Okay, I just heard your collective groan. Yes, we’re talking about teases today, but don’t get all worked up! They’re not as hard as you think. No really! Stick with this series of articles, and I’ll have you writing great teases in no time. See that was a tease! You’re interested right?!
So why do we think crafting a compelling tease is so hard? Well, we’re in the business of news, right—not selling, promoting, or marketing? So, we can write a heck of a good story, but darn it, now you’re telling me I must sell that story to our viewers? Yes, that’s what I’m telling you, and you do that with a tease. Roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.
First, let’s dispel a few of the myths I just put out there. I’ve heard it often. We don’t market. That’s simply not true. Your entire show is one big sell. How so? You chose the stories to tell. Now, you’re selling them to your audience that these are the most important stories of the day they need to know about, right? How are you doing that? You’re creating compelling leads to packages. What do those do? They try to entice the viewers to watch the next 75 to 90 seconds of your newscast. You write your stories to explain the relevance to viewers. Why? So they know why you believe this story had a place in your newscast and should be important to them, and perhaps you’re even trying to get them to visit your website to find out additional information or to download your station’s APP to keep up with developments on the story.
WHAT IS A TEASE?
There are several types of teases, including topical promos, headlines, in-show teases, and so many more. For the purposes of this article, we will be talking about in-show teases. We all know about commercial breaks. It’s how we get paid. An hour-long show can have anywhere from six to eight commercial breaks. It is our responsibility as show crafters to get our audience to come back to us following the break so we can give viewers vital information. Commercial breaks are lessening in popularity, which is why services that allow you to skip them are growing in popularity. So, bringing people back on the other side of something they really didn’t care to watch is increasingly important. That is the job of the tease. But here’s the deal. As producers, our dirty, little secret, which is one of the worst kept secrets of our industry is that we hate teases. It’s like taking medicine. We hold our noses and write them fast. They are usually the last things we do after everything else we have on our plates. They are at best an afterthought and sometimes they are the first things we kill when we get heavy and need to buy ourselves some more time. They are quite literally the bane of our existence. In my more than 20 years in this business, I have only met one producer who loved doing teases. No, it’s not the person writing this article. Trust me, when I was producing, I was right there with you. I couldn’t stand to write teases. They never seemed to be exactly what I wanted, and they were way too long. No, I had to train my brain to like and appreciate them the way I do now. How did I do it? I made a little game out of it – even though it’s a serious thing. I challenged myself to figure out how to do them differently; to get better at wordplay; learning how to make them shorter; figuring out how to make them effective. I will go into exactly how I did that a little later when we talk about how to write a great tease. (That was a tease.) Now I get jazzed about them. I recently wrote the tease that drew our audience into the town hall special we were doing, and it literally took me minutes to do on my iPhone at home while I held one child in the other arm — and I loved every second of it!
WHAT IS A GOOD TEASE?
If you have watched a lot of news, and I’m going to assume that you have, and that’s why you’re reading these articles, then you’ve likely seen highly effective teases. But they are not just in news programming. Teases are everywhere. Watch any daytime talk show. When they go to commercial, they tease you about what’s coming up next. Then there are promos that run during commercial breaks for all shows. That’s a type of tease to get you to watch, let’s say prime time broadcasts. Then there are the promos that auto play during your favorite videos on your social media websites you use—maybe those are attempting to get you to click on something or visit a certain website. Teases are everywhere! They are aimed at getting you to do something.
Believe it or not, you tease every day, and you do it quite well. All I need you to do is equate that with your news writing, and we’re a go! Let me give you an example. You call your best friend and say, “A crazy thing just happened to me! You’re not going to believe it! It’s insanity! It’s going to change my whole life. Meet me for dinner after work, and I’ll tell you all about it.” How about this one a sister tells her other sibling, “My blind date was so awkward. It started out strange and just got worse and worse until it hit a whole new level of odd when we talked about what we do for a living. I’ll tell you what he said that made me excuse myself from the table and walk out. But let me start from the beginning.”
Those are teases, and they work. There’s a statement and then a guarantee. Those are the two elements an effective tease needs. Let’s dissect the two teases.
“A crazy thing just happened to me! You’re not going to believe it! It’s insanity! It’s going to change my whole life. Meet me for dinner after work, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
STATEMENT: “A crazy thing just happened to me!”
GUARANTEE: “I’ll tell you all about it.”
“My blind date was so awkward. It started out strange and just got worse and worse until it hit a whole new level of odd when we talked about what we do for a living. I’ll tell you what he said that made me excuse myself from the table and walk out. But let me start from the beginning.”
STATEMENT: “My blind date was so awkward.”
GUARANTEE: “I’ll tell you what he said that made me excuse myself from the table and walk out.”
That’s breaking a tease down to its most basic, but there are many other things an effective tease requires. Let’s look at some of those.
Writing a good tease first starts with choosing what to tease. Arguably, everything in your newscast should be tease worthy, but we all know there are certain must-run stories in the shows that don’t lend themselves well to teases. Avoid those. You have to start with something great to end up with something great. Pick something with a good story line, high level of importance, or with great visuals (which we will talk about next). Here’s a good rule of thumb. You put the story in the show, so there was something about that story that enticed you. Odds are the same thing will entice your viewer. Once you choose that amazing content, one of the biggest tasks of writing a memorable tease is complete. Now let’s move on to a feast for the eyes.
Now that you have stimulated my brain with the content, another important part of building this amazing tease is tantalizing my eyes. A great tease needs great visuals. Maybe it’s huge flames, extensive weather damage, or something that defies norms – whatever you have, use it to your advantage to capture your viewer’s attention and keep them with you through that commercial break. It also matters how you use the images. I notice some tease writers feel the need to always start with the anchor on camera and then take me to that delicious video because it’s habit or some format they’re following. BREAK FORMAT! Start with the great video. No offense to our amazing anchors, but the video is going to draw me in faster than someone reading some sort of set up to the amazing video. Just get to it. It’s also a way to keep your scripts tight. You won’t need the throw-away on camera line leading into the video.
Video isn’t the only way you can appeal to our sense of sight. Sometimes a compelling graphic can do the trick as well. Utilize your graphics departments or software and turn out something amazing. Equally as important as appealing to a viewer’s sense of sight is appealing to the ear.
We’ve all heard something that gets our attention instantly. It can be something a person said, it can be thunder, a melody, a baby crying, gunfire, a train whistle, applause, a phone ringing, tires screeching, horns blowing, demonstrators chanting, bike chains rattling, keys clanking, water rushing, bacon sizzling – the list is endless. These sounds help set the mood, the ambiance of what’s going on around us. They help take your mind places. Have you ever heard something and suddenly you were transported to another place, another time – wherever it was that you first heard that sound? What else do sounds do? They evoke feelings or even cravings. If I hear bacon sizzling on a stove, I’m instantly salivating and may just be compelled to go make some myself. Sound is powerful. If you are not using it in your teases, you are missing a major opportunity to draw your viewer or listener into your program.
I think that’s enough for this time. We have covered a lot of ground. In my next article in this series, we’ll talk about my top ten things that ruin a good tease; I share my journey to great tease writing – including a seminar that changed everything for me; and I give you my step-by-step recipe to writing amazing teases. (This whole paragraph, by the way, was a tease.)