The vast majority (80 percent) of radio stations say they never or rarely use audio news releases on air, according to a study conducted by Tobin Communications, and 70 percent say ANRs are not at all or rarely helpful when it comes to developing stories or news items.
In contrast, 80 percent of respondents say they sometimes or often use telephone interviews with spokespeople for stories that make it on-air and 100 percent of respondents say if they had a choice between access to a spokesperson for a telephone interview or a prepackaged ANR, they would prefer access to a spokesperson.
Tobin Communications is a Maryland-based media relations firm that offers radio media tours.
According to Tobin, “In recent years, there has been a push in the PR industry to rely on ANRs as a means of streamlining publicity costs and limiting the time commitments spokespeople have to make for media interviews. But this study underscores a significant point many PR professionals seem to be missing: If no one hears your client’s message, the risks far exceed the benefits.”
While some studies have shown that television stations underreport their use of video news releases—reluctant to admit that they rely on PR people for some of their stories—agency principal Maury Tobin says he doesn’t believe the same effect is at work in his firm’s study of ANRs, and points to direct quotes from respondents as evidence.
“One rare ANR might have relevance, but the general consensus is they are too commercial and we are not able to build a story with news value, which we can always do when we ask the questions,” says Doug Mashek, a news producer in Sioux Falls, S.D. Adds Jim Lawson, a news talk-show host and news program director for KDKD in Clinton, Mo., “I never use ANRs. If you want to buy a commercial, talk to my sales department. … I like a story that is topical, local or regional and relevant to my part of the world and not mass-produced.”
Tobin says that in many ANRs, the news is buried under company fluff, and the journalist is forced to relinquish a certain amount of control—for example, they can’t ask the questions and develop a unique story relevant for their listeners.
There are exceptions, however, including ANRs that come from a state institution, a high-ranking government official or contain breaking news. But “a great majority of the news stories being pitched and distributed in the PR industry don’t fall into this category. Hence, we see the problem for PR clients, who are wasting lots of money on an ANR service that in a majority of situations doesn’t work, and for the radio station news directors, who are very frustrated with the avalanche of ANRs distributed to them by PR vendors.”
“ANRs are a waste of money. We’d rather have bullet-points on paper to look at. For instance, a one-page fax that sets out the who, what, when and why has far more value,” said Jim Farley, vice president of news programming for WTOP in Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s premiere news radio stations. “We don’t use [ANRs] because we don’t have editorial control and they are generally commercially angled, not news angled.”