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Arment Dietrich

How the Government Screwed Up the Use of VNRs

By: Arment Dietrich | September 13, 2006 | 
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I was having dinner on Monday night with some friends and mentioned the launch of this blog.  One friend got really excited and related a story about being on vacation and seeing, what was clearly a video news release (VNR) used by the news channel but not identified as such.  He told me that the woman “reporter” was talking about the pros of the mining community and her last name even was “Cavern”. 

Yes, a VNR distributed by some organization in favor of mining and they actually used a spokesperson to do the reporting and gave her a name that coincided with the story.

Unbelievable?  Yes!  True?  Unfortunately.

So much destructive spin fodder here!  I’m almost giddy.

Early last year, following a March 2005 New York Times report on the use by government of VNRs, White House spokesman (at the time) Scott McClellan was asked at a media briefing whether their use was “legal and legitimate…without disclaimers that they’re government productions, as long as they meet some standard of factual basis?”

He replied with, “First of all, we’re talking about informational news releases. And the Department of Justice has issued an opinion saying that as long as this is factual information about department or agency programs, it is perfectly appropriate.”

We all know how that ended — and it caused a huge stir within the public relations industry.

At FADS, we believe if you want TV stations to cover a news story, either invite them to shoot it themselves (even in Chicago, they’re willing to do that) or package b-roll and pitch the story to a producer via phone.  Let them package the story themselves, with their own reporters.  It will come across a lot more credible to your audiences and you won’t have to worry about SPONSORED or ADVERTORIAL stamped across the top of the story.

More on destructive VNRs this week.

31 comments
kreativekonnect
kreativekonnect

@ginidietrich Unfortunately,it's very unlikely for them to use your b-roll and package a story together themselves.More likely as a "kicker"

Arment Dietrich
Arment Dietrich

I'm certainly not laying blame. I feel the same way about VNRs that I do about advertorials - I think they suck. What I would like to see is the PR industry become a little more inventive in terms of what can and can't be sent to news stations. And I'd like the government and big corporations to quit pushing the envelope and play by the rules the rest of us play by.

Joanie
Joanie

I just read some academic and trade articles on this. News people blame the "shifty" PR people, and the PR industry blames lazy journalists. Some say VNRs used as news stories are the product of understaffed newsrooms. Others say news consumers have a responsibility to become "media savvy" and discern between a VNR and hard news. It damages the level of trust between viewers and journalists, and between journalists and PR. Both relationships have to exist, so what's the use of laying blame?

Alex Parker
Alex Parker

That's definitely one of the challenges that faces both the PR and new industry. What a farce that news organizations would neglect to identify VNRs (especially such self serving stories) and now turn the other cheek, swearing them off altogether. It's up to smart, ethical PR people to carry the torch with campaigns that get the job done.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@lauraclick That's not terrible! AND...I've totally walked beans. I did a lot of ag PR in my early days

lauraclick
lauraclick

@ginidietrich NO! Say it ain't so! You are the first person I've found that even knows what walking beans is! #impressed

NEMultimedia
NEMultimedia

@ginidietrich Totally an accident, too...I had no clue what I was doing! Sometimes it pays to be ignorant. ;)

lauraclick
lauraclick

@ginidietrich Um, me neither. Though, I guess my parents could still try to make me do it when I visit. Sure hope not!

lauraclick
lauraclick

@ginidietrich Yup! Definitely heard of them. Very cool to learn about this piece of your background, Gini!

lauraclick
lauraclick

@ginidietrich BTW - what was the company that you worked with? Just curious. I'm guessing I've likely heard of it...

lauraclick
lauraclick

@ginidietrich Wow. So impressed. You probably know more about it than me. I was just a kid who was forced to do it every summer! ;) #respect

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@lauraclick So true. I spent eight months with growers. We were producing videos on spraying chemicals. I can tell you most weeds