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Suffering from video technophobia?

Suffering from Video Technophobia?

Corporate communication as an industry goal and as a profession came of age in the early '60s. Writers, publicists, public relations practitioners and the like were thrust into the space age. CAPCOM, LDEF, PC, DOS, SATCOM, TWX, TELEX, LANs, RAMs, ROMs, FEDEX, FAX. Who thought the value of work would be judged, not by its intrinsic quality, but by the selection of an overnight express company to ship it to the coast. "Oh. You use UPS Blue. How quaint. We must lunch."

The '70s brought television to the business world in a big way, for parking lot surveillance mostly, later as the replacement for 16mm motion picture film in training applications. It wasn't until the '80s that engineers and former highschool audiovisual types convinced enough corporations to invest in in-house television facilities that the medium became a communication factor in business. Unfortunately, lots of money was spent in less than broadcast quality equipment by people who never worked in television.

Television for News and Employee


Corporate communicators in the '60s, '70s and '80s were told that television does everything best. Television does many things better than many other media, not all, and not all of the time.

Television, business television, does two things exceptionally well. Distribution of legitimate news and news features and employee communication.

Corporate communicators generally come from print experience. They don't understand TV. The editorial process is different. CEOs sometimes state, "This is business. This tape doesn't have to look like the evening news or Cosby to be effective." Frankly, it does! We are all moved by the same emotional and logical strings tugging at the brain, the central nervous system, the memory cells. In both external and internal television communication, the rule, "If it looks and sounds like TV, it is TV," applies. Don't apply a double standard. Use the broadcast standard.

Getting on the Air

Television has an incredible hunger for information. At least 12 hours of broadcast network news programs and at least three hours of local news air each day in almost every city in the US. Add to this all of the locally produced "Live at Fives," AM Cleveland," local news inserts in the "Today" show and such in each market and you have some 19 hours or more of programming hitting viewers, decision makers. Then there's cable, the newcomer to the media business offering at least two 24-hour news services, specialty services for financial and consumer news.

And, who's watching? Everyone! One recent survey depressingly claims 75 percent of all Americans get all their news from television.

Then there's radio. Remember radio? The medium lost its audience in the '60s and '70s with TV at its height. But it's back. It's different, but it's back. There are more "all news" stations than ever before. There's even public radio with several hours of quality news and feature programming every day with "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered," "Weekend Edition" and more. Who's listening? Everyone.

With all of this programming, demand exists for information resources, but the media aren't interested in your press release or photos or interview with your CEO. Reporters, incredibly resourceful as they can be, need experts, ideas, suggestions, background material, library photos and video tape.

With few exceptions, radio and television reporters are not experts. They seldom know what is important about most things. What makes them good reporters is the ability to ask questions and present information in an interesting fashion for their viewers, their listeners.

So, how do you get the news? Help the reporters. Help the stations. It takes time. You'll build a rapport. You'll take reporters on tours. You'll find out who the interesting people are at the company. You'll introduce interesting people to the TV station features person. You'll relate world events to your company, your people, your CEO. You'll be the local resource for your industry.

The Dos and Don'ts

* Specifically, don't spend a fortune on brochures. Reporters don't read them.

* Don't spend a fortune on press kits. Reporters don't save them.

* Don't schedule a press conference to announce something trivial.

* Don't schedule a press briefing in a conference room, hotel or CEO's office.

* Specifically, do develop a loose-leaf binder as an industry and company primer.

* Do schedule press opportunities to announce developments of importance keeping in mind that what is important to you, your company, your CEO, may be of no interest to the real world. So announce developments with a clear purpose relating to an item of current news.

* Do schedule press opportunities in "real" locations (in the plant, on the ship, in the aire, on the farm, in the laboratory, in the clinic).

* Do prepare short, broadcast quality video tape clips with demonstrations of products, techniques, etc. (Shoot them in extreme close-up and provide a written description of the scenes on the tape as well as a short narration on one audio channel of the tape).

* Do provide a Rolodex card file of company experts with home and business phone numbers where they can be reached quickly at other than regular business hours.

* Do develop a list of experts for radio talk programs.

Work at the broadcast media from their point of view. Understand their needs, their deadlines, their methods.

Call It a Video News Story

In recent years the concept of the video news release has become important. It's a simple idea. A VNR, like a printed news release, gets information to television newsrooms. What is different about VNRs is simple as well. A good VNR, unlike a printed release, needs to be constructed as a television news story, not a corporate concept of a television news story, but a broadcaster's concept of a news story. So, in a sense, perhaps, VNR is the wrong term to use. Perhaps we would all be better for the effort by simply referring to such releases as television news stories. Honestly, it is also less offensive to journalists.

Television news stories are serious business. Serious because more people, more influential people, will see and hear the story than read all the press releases you will ever prepare and distribute. Advice: use television news stories wisely, properly and only when you've got something special to show.

Don't produce television news stories in-house unless you have people with real broadcast journalism experience. You need a pro. Generally, don't contract a distributor to produce your television news story. Their business is really selling distribution time on satellite. That's where their profit is. Having your distributor produce your television news story is like contracting the Postal Service to write your press releases. Don't do it.

Distribution. It's serious business!

Do you go with video tape or satellite distribution? The general notion in the business world, not the broadcast news world, is that wide distribution requires satellite for maximum impact.

Quite honestly, our network and station news experience tells us otherwise because the major drawback to satellite distribution is the technology.

He never wrote a press release, but Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may have put it best:

I shot an arrow into the air.

It fell to earth, I knew not where.

True. Almost every station has some downlink capability. The problem, however, is simply one of the right person in the news department getting the word via TWX or other news wire that a video news release is coming down the line. The right person is the news director, assignment editor or news program producer. They rarely get the word on VNRs. These folks must make a rapid decision as to the news worthiness of your story before they've seen it. If they have interest in the story, they request engineering to record the feature... if the downlink is not busy recording "Donahue," "Oprah," "Wheel of Fortune," "Star Search," "Geraldo," or any of the hundreds of daily syndicated shows fed via satellite. Then, of course, the news department uses C-band and KU-band satellite for feeding live news remotes back to the station and to downlink any of the half-dozen national news and weather services to which they may subscribe. In the middle of all this, your video news release is likely to be overlooked.

If you are lucky enough to get the VNR downlinked and recorded, it has to get to the news department where it must be screened before a decision is made on broadcast. If you get a "yes" for air, the VNR will need to be assigned to a reporter or anchor for voice-over narration and, perhaps, editing. It is unlikely your feature will air as provided.

Make life at the station or network simple and use video tape distribution in most situations where a breaking event is not the subject of the release. With video tape someone is going to screen it simply because it's there, right at the station. If narration or editing is required, it's done directly from the master video tape provided. Simple. Effective.

And, if you need to direct your video news release to special markets, tape is really the only practical answer. However, both video tape and satellite are available, but, remember, the most widely known distributors of corporate public relations video news releases are known in media circles as "widely known distributors of corporate public relations video news releases."

Production of VNRs with selected distribution by a known broadcast producer and journalist is something else entirely.

Television Communication with Employees

Many of the broadcast journalism rules apply to employee communication as well. The "up close and personal" style of the broadcast world is the goal. Anything less is for newsletters and brochures.

Peter J. Restivo is principal, Restivo Communications, Brookfield, Conn. He has received many awards, including four Emmys, for his corporate and TV productions.
COPYRIGHT 1990 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on top video news releases for 1989; creating effective video news releases
Author:Restivo, Peter J.
Publication:Communication World
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Previous Article:The traveling communicator.
Next Article:Setting up an office at home.

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