray Carney (published by The University of Alberta Press, 2002).

Video News Releases (VNRs) are just that: broadcast-quality videos intended for release to television stations. They typically contain a "story" in television format, complete with reporter, just as a news release imitates a news story. The story is 60 to 120 seconds in duration. It also contains a B-roll, which is additional footage a station can use depending on the angle it wishes to take. For example, the main VNR describes a new product or service and is promotional in tone; the B-roll might contain visuals of how the product is manufactured, how it is used and how it was financed (for the business media). Because of their extensive preparation and distribution time, VNRs lend themselves best to feature stories, particularly in the fields of entertainment, business and science. They can, however, be used for hard news or breaking stories; for example, the most-used VNR in 1993 was a series of four releases sent out by Pepsi in response to a rumour about product safety.

Most advertising agencies can arrange to produce VNRs. They are costly to make (in the range of $20,000), duplicate and send out (about $6,500), but they are still cheaper than a national advertising campaign, for which the same amount of money might buy time on one major market alone. VNRs are used extensively by television, just as print news releases are used by all media. A 1992 survey indicated that all of the responding television stations used VNRs in their newscasts. However, as with news releases, TV reporters use VNRs as a tip to their own story. The station will edit the release, particularly the B-roll, and adapt it to its own purposes.

See also:
Successful news releases: 7 must-know tips

News releases that work -- and those that don't
The Princess and the Press
Put it in writing
Using History to Write Powerful Leads
Free for the asking
6 Tips for Writing a Successful VNR
How to Make Your B-roll Work
Sources News Release Service