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A Video New Release is simply a press release in video form. It is generally a 90-second video piece that is paid for by corporate sponsors and then distributed, via satellite or mail, to stations around the country to be included in local newscasts. They are, in effect, paid advertisements in a news format. When they are well made, it is almost impossible to distinguish them from a regular news segment.

Presidential candidates use them for air time on local news channels. Fortune 500 companies create them to inform the public about their latest product research. And, in the last decade, a growing number of small companies have begun to use them as an effecive public relations tool.

Two basic categories of VNR: timely and "evergreen."

A timely VNR takes advantage of a newsworthy event to get across a company's ideas or products to the public. The advantage of a timely VNR is that there's a good chance it will be picked up by stations that may be looking for news filters. The disadvantage of a timely VNR is that it may become obsolete very quickly.

The "evergreen" VNR, on the other hand, is produced to have a longer shelf life; it typically deals with human interest stories that can be used by stations on a slow news day. Recent studies conducted by Nielsen Media Research, however, reveal that "evergreens" were preferred by 25 percent of all news producers, while just under 50 percent preferred timely pieces.

Most commonly, VNRs try to tie a company's new products and/or services to one of the following topics:

  • Health tips
  • Consumer affairs
  • Community services
  • Government issues
  • New regulations
  • Public service messages

Creating an effective VNR can cost $20,000 or more including production, distribution, and follow-up costs. The emphasis should be on the video's newsworthiness. Also effective are issue-oriented videos.

A Medialink-Nielsen survey suggests the following rules to keep in mind when producing a video news release:

  • Create a package containing a news-story type release and a few minutes of background tape or B-Roll.
  • Time your VNR to be approximately 90 seconds.
  • Place audio signals on separate channels so that news producers may insert their own voice-overs on one sound channel with the natural sound of your VNR tape on the other.
  • When distributing a VNR, always clearly identify it as a public relations service in the materials provided.

Medialink, a major satellite distributor of VNRs and other video public relations services, suggess the following "litmus test" when choosing a production firm to create a VNR:

  • Ask your public relations firm or another that has had experience with VNRs to recommend a production company.
  • Ask the production company whether it has done any VNRs before, and for whom. Ask what results it has had and how those results have been documented.
  • Make sure the company has past experience in television news.
  • Ask to see a demo reel.

Medialink has a variety of free reference books about VNR, as well as a listing of production companies nationwide. Contact Medialink at these locations:

708 Third Avenue, Ninth Floor
New York, NY 10017
(212) 682-8300

1401 New York Avenue, Suite 520
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 628-3800

6430 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1205
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(213) 465-0111

The Time and Life Building
541 N. Fairbanks Court, Suite 2010
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 222-9850