Statement of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) on
Video News Releases (VNRs)
Extensive discussion was focused in recent weeks on a Video News Release (VNR) produced by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) pertaining to the recently enacted Medicare drug bill. Content of the video release touched off partisan debate and discussion but also raised ethical questions about the use of VNRs. Because VNRs are a basic public relations tool used by corporations, organizations and other entities to provide news content to television stations and thus communicate with the public, PRSA believes that it is important for there to be a better understanding of the role and usage of VNRs.
Three principles are at work here:
- A VNR is the television equivalent of a press release and, as such, should always be truthful and represent the highest in ethical standards.
- Producers and distributors of VNRs and the organizations they represent should clearly and plainly identify themselves.
- Television stations airing VNRs should identify sources of the material.
Background: The VNR is the video equivalent of a press release, a written document sent to the media. The VNR is designed specifically for TV stations and consists of many elements including a complete story with visuals and narration/voiceovers, a suggested written script, added video that can be used by the station and suggested ways the story can be localized. Public relations professionals have produced VNRs in this manner for more than 25 years, and media outlets have used them on a regular basis.
Issue in Question: One of the issues raised about the DHHS VNR was the inclusion of a sign-off identification at the completion of the story that uses the words "reporting." This has caused some confusion among people who question whether someone who is not actually a reporter should be identified in a manner that could suggest that he or she is a journalist. While this is often done when VNRs are produced, we agree that this can be considered confusing and/or misleading.
- Organizations that produce VNRs should clearly identify the VNR as such and fully disclose who produced and paid for it at the time the VNR is provided to TV stations.
- PRSA recommends that organizations that prepare VNRs should not use the word "reporting" if the narrator is not a reporter.
- Use of VNRs or footage provided by sources other than the station or network should be identified as to source by the media outlet when it is aired.
PRSA supports use of VNRs as useful public relations tools. They will continue to be effective when adhering to the highest standards of practice as described above.
The Public Relations Society of America (www.prsa.org), based in New York City, is the world's largest organization for public relations professionals helping to advance the profession and the professional. Its nearly 20,000 members, organized into 116 Chapters nationwide, 18 Professional Interest Sections along with Affinity Groups, represent business and industry, counseling firms, independent practitioners, military, government, associations, hospitals, schools, professional services firms and nonprofit organizations.