We’ve all seen them: A tease that grabs you and doesn’t let you go. You swear at the TV because you will just have to be late to work or get to bed a few minutes late. You have to know. Think about that. You have to know. Write that phrase on a sticky note to place on your computer. It is rule number one to excellent tease writing: “You have to know.”
Before we dish tips, let’s quantify something. Being a good writer and being a good tease writer do not always go hand in hand. Writing good teases is an art form. It is something you need to push to improve upon every day. This goes for producers, reporters, promotion writers, even news managers. Because teases are so crucial, we will delve into the topic on and off for several articles. Just like we mentioned in “Rule the Word” attending seminars on Saturdays at the station will not give you all you need.
So let’s start with the phrase “You have to know.” When you start your shift and stare at a blank rundown keep that phrase in mind. It is a great way to select stories for key meter points to tease. As you and news management select where these stories go, mine the content for fascinating elements. Great video, an interesting fact, and strong viewer benefit are good examples. We’re talking about the stuff you want to tweet about or top line to someone else. Those are the elements in stories you need to tease in your newscast. Take the best elements from these stories and put them in a script at the top or bottom of your rundown. Then, when a phrase about one of those compelling elements pops in your head, put it into that catchall script.
Now let’s expand on some things great tease writers do each day.
- Write tease elements all shift long
- Hide teases
- Add flash without exaggerating
We just told you about the important catch all script at the top or bottom of your rundown where you can stash potential tease elements. Again, write as many of these elements as you can in this script as ideas come to mind throughout your day. Don’t forget the traditional things you are taught about teases. Look for emotional connections, a viewer benefit, and remember your station’s news philosophy as you write. Look for unique elements. As you do this, throw in notes from conversations you are having with reporters about their stories. Write down what sticks in your head about these elements in your catchall script. Again, these are the need to know elements you will share with viewers.
A quick note to reporters, you should also mine your stories for great tease elements as you go through your day. Increasingly reporters are becoming responsible for tease elements being fed into the station for promotions and teases within a newscast. Make note of great sound and pictures so you can hand them over to a producer or promotions writer quickly. After all, you want your story played up because it helps you too. If a cool line about your story comes to mind, share it with the producer or EP.
The other reason producers want to “write” teases all shift long is that the elements you throw in that catchall script can help you shape all of your writing. Some of the cool video, partnered with compelling phrases might not make it as a tease, but it might become the first line of a vo or vo/sot you write. Everything a producer writes is designed to draw in audience. Maybe a phrase you wrote in your catchall will become a transition line between stories on a two shot.
Which leads to our next point: Hide teases. Some consultants call this “stealth teasing.” We are going to take it a little further. Think of hiding teases in two ways. “Hiding” teases means: 1) Throwing in tease lines about something coming up in non-traditional places. 2) Using the same kind of tease writing in leads for stories.
The first way producers hide teases is placing a line about something coming up in a place a viewer would not expect. Take the middle of the a-block for example. You can write a vo about your 30 lead and give viewers some interesting information, then tease a specific viewer benefit for later. Another interesting place is within anchor chat. Have the anchors mention something coming up seemingly “off the cuff” after a similar type story. A favorite technique of mine is to go directly from a story into a compelling piece of natural sound and video to kick off a tease that is pre-produced with a lot of sound and cool graphics. Consider it a mini package or a second cold open type deal with several elements. Make suer you mix up where this appears in your rundown. (i.e. – the b-block one day, the 38 block some other time depending on where your best video lies.)
Now let’s expand on using tease writing in leads for stories. If a story within, say, the middle of your b-block has great video, segment it out and include a tease type element at the beginning. This will hook the audience and provide all important instant gratification. Here’s an illustration: Let’s say you have a story about a fire where someone was rescued and you have incredible sound from the person saved. Tease it in the beginning of the story by playing some of the sound. In other words, reverse the order of the story. Do the payoff sound first, then showcase the cool elements leading up to the great sound. It would look something like this:
“See this man? (OTS graphic of the man, or take it fullscreen) He could have died in a fire today. (Bite) “I thought I was a goner then I felt someone pulling me by the arm.” Then do your vo. “Here’s the house where it happened…”etc. Finish with a bite from the survivor expanding on the first sound, something like: “I just couldn’t believe that someone braved the smoke to save me.” This makes your newscast more interesting throughout and makes your teases more natural to the viewer when they do appear at the end of a block. They’ve seen that you will make it worth their while to stick around. You showed them you deliver with a tease type element, in a segmented part of the show, just moments before.
The example above also gives you an idea of how to add flash to teases without exaggerating. We will dedicate another article to techniques for avoiding exaggerating when writing teases later. For now, let’s focus on proper ways to add flash. One way that is fun for promotions writers and producers who do cold opens is to base graphics and writing style on the lead-in to your newscast. For example, if a court show comes before you and there’s a strong legal type story, start the cold open with sound of a gavel. Then you can use the same gavel sound to break up each element in the tease. This is also effective for topicals, just don’t make it a crutch every single time “CSI” or “Law and Order” airs.
Graphics can be compelling if you lack video, but the story has viewer benefit. If you do this, you have to spell that benefit out on screen. Case in point, the phrase “saves you money” will get many people to watch in these hard economic times. Just make sure you can deliver the money saving advice. Finally, if you can, pre-produce a tease or two in your rundown. But make sure you vary where you place it and how long it runs. Edit in cool graphics and quick sound to play up appeal to the eye and ear. It doesn’t have to be a three element deal like I described earlier. It just needs to have different elements to engage the senses. This goes back to one of our recurring themes, engage more than 1 of the senses and you have viewers hooked. They will just “have to know” what the story is about!