The Problem with One-Word Coverage Promises

By Graeme Newell 

A great tease will contain a solid promise of coverage that foreshadows a full and satisfying story. In the world of entertainment, the goal is to convey the depth and complexity of the story line. Any promises that smack of simplicity or shallowness just won’t motivate a viewer.

We see this in movie trailers all the time. You will never see a promo that promises the basic plot of the movie. For example: “Will the hero get the girl?” Of course he will. “Can these clever thieves pull off the heist?” Of course they can. The goal of the trailer is to show the incredible depth of the story line and promise a tale that is unique to moviedom. “Can a ferret, two parakeets and a bank robbery lead to love for these midgets transvestites on a road trip across the Ukraine?” Now that sounds like a deep story line with some real twists. They have proven that the movie will have much more than the basic plot points.

The goal is the same in TV news promos and teases. Far too often, the components foreshadowed in a tease convey only a basic story. We make a specific promise of coverage, but we never convey the depth of the story line. The problem – we focus solely on facts, not on how those facts add up to a full and rich plot line complete with heros, villains, twists and turns.

When writing in-show teases and promos, apply this simple test to determine the depth of your story line. Make a promise of coverage, then see how many words it requires to fulfill that promise. If the answer is just a word or two, you’ve failed to show the intricacy of your story. For example:

The promise: “Tonight, find out who hid the fugitive after the escape.”
The answer: “His sister.”

The answer contains just two words and does not convey the cool parts of the tale. Let’s try again:

The promise: The fugitive’s hide and seek game that stumped police for more than a week.”

Fulfilling this promise of coverage requires a long explanation and a very intricate story. That is a sign you’ve done a great tease. If the explanation of the promise takes several sentences, then you have successfully conveyed depth of coverage. After hearing that promise, I get the feeling that the full story will be a real adventure – something very entertaining.

It is the same principle with weather:

The promise: “Find out when it will rain this week.”
The answer: “Thursday”

This sounds like a basic weather forecast I can get on any channel. The goal is to convey an entire weather drama that promises unique coverage:

Better: “Some wild days of wind and rain are just around the corner. I’ll show you when the heaviest showers will hit the Valley.”

Same with sports:

The promise: “Who won the big game.”
The answer: “The Broncos.”

Sounds like basic scores and highlights I can get off the internet.

Better: The game-winning touchdown pass that blew this grudge match wide open in the second half.”

In teasing and promos the goal is not the proverbial “KISS” formula -“keep it simple stupid.” We want exactly the opposite. We want to foreshadow complexity and a brain stimulating drama.

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@602commu