VNR Update: Fact versus Fiction

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VNR Update Facts versus Fiction

Ask video news relase distributors and producers what issues are affecting their businesses and their clients, and you may be surprised at the frankness of their replies. PRJ did just that recently, in the course of gathering information for our annual VNR Update reference table--a handy guide to the methods and prices of VNR suppliers that starts on page 25.

First, here's a summary of their comments on the status of the medium.

The people who make a living at distributing and/or producing VNRs have seen their medium become recognized and widely used as a valuable public relations tool, particularly during the past few years. But they're also realists about the capabilities of VNRs--perhaps more realistic than some of their clients.

They readily acknowledge, for instance, that a big news story will always run on television newscasts, whether the report is generated by a new organization or taken in whole or in part from a VNR. No doubt about it: A VNR covering a hot topic can reach huge audiences--it it's well produced and properly distributed and promoted. In August, for example, when the media hype on the "war on drugs" was at its apex, a VNR showing Colombia's President, Virgilio Barco, issuing a stiff warning to drug traffickers in his country was reportedly seen by 75 million TV viewers. In 1988, a VNR about Drexel Burnham Lambert's agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office concerning junk-bond king Michael Milken reached an estimated audience of 80 million.

But BVR pros will also tell you that most VNRs distributed to TV stations do not contain inherently big news stories, and therefore are not necessarily picked up by major networks (or even lots of local stations) or seen by multimillions of people. A more typical BNR does have news or genuine feature value, but most don't cause news editors to cry out, "What a story!" For VNR suppliers--and for public relations firms--who produce quality products and use smart distribution methods, clients with unrealistic expectations are a continuing problem. "If you can reach an audience of three to four million viewers--that's Nielsen or Arbitron viewers, not some pipe dream of viewers, but numbers of people who actually watch local news and talk shows--you've done a good job," says one major supplier. …