If you ever wondered why you see producers sitting at their desks mumbling to themselves, then pacing in a hallway, this is it. Teasing the story that seems like it just won’t end. The rising flood waters waiting to crest, the trial that drags on forever, the storm damage cleanup that is so important to cover, but looks the same each day.
These are stories that, after a while, management and producers must debate on whether to tease at all, or does the viewer just expect the coverage to be there and watch for something else. While that debate rages, producers are often faced with a looming deadline and overnights that say they get a spike when coverage of that topic airs.
So what do you do when there’s no obvious unique element? Look beyond the obvious. Sometimes you need to come up with an interesting sidebar tag that would have viewer benefit. This is the time to search Twitter and tweet your sources for interesting tidbits that you can fact check and possibly add to your coverage in some way. You can also call a buddy who’s not in the business and ask where the coverage seems to be lacking for the story. They might have an idea you never thought off that would make a great vo/sot or even an outboard package. Also, have reporters keep an extra eye out for interesting character development that you can turn into an interesting tease.
Anchors are a great resource in this difficult time. They often are approached by people with interesting questions you could answer as an added element to your coverage. It’s a great tease option because it enhances your anchor’s credibility, with a viewer benefit. You asked and we got the answer for you! It engages viewers who often feel we talk at them instead of to them.
If there really is nothing interesting to tease about the ongoing story, talk with management about whether you can move the tease out of its traditional place, like the end of a block. This is a great time to do stealth teases (see article “You’re Hooked“) in the middle of the a-block for example. You can put the anchors on a two shot and have them say something like, “Hey, in 5 minutes we’re going to get an update on the trial. I hear (reporter) has (a quick line with the gist of the pkg).” Then go on with the newscast.
The one thing you want to avoid at all costs is the tease that goes something like these “Up next the latest on the Casey Anthony case.” or “We have the latest on cleanup of the tornado damage in Joplin.” These are the ultimate throw away lines and will cost you credibility with the viewer. Keep in a mind that viewers expect you to have the latest on a big story. That’s the reason they are tuning in. They believe in your ability to cover the ongoing stories. Don’t let them down by trivializing it with only a “coming up, the latest.” It makes your station seem callous and sloppy. Viewers are taking this story seriously. You need to as well. You don’t have to have a wow factor each day. A simple headline in a tease is okay. It helps viewers know when they will get the daily update. Taking a quick hit with a live reporter also can work, but coordinate with the reporter ahead of time to make sure he/she doesn’t give away too much. Viewers think it is cool if you check in live on something, it shows immediacy. Have the anchor say something like, “We’re hearing court is about to wrap up right now, (Reporter) interesting day?” Reporter says: “Yes, in fact we had something just happen that we will tell you about in two minutes.” You aren’t exaggerating, you are not giving the story away, you are showcasing a live ongoing event with immediacy. Again, viewers love feeling like they are in the moment. Another way to consider this along similar lines: Teasing these kinds of stories is like teasing weather. Some days the information is huge and you need to blow it out. Some days there’s not much to it, but you want the viewer to know you always have their best interest in mind, even on a sunny cloudless day. You want to shoot straight and build credibility for the times the teases are easy to write, because what you have to share is fascinating. Do these things and the amount of time you spend mumbling to yourself in the hallway, will begin to shrink!