Never in recorded history have so many clients spent so much for such little result to benefit so few (agencies),” – With Apologies to the Memory of Sir Winston Churchill

Yep, I am a VNR Agnostic in good standing.

And in fact, my total lack of enthusiasm for video news releases (VNRs) goes back to the 1980s. And guess what? My opinion has not changed, even after spending more than three years with a global public relations agency that still is pleased as punch to produce one of these babies for $20,000 to $50,000 a pop.

My total dismay for VNRs is only matched by my utter revulsion for “vanity media,” such as the World Business Review, hosted by a litany of has-beens: First, Caspar Weinberger (now deceased); Second, Alexander “I’m in charge” Haig (now deceased); and now by former General Norman Schwarzkopf.


Bet ya, John Edwards would be interested in hosting the show for a few shekels.

Since 1996, young production types would call corporate public relations directors of publicly traded companies (such as yours truly at LSI Logic), suggesting that one of our recent ultra techy news releases about an obscure product would be a great topic for World Business Review. All we had to do was slap down $30,000 in “production fees” and our program would run on a PBS station first thing…Sunday morning.

Before the young production type could get too far with his pitch, I would ask: “Why should we spend $30,000 to be on your program on Sunday morning when the market is closed, when we can be on CNBC when the market is open for free?”

They never had an answer for that one.

One of these production types even became upset with me for saying ‘no,’ challenging me to provide him with examples of better uses of our advertising dollars (as if this subject was his business). I asked him: “How much time do you have?”

My reaction to VNR pitches from public relations agencies was comparable, and it was based upon information relayed to me from producers of both national and metropolitan news stations. The reporters and/or producers viewed video news releases as shameless propaganda, and I essentially agree with this point.


Playing devil’s advocate: What if they (VNRs) do provide not only accurate information but video footage as well? Isn’t there value in corporate produced footage, particularly for stations/networks with a ton of airtime to fill?

The reaction usually boiled down to two responses: We either round file VNRs or we ask Monica the Intern to watch the VNRs to see if there is any B-roll or “background” footage that is usable for the network or station. If not, we chuck them.

I asked PR agency reps, pitching VNRs, why I should spend 20k-to-50k on a video news release that at worst will be deep-sixed or at best will be viewed by the intern for B-roll? To me that was a lot of money for a low-prospect of reward. Where is the ROI? Why not just produce B-roll that accompanies stories about my company for a reduced price?

And that is exactly what we did on at least two occasions during my decade at LSI Logic. We produced up to 10 minutes of fresh video footage of custom semiconductors, such as those that produced magic for the Sony PlayStation. The video featured computer work station chip design by our engineering geeks or manufacturing by our bunny suit people. I remember even receiving phone calls from producers at both CNBC and Fox, asking when our new B-roll footage was going to be finished and delivered.

One concern that I harbored about semiconductor B-roll footage was that one company’s video appeared remarkably similar to clips (e.g., geeky engineers and bunny suit people) offered by another company. Was Intel’s footage used for a story about LSI Logic? And was LSI Logic’s video employed for a piece about Intel? Guess there are worse sins to worry about in life.


To be fair, Think Public Relations, a well done PR text-book by Dennis Wilcox, Glen Cameron, Bryan Reber and Jae-Hwa Shin offered a very positive VNR case study involving Sankio Pharma. Reportedly, the FDA approved the company’s “wrist watch” diabetes and glucose monitoring device at 11 am. WestGlen Communications shipped a related VNR at 3:30 pm. The VNR was eventually aired 243 times including CNN and Fox.

Something tells me the company was betting on FDA approval and the VNR was already “in the can.” Nonetheless, this is a positive example for VNRs.

What it proves to me is that an agnostic at times can be converted. Having said that, someone is still going to have to convince me that my upwards to $50,000 investment is not going to be discarded or at best serving as busy work for Monica the Intern.

Almost DailyBrett note: Some have asked about the “B” in B-roll. The authors of Think Public Relations make it clear that B-roll stands for “background pictures.” Not everyone believes or knows that.