By Melissa Luck, RTDNA Contributor
Ask most news producers the task they most dislike about their newscast and I’d guess well over half of them would say the same thing: they hate writing teases.
Most hate writing them because it’s one of the last tasks to check off in a busy news day. But a few tips and a few extra minutes could take your teases from average to exceptional.
When it comes to capturing and keeping viewers, there’s nothing more important than the tease. For most producers, it’s the last thing they do each day. At that point, the tease is an afterthought. By shortchanging your teases, you’re shooting your show right in the foot.
The point of a tease is quite simple: Leave the viewer wanting more. We have so much competition to attract them in the first place, you have to work harder than ever to keep them beyond that commercial break. You have to keep the viewer from doing any number of things other than watching your newscast; you have to keep them from getting up to grab a bite to eat, from turning to another channel, from turning off the tv and from getting lost in the scroll on their phone.
So, how do you do it? You make it a priority and you give it a purpose.
We all know a tease is not a full story. A tease should make a promise. It should provide incentive to stick around. Tell the viewer how you’ll reward them for sticking around. Better yet, show them with great video and compelling sound.
Most of us have learned about the motivators people have for watching the news. People want to be informed and entertained. They want to save money and keep their families safe. A good tease promises to show the viewer how that will happen. Add a little extra flair to those promises and you have yourself a worthwhile tease.
Here are some quick and dirty tips for writing better teases:
Write them first
Saving the teases for last is a recipe for disaster. Inevitably, something will take your attention away. You’ll end up rushing through and it will show in the product. You also might forget what’s teasable about the story. A great practice is to write the story, then write the tease for it right away.
Don’t telegraph the tease
Viewers are smart. They know when they hear that music ramp up at the end of a block that the tease is coming. Many won’t even stick around. Ask your director to wait a beat to start the music. Capture the viewer with a great setup, then add the music and the promise of what’s to come.
Ask yourself: “Who cares?”
The answer will guide what part of the story you should tease. If you don’t know the answer, the story either needs to be reworked or it shouldn’t be in your show to begin with.
Get your anchor excited!
Your words and video can only do so much. If your anchor doesn’t sell it, the tease will fall flat. If it’s great video or sound, show it to the anchors ahead of time and let them buy in to how cool it is. Their delivery will dramatically improve. If it’s simply great content, sell it to your anchor and they’ll sell it on the air in return.
Throw out your template
So many rundowns across the country have heavily templated rundowns and teases likely fall under an On Cam/Vo/Vo/Vo. It’s terribly predictable for the viewer, the anchor will deliver it the same way every time and, frankly, it’s really boring for the producer. If possible, delete that part of your template and start fresh every day. Find great NATS and soundbites to lead your teases, drop a great graphic in the middle, do something different every day. It will not only keep your viewers on their toes and make it more likely for them to watch, it will challenge you as a producer as well.
Drop the cliches
You have details? Good, that’s your job. You have the story? Yep, that’s exactly the point of the newscast. You’ll have “more on” something? An anchor I once worked with called those “moron” teases. We can do better. Have fun with it. Dig into the language a little bit and you’ll find so many ways to tease a story without those crutch words.
There are so many ways to improve the teases you write in your shows. Give yourself a week and make that your goal. The more you push yourself to make them valuable, the more fun you’ll have writing them. More importantly, it will keep your viewers interested.
Melissa Luck is Assistant News Director at KXLY-TV in Spokane, WA