April 28, 2004

1. Make a promise. The viewer needs a reason to stick around. Why should they? Promise a benefit for continued watching and then deliver it. In fact, overdeliver. 

Please do not tease sports by saying “Joe will have scores and more.” Do not tease weather promising the forecast. We expect those things. It’s not much of a promise.

2. Avoid subjective adjectives. Fantastic, huge, unbelievable, breathtaking, astonishing and other inflated descriptors send the signal that you are overplaying what you can deliver. Keep the adjectives objective (provable.)

3. Get a second opinion. The collaborative process works. Be sure that video editors feel fully invested in the tease production and give them the power to question and suggest changes for teases that do not work well.

4. Show and Tell. Link the words, pictures, and sound. Before you write, look at the video you are teasing. Great teases require great sound and video; be certain crews turn over their very best video for teases. Do not ignore the power of natural sound in teases. Consider taking a nat-sound break in a tease to break the usual patterns that numb viewers.

What effects might your production decisions have on the viewer’s understanding of the story? What guidelines does your station have about the use of slo-mo, still frames, mug shots, music, altered audio or video or file tape?

5. You are what you tease. If you tease sensational tripe, viewers will remember you that way. Tease in the voice you want to be remembered by. It is especially dangerous to ever tease nonsense “water-skiing squirrel” kicker stories. They stick in viewers’ minds and define all of what you do. 

Does this promotion raise false questions to pique the viewer’s emotions? Don’t suggest by innuendo that something is harmful if it is not. For example, could this tip sheet make you sick? Do socks/bras/ratings meters cause cancer?

6. Teases are not stories. Don’t tell me too much, don’t take away my need to keep watching. Teases are not mini-stories.

7. Teases are a priority. They should not be the last thing you write when you are crunched for time. Teases tell the viewer how your newscast is different from every other newscast. Great producers ask reporters — teach reporters — to help write teases. Standup teases should not be shot after you have finished the story. Remember: Don’t wait until the end of the day to shoot your standup tease. Do your standup teases while you are at the most visually interesting places during your reporting day.

8. Find the focus. Can the reporter tell you the story in three words? Can they tell you:

  • What surprised them most?

  • What is their best sound and pictures?

  • What is the “connective tissue” between this story and the viewer? How can this story touch the widest possible audience?

The two biggest problems that confront tease writers are (1) they don’t understand the story and (2) the story is not focused enough yet. 

9. Great teases avoid “If you”s. “If you like Jell-O, then you will like this next story. Or, “If you have kids, then…” What if I don’t like Jell-O or I don’t have kids, then I have no reason to watch. Great teases avoid the word “continues.” That something continues is not new; it is a continuation of what we already know. Great teases avoid conditional words like might, could, and probably. Viewers see through those “snake oil” terms.

10. Tease a story the viewer will see as soon as you come back from the break. Great teases often include instant gratification in addition to delayed gratification. Be careful not to tease too much. Select a few stories; don’t compress tons of them into a tease break. Viewers get lost. Every time you tease a story, the teases get progressively less effective.

11. Tease angles, not information. If the viewer needs to know the information now, give him that information now. Do not frustrate the viewer by holding information from them. Hold angles, not information. I am reminded of a “Saturday Night Live” skit about a deadly virus. The SNL “reporter” says, “Later, we will tell you how you can keep the fatalities You make your reputation over time and you lose it overnight.in your family to a minimum.” PLEASE tell me now!

Do not tease the coverage that everyone else will also deliver. Tease what the viewer does not expect from you. Do not say, for example, “A fire has killed five people, we will tell you where it happened at 10.” Instead, tease “Tonight at 10, we will tell you how a broken two-way radio system contributed to the deaths of five local firefighters.”

This is especially important when you are teasing a story from one newscast to another.

12. Respect your viewers. Teases should not trick the viewers. Don’t bait and switch. You make your reputation over time and you lose it overnight.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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