How to tease on Twitter: A key secret revealed!

A Philly anchor’s recent twitter tease about a real life shootout and the hit show “Breaking Bad” has set off a lot of discussion.  In this case, I am going to look more closely at creative ways to tease on Twitter, without potentially crossing the line. Fact is, teasing is not most journalists strong suit as it is.  We have a series of articles dedicated to help write teases for newscasts.  Now let’s talk Twitter.  The 140 character limit makes it even harder to get the message across clearly.  But I am about to reveal a secret that shows, Twitter teases are actually less difficult to pull off.

Teasing Guidelines for Twitter:

Coming up – BIG no no

Human Link

Remember Images


The number one mistake I see in Twitter teases is using the term “Coming up at.. (show listing)…” as a first line.  Never start a tease this way, period.  Even on Twitter.  It is a throwaway cliche line that really turns off the audience.  You need to get to the sell, which frankly is the reason you want to tease the story.  That is your first line, you can say when to watch after that.

The sell of the tease, is the human link, or what some consultants and managers call the WIFM or viewer benefit.  So, if there’s a character in the story, introduce that. If you found ways to save viewers a ton of money, say that.  If you have kick butt video say that.  The best part about Twitter, is there’s an intimacy to it.  You frankly do not have to be as ‘colorful’ a writer as you do in newscasts. (Here’s the big secret reveal!! ) People on Twitter, are looking for interesting information.  The expectation to be entertained is not as much of a given.  They are looking for facts, and people’s reactions to those facts.  The human link needs to be simple and direct on Twitter.  A lot of the work is already done for you.  People are seeking out your information, instead of you desperately trying to draw them in and keep them.  Think long and hard about that one.  It really fundamentally changes the way you need to tease, and should eliminate some of the pressure to ‘relate’ the story to a trend (or dare I say, a TV show).

Also, many visual TV journalists forget to use the simplest, yet most effective technique: an image.  I am guessing I am far from alone, when I say the number one way to draw me in on Twitter is to include a picture or a link to something.  My natural instinct is to click to learn more.  Don’t forget the very famous line “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  I encourage using images to build your Twitter fan base anyway.  When you tease, pictures are exceptionally effective because few people do it.  Show a scene setter.  Show the person you are centering the story around in an action shot.  Heck, showing an image of a document has suckered me in before.  A shot of a document would not work for a TV news tease.  But it can work for a Twitter tease.  Again, that’s because people on Twitter are actively seeking out information.  You do not have to sell as hard.  They want to learn more, see more and experience more.  Provide links to images, and you will sell your stories and/or newscasts.

Finally, remember that the best way to link up with Twitter followers is through hashtags.  Use them in teases to draw more people in.  Look for “local” hash tags and use them when you can.  I really suggest using established hashtags more so than creating a unique one for your tease/tweet.  There are people who mine these hashtags each day looking for information on particular topics.  Again, they are waiting for you to deliver the information, a captive audience!  Use that.  If there are no good local hashtags for your market, talk with your managers and possibly promotions about creating some that your station can consistently use to draw in audience.  These hashtags are very effective marketing.  Frankly, they’re often more effective than any clever tease you attempt to write.  Consistency is key with the hashtags.  They are a simple trick with potentially huge gains.

So now you know some guidelines for teasing on Twitter.  The secret is out!  Twitter followers want to hear what you are going to showcase.  They want information, pictures and links.  They are actively seeking them.  Link an image, or a human element and your tease will work.  No need to rack your brain to really “suck them in.”  Twitter followers are a captive, willing and, frankly, enthusiastic audience grateful for the chance to read what you have to say. So be straightforward and you will win big fans!



Why reporters need to be great tease writers too.

When talking about tease challenges recently on FB, a newsie mentioned it is hard to tease a story “not knowing what the reporter is ACTUALLY working on.”  This is a common scenario in most newsrooms.  I said the producer should ask for a tease line when the reporter calls in with elements.  Now let’s talk about why the reporter should want to call in a tease line, or better yet, offer to write a tease.  Reporters need to be great tease writers too, because it not only helps them curry favor with management, it also helps them write better stories.

A big key to great story telling and great tease writing is truly understanding what impact the story will have on the audience.  This is the WIFM and sell combined.  So by challenging yourself to become a great tease writer, you are kicking your story telling skills up a notch.

Great tease writers are also experts at using sound and video to capture the viewer’s attention, key elements in great storytelling.  Think about it, most teases that really knock your socks off, leave an image or sound in your mind.  Most people are visual or auditory learners.  It is important to play on that fact.

Tight, powerful writing is also key to great tease writing and great storytelling.  You can’t boil it down if you don’t understand the story.  Powerful writing makes for many memorable moments as well.

So reporters, challenge yourself.  Offer to call in a tease line with your elements each day.  Look for the sound and video that really sells your story and offer it up. You will not only become the producer’s favorite, your own stories will improve.


How to “go big” on national breaking news

A producer recently emailed asking about ways to handle big, breaking national stories.  Do you sacrifice local and fill the a-block?  How without offending the viewer who might want a lot of local?  What a great topic, since it is so easy to go online and on cable news and get that national story.  So let’s delve in to ways to do this, without offending local viewers.  Also, I would love to hear your feedback on whether you think going big on a national story, locally, is effective since social media and online news are so relevant now.  Please go to our FB page and talk about it.  This debate will continue to grow as TV redefines its role.  When you discuss it, consider these key points.  They can help you decide how much to do on large scale national stories during your local newscast.

  • Viewers are used to getting news at this time of day, from you
  • Viewers feel a connection to your anchors


Both of the points listed above come down to one important point, when deciding how to cover a big national story:  Trust.  Viewers trust their familiar, local, anchors and like checking in that time of the day with those anchors.  They are prepared to see your anchors giving them the most important news at that time.  That’s why so many newsrooms go big, even when the story is not local.

The producer that emailed me specifically mentioned the Newtown school shootings.  This is a different scenario than the fiscal cliff, which is easy to localize.  The day of the shootings, you are still figuring out what the basic facts are, so localizing can be a little more difficult.  Blowing out an assumption, to turn local angles can backfire.  So localize as much as you can but, do not feel you must have a lot of local tie-ins in order to go big.  Large market producers will tell you this is an opportunity to let your anchors own the big story, just like a local breaker.  That means avoiding a national package.  If you are allowed to get a live shot from the affiliate feed, go for a custom and let your anchors debrief the anchors with questions you think your viewers would want answered.  Make sure you have a set up spelling out the basic facts and setting the scene, so the viewer understands the scope.  This can be done with vo/sots, a package you write for your anchors, or a combination of nat sound, vo’s, vo/sots and graphics.  Do what you need to really spell the story out in an effective way for your viewers.  The point is owning the story, instead of seeming to hand it off to a network reporter and moving on.  Handing it off can encourage a viewer to switch channels.  Remember, the viewer has a trust connection with your anchors.  They can tell the story well, and should.

When you can add tidbits of local reaction, do it.  Let your anchors help you find this information out.  It really is an effective technique to have your anchor say something like, “I just called so and so, and that agency would handle a situation like this, the same way.”  Again, your anchor is acting as an advocate for the viewer, let them ask the questions the viewers would love to ask themselves.  Let the anchor “own the story.”  The viewer trusts the anchor and wants to see him/her in that role.

Another solid technique is letting the viewer know about local stories coming up, and when they will see them during this national coverage.  Some mention it as an umbrella lead and some do it with teases off the top of the newscast.  Some just have the anchors mention there is a lot of local news coming up in 5 minutes.  That way, viewers know you are also on top of the “big” local news of the day as well.

The key when determining how much coverage to give a big national story is the potential impact it will have on your viewers.  For example, the Newtown school shootings were so shocking, viewers would crave information.  By not covering it much, you would actually encourage viewers, used to watching news at that time, to switch channels.  The viewer’s gut feeling would be “This is a huge story, I need to know about.”  They want to learn the information from journalists they trust.  You can encourage them to further believe that it is your anchors and reporters they need to trust.  Do not just shove a national pkg off a feed into the a-block and let it go.  Let your anchors ask the questions the viewers want answered.  Continue to build the trust. That way when a big story happens, your viewers will turn to your newscast first, no matter where the story came from.