Avoid Obvious ‘How You Can Help’ Teases

By Graeme Newell 

Enrolling public assistance is fine for a news story, but teases should never be used to make a plea for help. For example, a family loses everything in a fire. The promo promises, “how you can help this family get back on their feet.” Of course, the viewer expects the answer will be “give money.”

Remember, the purpose of a tease is to entice, not to inform. Your promo should whet the appetite for more information, video and sound. “How you can help” information is not a motivating force for most viewers to return from the break. When your tease attempts to enroll the good samaritans in the audience, it ignores 99% of the viewers. The truth is that most of the audience is not interested in helping. They want to know what’s in it for them. That means your tease should showcase your coverage of that tragic story, and not be used to plead for help for the victims. Make your plea for help within the story.

This approach is also very common in crime stories. We’ll tease “how you can help police catch this criminal.” Of course the answer is, “if you’ve seen him, call the cops.” Another variation, “how you could help catch this thief and put money in your pocket.” The obvious answer – turn him in and get the reward. How many people in our audience are thinking to themselves, “I just happen to know a few murderers, and I sure could use some cash. I’m going to watch and cash in!” Instead, promise the interesting story details about the crime. Don’t use promos to enroll public assistance. Save that information for the news story.

Promote crime and court stories like a tale from “Law & Order.” When teasing crime stories, concentrate on the drama of the motive, and the pursuit and capture, not the dull facts concerning legal process. Avoid words that smack of bureaucracy: lawyers, motions, proceedings, filings, etc. A crime drama promo would never promise to “take you to the arraignment” or “to speak to the attorneys involved,” and neither should your tease. Concentrate on the evidence, the victims, the witnesses and the families affected by the crime.

We may be seeing an arraignment, but we can talk about how police captured the man, the stories from witnesses, the need for further evidence, or the back-room dealing to obtain a conviction. Imagine you are writing a tease for CSI. Get rid of the legal jargon. Write like a gumshoe hot on the trail of a killer, not a lawyer filing legal briefs.

Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at gnewell@602communications.com.