When Is a Commercial Not a Commercial?

When is a video news release in danger of looking or sounding like a commercial?

"A VNR is aired on the news at the discretion of news personnel," Amy Goldwert Eskridge of AGE Productions told PR Week. "So it's important to produce a story that looks and sounds like it was done by the station."

The trade publication's PR Toolbox advises potential VNR sponsors, "VNR script should focus on information TV news viewers can use, with a subtle mention of your product as a solution to a problem. ... Avoid anything that looks or sounds staged or over-produced, [Eskridge] says. An experienced VNR producer knows the techniques of getting a newsy shot and can conduct an interview that results in natural-sounding sound bites that impart your key message, while still appearing spontaneous."


The damn thing is, it would be easy to require digital signatures on all video feeds that enter the media stream. We would need laws to hold people accountable for fraudulent use of those signatures. Companies or entities that release video feeds would have to keep a log of all uses of the digital signature. News organizations would be required to reveal who signed the video press release, and consumers should be able to check the logs to see who really produced the feed. It would be no more difficult than signing an email. We have the technology.