Another major tool in your producing arsenal is the newscast tease.
Teases alert viewers to what will be airing later in the program and encourage them to continue watching through the commercial breaks.
A newscast tease is essentially a mini-advertisement for an upcoming story. It's different from a headline because it doesn't summarize the story; it generally leaves some intriguing questions unanswered or promises a payoff to the viewer who sticks around to watch the story.
Tease copy is some of the most important and the most difficult broadcast writing to do well. Many producers hate to write teases, so they may delegate that job to an associate producer or to the anchors. If you are assigned to write a newscast tease, here's the number one rule: Don't wait until the last minute to write it! Give yourself time to play with the copy and make it as compelling as possible.
Know the Story
Too often tease writers will rely on a cursory glance at the reporter intro or the first few lines of the story before they begin to write. To effectively promote content, you have to thoroughly understand what you are writing about.
Knowing the story includes knowing the video. The best thing to do is to watch the video for the story you're teasing. If you can't do that, at the very least, talk to someone else who has seen the video—preferably a video editor or photojournalist. There may be times when the video for a story is so poor that you decide not to tease the story rather than risk losing viewers with boring or irrelevant video. On the flip side, great video can help convince a viewer to stick around to watch, especially if you can incorporate great natural sound or sound bites into your tease.
Armed with all this information, you must still keep your copy concise. Still to come," "More on that when we come back," "Right after this"—all these phrases send one signal to the viewer: "Commercial coming! Commercial coming!" Commercials are one big reason why viewers change channels, so avoid using those phrases. You also don't want to give the whole story away, so writing tight can help you focus on "teasing" the viewer with what's to come.
At the same time, you can't assume that the viewer knows as much about the story as you do. Be sure that someone tuning into your broadcast for the very first time will be able to understand the story you are promoting. For example, check out this tease:
Air Tran's heading east, but what about those flying west? See how Fair Fares search for a discount carrier's going, coming up.
The problem with that tease is that it assumes people know what the "Fair Fares" program is all about. Consider this alternative:
Half of the country is already covered—now see what the airport is doing to help you get cheap air fares nationwide.
The second version is short and to the point, and you don't have to have as much background on the story to understand the tease.
Weather and Sports Teases
Although weather is consistently considered a primary reason why people watch local TV news, many producers never speak to their meteorologists or weathercasters before writing teases for the weather segments. That's why we too often hear teases like this: "How long will today's severe weather last? Paul has the forecast next." That's just plain lazy. The tease writer needs to get a handle on the day's weather story. Here's an example:
The thunderstorms are moving out, but there's more trouble behind them. Paul's up next with an important change in the forecast.
The story was that skies would be clearing, but high winds were expected for the following day. Your station's weather expert prepares two to three minutes of weather content for the newscast every day and can help with writing an effective weather tease.
If weather teases are bad, sports teases are generally even worse. They often give the story away and leave little for those who aren't sports fans to care about at all. Here's an example of a typical sports tease:
Coming up in sports, our Athlete of the Week Award goes to a local high school softball team that has been one of the big surprises in the Class 4A playoffs.
Also tonight, the Pineville Lady Rebels gear up to face the team that eliminated them last season in the playoffs. We'll have that story and much more coming up in sports.
That wasn't so much a tease as a menu of what was to come. Here's one way you might have given this tease some pizzazz:
It's Ladies Night in sports.
The Athlete of the Week Award goes to an entire team of women who are surprising everyone in the 4A playoffs.
Plus the Lady Rebels are gearing up for a grudge match.
The second version also has the advantage of being much less wordy (:12 versus the original :18). To write an effective sports tease, you'll probably need to take the time to talk to the sports anchor about what's in the show that night or, at the very least, check the sports rundown—there may be a story with wide appeal that will make a better tease element.
Plenty of producers love to write teases. They see promoting the content in their shows as a challenge, and they like the idea of convincing viewers to keep watching.
The ability to write a well-crafted tease can set you apart as a valuable newsroom employee.
Stand-Up and Live Teases
In some news organizations, reporters are asked to do live or taped on-camera teases. Most reporters look at this assignment as an annoyance rather than an opportunity. They produce teases that are little more than headlines for the story.
At WLOS-TV in Asheville, N.C., a reporter once recorded this stand-up tease:
A Spindale woman fights off an attack by a fox and is now getting tested for rabies.
Now that all the viewers know the most important facts of the story, the reporter has given them little reason to keep watching. Consider this alternative:
For the first time in 20 years, health officials are worried about rabies in Rutherford County.
The second version is based on another element of the reporter's package—the fact that county health officials say they haven't had a rabies investigation there for two decades.
It's also important for reporters and producers to communicate about teases. For this same fox attack story, the reporter produced a second stand-up tease. This time, she asked her photographer to start out by shooting the porch of the house involved and then to zoom out to show the reporter in the shot as she said the following words:
You won't believe what ran across this lady's porch and forced her to get treatment at the hospital.
This version is a little better tease, but unfortunately, the producer chose to add the words "Fox Attack" as a super on the bottom of the screen. So much for that tease! Producers can also spoil the surprise of a story with a careless tease. For example, a reporter and photographer might be trying to create suspense in a story about a dog trapped in a sewer pipe. Their story might be told chronologically, showing the rescue from start to finish, leaving the question of whether the dog survived unanswered until the very end. If the tease shows a happy, tail-wagging pup, the story will lose its punch.
Reporters and producers, working together to create compelling teases, should keep in mind all of the principles of tease writing that we've outlined in this article.
In addition to the missteps mentiond above, you should be aware of a few other pitfalls to avoid when promoting the stories in a newscast.
One of the most common mistakes is teasing a story that doesnt deliver. The producer may have written a compelling promotion for the story, but viewers will feel cheated if the story doesnt live up to the teases's promise. This happens often when you promote a story thats little more than a :20 voice over. There's usually not enough information in a story that short to make viewers feel that sticking around was worthwhile.
Another common problem is the tease that uses the exact same sequence of video that we see at the start of the actual story-expecially if that story airs in the block immediately following the tease. That's generlly the result of lazy editing; whoever's cutting the video is just pulling the first few shots from the story rather than looking for a way to make the tease video different.
Producers and reporters will also want to avoid tease cliches. For example, some writers love to start teases with a question such as: "Would you like to find an easy way to get your kids to study more?" The problem with a question tease is that too often the viewer's answer is NO! What about all those people who don't have childern in school? You've basically told them the upcoming story is not going to be of intesrt to them.
Other cliches involve using phrase such as" "You won't believe . . ." or referencing the "shocking video." Yes, you are "selling" these stories, but good tease writers find a way to make their copy relevant through content rather than hype.