Audio news releases
Audio news releases (ANRs) are sponsored pre-packaged "news" stories provided to radio stations. ANRs may be simply the audio component of a video news release or from a satellite media tour, or can be tailor made. On its website, one company outlines that it "will prepare a script, record the necessary soundbites, and then have the script professionally voiced. We will then produce and edit the ANR into a final mixed cut, and after approval from our client, distribute it to radio stations throughout the country." 
PR Firms Offering ANRs
In its 2005 annual report, Medialink Worldwide stated that "audio news releases are similar to video news releases, but are targeted to radio stations. Radio stations make editorial decisions on the use of this content and we provide guaranteed placement options through the direct purchase of media time."  (Pdf)
Do ANR's Work in the Biggest Markets?
A PR Week magazine "Toolbox Report" from August 20, 2007 addressed this issue in an interview with Strauss Radio Strategies, Inc.: Typically, if you are trying to reach listeners of major-market radio stations, ANRs are not the proper news vehicle, says Richard Strauss, president of Strauss Radio Strategies.
Most major-market stations - with the exception of some specialty-radio outlets (i.e. African-American, Spanish-language, etc.) - will not accept ANRs as a general rule, no matter how compelling the topic may be, he notes. Radio Media Tours are a more effective way to reach top-ranked and top-market radio stations.
That said, if there is a desire to reach these stations, it is possible to do so through "guaranteed placement." This is a situation where a PR firm or entity establishes an official relationship with a national radio network for distributing ANRs to its affiliates - some of which may be located in major markets.
"While distributing ANRs to major-market radio can be challenging, far greater success can be realized if the ANR focuses on a campaign, product, or client targeting listeners in medium and small-sized markets," Strauss explains. These stations accept and use ANRs, and if guaranteed- placement relationships are secured with state radio networks, that can be an even better way to ensure wide-spread distribution." 
"Guaranteed Placement" ANRs
In its "PR Toolbox" section, PR Week answers the question, "What is the difference between a guaranteed-placement ANR (audio news release) and a traditional one?" According to Maury Tobin of Tobin Communications, "Research indicates that most radio stations do not use ANRs." 
PR Week explains, "Some vendors offer guaranteed-placement ANRs -- or Sponsored Radio Features (SRFs). ... Unlike a traditional ANR, a guaranteed-placement one is certain to air because advertising time is purchased." Tobin adds that his firm "includes an indentification of the organization sponsoring the piece," for guaranteed-placement ANRs. "This is clear: Guaranteed-placement ANRs or SRFs would not exist if radio stations really ran traditional ANRs." 
In a December 2006 PR Week "PR Toolbox" column, Christopher Sweet of VNR-1 Communications offered some helpful hints for placing ANRs. "The use of guaranteed airings has become an attractive option for clients," said Sweet. With "guaranteed airings," he explained, "spot time is purchased, but the ANR airs in its entirety during a prime-time news segment. The result is an airing which is sufficiently embedded in news programming and garners all the potential audience numbers the network of choice has to offer." Sweet suggested that interested companies hire "broadcast PR vendors with strong radio-network relationships" to find a "guaranteed airings system that suits your concept and budget." Neither Sweet nor PR Week mentioned listeners' right to know that such segments are sponsored PR material. 
Better Messaging Through ANRs
In June 2006 Lynn Harris Medcalf, Executive Vice-President of News Generation told PR Week that "ANRs have a quick turnaround time, about 24 hours or less if necessary. A radio media tour usually takes around 10 business days for an optimum lineup." 
Kate Corcoran, an account executive at Articulate Communications, told PR Week that one of the benefits of ANR's that run to a 60-second script compared to radio media tours, is control. "This allows the message to be delivered in the exact way the company chooses. With RMTs, you take a bit more of a gamble. Naturally, some interviews will go very well, and the client's message will be loud and clear, but with other interviews, the message may be a bit more muffled," she said. 
In a summary box, PR Week noted that one of the downsides of radio media tours "reporters can get off track or guide the interview in other directions." 
- "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Spin of the Day, April 27, 2005, from the "PR Toolbox" of PR Week magazine on how to make ANRs in a way that avoids "the recent controversy that's surrounded video news releases."
- Karen Ravn, "Media's integrity on line more than ever," Monterey County Herald (California), May 21, 2005.
- "Media relations tips, options for ANR placement, and more", PR Week May 22, 2006. (sub req'd)
- Celeste Altus, "ANRs offer short, simple way to keep message on track", PR Week, June 29, 2006. (sub req'd)
- Lisa LaMotta, "Reaching Gen-Y via blogs, ANR placements, more," PR Week (sub req'd), December 12, 2006.