Why busy journalists need your b-roll

23 August 2021  |  Insights
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Editing b-roll

As obvious as it may seem, TV news needs to have visuals. It’s a visual medium. But, with newsroom budgets tighter than ever before, journalists don’t always have the time and resources to collect the footage needed for a story.

According to a Perspectus Global survey of 120 journalists: ‘Fifty per cent of respondents said PR-sourced content had become more useful during the pandemic, compared to 26 per cent who said it was less.’

This presents an opportunity for you to get your story seen by a larger audience. The story has a much better chance of being broadcast if it comes to the journalist with b-roll included...and b-roll is not limited to television, if you have the content you can also offer b-roll to radio stations to use on their social media.

What is b-roll?

B-roll is footage typically used by journalists and producers to visually illustrate a story or to demonstrate what an interviewee is describing in an interview. For example, if an interviewee says, ‘We have a number of volunteers who help out at our foodbank’, there may be a b-roll shot inserted into the main footage of the volunteers in action.

Adding value to a pitch

Andy Thomson, Planning Editor for ITV News - Anglia, explains what value b-roll gives to a media pitch:

‘Well shot footage helps tell any story better - or sell it to a journalist who's not sure what it will look like on screen. If you can provide interesting b-roll that news desks will struggle to get for themselves - charity projects overseas or support workers at night on city streets - that can persuade desks to take up your story.

‘Don't send dull footage, but don't be afraid of the ordinary if it's the sort of thing news crews rarely film (e.g. a video diary of a family depending on food banks). And don't forget what sells - strong case studies, human drama, and emotion.’

How to pitch well

Andy reveals some of the key things you need to think about when pitching b-roll to journalists.

‘First and foremost, be aware of who you're pitching to, what they need and the sort of stories they cover. Also note that the Ofcom code means there are plenty of rules and restrictions on how submitted footage can be used.

‘Filmed interviews and case studies can help news desks judge the merits of a story and see how interviewees present themselves, but most editors will want to shoot their own interviews and ask their own questions.

‘You've got much more chance of a planning editor watching a two-minute film than reading a two-page press release. But their phone's probably going and someone else is shouting at them so make it simple and keep it brief,’ says Andy.

Eight tips for sharing b-roll with a journalist

Here are eight things you need to think about when pitching to a journalist with b-roll:

  1. When filming, hold each shot for 7-10 seconds. If you find you can’t stop the camera shaking then add some gentle movement. One way to do this is to very gently sway your body side to side, or to walk gently with the camera. Deliberate movement is always better than shaky shots.
  2. If you can control how wide an angle you have on your camera, try and shoot most of your shots wide (i.e. avoid too many unnecessary close ups, unless essential to your story). Wide shots can make editing a little easier for a journalist.
  3. Shoot a variety of shots to illustrate your story. They may not all be used by the journalist but at least give them the option. And try to cover all aspects of the story.
  4. Try and let the action unfold in front of you. Don’t zoom in and out trying to cover every piece of the story in one go.
  5. If filming with your smartphone, film in landscape (not portrait) i.e. film with the phone on its side.
  6. In most cases, don’t send the journalist more than five minutes of b-roll as they will appreciate you having only sent them relevant shots, and won’t appreciate having to wade through hours of footage. Send the b-roll as one file, with shots compiled together, but don’t use any artistic fades between shots. Keep each shot separate.
  7. Strip off any subtitles or added graphics from your footage. A broadcaster will only really be able to use ‘clean’ footage.
  8. Send the highest resolution footage you have, whether that’s HD or 4K using a cloud storage system such as Google Drive, WeTransfer or Dropbox. It’ll give the journalist more options. If you keep to five minutes of b-roll the file sizes should just about be manageable.

If you are looking for support with the video content you offer to journalists or haven’t started on this journey yet, Jersey Road PR can help you. Drop us a line at [email protected]

Written by Andrew Horton, Head of Content, Jersey Road PR.

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