Was that tease worth the wait?

The teases section on Survive is consistently the most read section. Frankly tease writing is not as natural for journalists. It involves different skill sets and we go in depth on those. But there is a basic teasing question that you must ask yourself every time, to make sure you’re living up to your main purpose: providing accurate information that benefits your viewers. This is especially true for stories you tease. They tend to be more emotional in nature or have a clear WIFM. They also tend to be stories tease writers oversell in an attempt to make sure the viewer stays.

So you must ask yourself, was that tease worth the wait? You must ask this when writing the tease, when watching the tease air and when watching the story you teased. You must do this in each scenario to learn when you overtease, how you do it and how often. Because, frankly, the majority of tease writers exaggerate. They say, “Well I have to get the viewer to watch.” But if you play with the viewer and set them up for a let down you are not winning loyalty long term. Exaggerating is a lazy tease tactic. It is wishful thinking and most of the time it is unnecessary.

If the answer is yes, the tease is worth the wait, then you are on track to become a great tease writer and a great asset to your newsroom. You want that pay off. It gives you more job longevity and credibility. So be bold and ask yourself the question. Each tease, each time, always.

How To Pick Stories To Tease

The teases section on this website continues to be the most visited section outside of the cliche list! As I looked back through the articles, I realized a very important element has not been addressed. That element: How do you pick which stories to tease in the first place?

So let’s get into that, because the answer is not always obvious. Newbie journalists usually go for the packages in the rundown. If a newscast always has world news at 10 after or health at 20, a lot of newbie journalists tease something from those segments. Some will think to go for great video as well.

Picking from these combinations is a solid start. But truly great tease writers know that stories have to pass certain tests in order to work well. So let’s go beyond the obvious so you can really keep the audience interested.

What Stories Must Have To Tease:

An “aha” moment
Solid information
Emotion
Great visuals or sound

So here are the most important elements that stories must have in order to be worthy of your tease list. First and foremost, there needs to be an “aha” moment. Consultants spin this idea different ways. Some say its the surprise in a story. Others call it the “WIFM” or the promise. Call it what you will, it all essentially means the same thing. The viewer must “get something out” of the story. Maybe it is a significant new development in a case. Maybe it’s that key piece of consumer advice that will save them hundreds on a new car. Bottom line: It’s something tangible that will make the viewer stop and think. And that leads right to the next point, that it needs to be solid information. It needs to be something tangible, the viewer can easily re-explain after hearing it from you.

Ideally that information sparks some sort of emotion. Happiness, surprise, frustration or anger are great emotions to evoke with teases. People experiencing one of these emotions are generally compelled to feel the need to share the information that sparked that feeling. So, you win with the story and a well done tease. The other elements that really get people talking are visuals and sound.

Of course, when you have awesome images or a great sound bite, you have the best odds of holding audience. These have to be on the list. But ideally you also want the stories you tease to have solid information and/or an aha moment also. Here’s why. With social media exploding with great images and easy access to fascinating stories, journalists need teases to have more than good video. We can actually explain what the person is seeing. Too often I see a story with great action video put into a newscast, then the events leading up to the images and the consequences of the images are ignored in the story. Frankly, that makes viewers feel manipulated and used. Remember, you are the expert observers, not the casual ones. The stories you tease with great video, have to have some substance like, why the crazy skier braved the slope that said “avalanche danger,” then took the slope anyway and barely survived the snow pile around him. It can be a simple explanation, but there needs to be something. Especially if you are putting that story in to hold audience with teases.

So when picking stories to tease, look at the list above. ( FYI: This is more important than length of the story in your rundown ) Ideally the stories you pick will have several of these options. Going with just one, especially emotion or images and no substance, causes problems. Teases cannot be a let down. They are a hint, a build up for a good payoff. When you look for stories to tease, make sure they pass the test. Great info with compelling emotion or video or sound. If you can get share great info with emotion and great video then you have a killer tease option. Otherwise, when in doubt, substance over flash. Flash may get the viewer to hold that day. But if the story does not deliver, and you let your audience down, they will hold it against you. You have to respect your viewers’ trust when you tease. Make it worth their time and you will get loyalty in return.

Attention Grabber: How To Do A Great Live Tease

More and more reporters are being asked to do live teases.  The producer isn’t trying to get out of work necessarily, this is a great marketing tool to show you have live crews everywhere in the DMA or at least in a key place. But these teases need to be more than a person just standing outside holding a mic with a station shirt on.
The best live teases are about 6 to 10 seconds and are interactive.  Think show and tell.  Reporters need to visually show the viewer why he/she is live somewhere from the get go. This includes during live teases.  Standing in front of the camera, holding the mic is not enough. Point to something in the background. Walk and talk.  Hold up something.  Get the viewer into the story right away.
Make sure and coordinate what’s being said live. There needs to be a dialogue between the producer and reporter. Often I hear the anchor pitch to the reporter, then the reporter says the same thing. Obviously it is not effective to repeat a line.  Producers be willing to take the time to brainstorm with the reporter.  And reporters, remember producers have more tease writing knowledge. Take advantage to make sure you get the most out of this extra live opportunity.

Taking Teasing Challenges Head On.

Whenever I publish an article on teases, journalists talk it up on Facebook and Twitter.  Teases, as I have said before, are not natural to us newsies.  So we have plenty to discuss because teases are a completely different writing style.   I asked on FB and Twitter:  What are the biggest challenges you face when writing teases?  Here’s the list and some fixes.

Tease writing challenges

  • Making the time to write them
  • Not giving away too much of the story
  • Picking what to tease
  • What order to put teases in

The number one secret of killer tease writers is this:  Make time to really work on your teases.  These are not the elements you save for last and just throw something in to get them done.  Teases make or break your newscast.  You are judged on them harshly and often.  They have to be a priority.  They need a special amount of time set aside.  Give yourself a chance to write and read over the teases to challenge yourself:  Are these really the best I can do?

That said many of you mentioned writing the teases right after you write the story you are teasing.  That can be an effective technique, as long as you go back and look at them again.  Why?  Often you end up giving away too much of the story. Sometimes you need a little separation from writing the story, to see what your short term memory actually retains.  What is it about that story that made you want to tease it in the first place?

Picking what to tease is very challenging, especially when you look at your rundown and think, the stories all sound run of the mill, with no good sound, average video and the same old facts.  This is key.  There should be a reason every story is in your newscast.  It may be that a little tidbit is interesting, the fact the fire happened in a key demo of the market you are tapping into, or because you need video on a day when you have few resources and too many copy stories.  Realistically not all of the reasons are super compelling, but they are reasons that have WIFM (“What’s In It For Me”).  So draw on the reason why the story is in the newscast and try to build on that for a tease.  Viewers do not expect every story to be a gut wrenching, heart stopping, amazing moment.  Remember at their core, viewers want tangible relatable information.  Information is teasable.  Just don’t oversell. (see “Reel ‘Em In Without Exaggerating”).

Finally, order.  How many producers have wasted way too much time on this?  For the most part, the way to “stack” teases is this deep, deeper, next.  You can play around with the deep, deeper part, but not the next (unless you are in the second to last block of course).  If viewers see a pattern (and they can and will recognize it) of you teasing next right off, they will not stick around for the whole newscast.

So now you can take  those teasing challenges head on! Go knock ’em dead.