Arment Dietrich

How the Government Screwed Up the Use of VNRs

By: Arment Dietrich | September 13, 2006 | 
32

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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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”

  • accuconference

    @ginidietrich Terrible? I suspect you’re being a little harsh on yourself. My 1st was an utter sales piece.

    • ginidietrich

      @accuconference LOL! It’s pretty bad.

      • accuconference

        @ginidietrich Feel better: http://t.co/UEM8TZLi That was my first one. Please don’t hold it against me.

        • ginidietrich

          @accuconference It’s not that bad! Some of that stuff is valuable to know

        • accuconference

          @ginidietrich 🙂 You’re kind. I like my style much more now.

        • ginidietrich

          @accuconference Your style is definitely better. But I don’t think that first post was all that bad

  • lesmckeown

    @ginidietrich I spat out my coffee when I saw ‘5 comments’.

    • ginidietrich

      @lesmckeown Right?! Five years ago I sucked.

  • lauraclick

    @ginidietrich No, your first post is really NOT terrible. Promise. Mine, however, is: http://t.co/p0hGdCVO

    • ginidietrich

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

      • lauraclick

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

        • ginidietrich

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

        • 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

        • lauraclick

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

        • ginidietrich

          @lauraclick LOL! I’m pretty sure I never want to do it again

        • ginidietrich

          @lauraclick BASF was the client at the time. Also worked on the Bayer and Caterpillar accounts

        • lauraclick

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

        • lauraclick

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

        • ginidietrich

          @lauraclick BTW. I think your husband’s new biz cards are super cool.

        • lauraclick

          @ginidietrich Thanks so much! We’re really excited. 🙂

    • NEMultimedia

      @lauraclick @ginidietrich I think I managed to destroy all evidence of my first blog posts for New England Multimedia. Gah, I hope!

      • ginidietrich

        @NEMultimedia LOL!!

        • NEMultimedia

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

        • ginidietrich

          @NEMultimedia LOL! Ignorance is bliss…or so they say.

    • NEMultimedia

      @lauraclick @ginidietrich We launched blog under different name, with links to NEM’s website. Think I wrote under name “admin,” too!

      • lauraclick

        @NEMultimedia @ginidietrich Yeah, that post was from my former blog. (http://t.co/MyE71ewG). I opted to keep them on my current site.

  • lauraclick

    @ginidietrich This was my first post on my site as it is now, it’s not much better: http://t.co/8gRkiBjy

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