Copywriting Suggestions for Outstanding Radio Spots & Promos

Copywriting Suggestions for Outstanding Radio Spots & Promos
Gary Begin/Sound Advantage Media

The most successful radio commercials and promos highlight pictures in words, while touching the audience emotionally. How is this accomplished in 60, 30 or even 15 second’s time? You must achieve this by combining creativity and effectiveness.
Choose a core message
Before writing, know what you want to say and why. The best questions to ask yourself are:

• Who is the recipient of this message?
Is it aimed at my entire audience, or a specific demographic?
• What is the main objective of the message?
Is it something new, enlarges recall, or triggers an immediate response?
• What is the significant USP of this message?

Why should your listeners choose this particular company, brand, product or service over another?
Possessing a Unique Selling Proposition is of significant importance. Write a list of each unique aspect that comes to your mind, and pick the one that stands out. A narrow focus will yield big results. You may combine multiple unique aspects into a single one. Make sure every word assists the core message. Let 4 people read your copy, and ask them individually what the single most important item is in your text. Unless all 4 say the same thing you intend to communicate, rewrite the copy and test it with 4 others. Once that works, record your copy, and test that with 4 more people. If required, re-write, re-record and re-test your demo until it’s flawless.

As equally important is having a single call to action. Providing listeners too many options creates ‘analysis paralysis’ and reduces the response considerably. Instead of saying: visit the New Charles Flower Shop on Main Street, call us at 1-800 CHARLES FLOWER SHOP and visit CHARLESFLOWERSHOP.COM, just choose one thing you want listeners to do immediately. Why not direct them to the website, where they can find all the details on their own.
Incorporate commanding action promoters
Ads for expensive cars are not about expensive cars. They speak to your listeners desire to improve or confirm their self-image. There tends to be a lot of psychology involved in audiences to do what you want. There are 7 action promoters:

• Anger: ‘Aren’t you terribly frustrated your money market account is worthless? Invest your hard earned money here’
• Exclusivity: ‘Show what excellent taste you have by purchasing this exclusive car.’
• Fear: ‘Don’t do anything to jeopardize your health. Take this, and you’ll feel much better.’
• Flattery: You deserve the best and to feel great. Treat yourself with this.’
• Greed: ‘Hurry to save 50 percent on our entire stock. Discount ends Saturday.’
• Guilt: ‘Don’t deny these children what yours have. Donate now.’
• Salvation: ‘Do you suffer from heartburn? This will give you relief.’

Include one in your copy, and your spot or promo will become more effective. Combine several action promoters, and the effect will be even greater: “Are you upset with your bankers? They make millions with your money, and you receive 1 cent on the dollar. Turn your back on banks, and invest your money wisely. Our new fund guarantees you a 15% return in just 5 years! But don’t miss out. This offer ends Friday. Call us now, 1-800…”
Humor is a wonderful way to add emotion and create rapport. While it easily grabs attention and engages your listeners, humor should always be used to support your main message.

• Use a conversational style

Listeners have become highly allergic to almost anything that sounds like a commercial. Make sure your in-house produced commercials and promos don’t feel like commercial advertising or hefty self-promotion. Rather than mentioning your brand or solution right away, have a real conversation with your listeners first. Try at all costs to avoid red-flag words like ‘sale’ and typical clichés that turn your audience off. Focus on listener benefits; not on you and your great product or service. “Don’t talk to me about your grass seed, talk with me regarding my lawn,” Your audience will ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ and ‘why should I listen to this?’ Your listener’s attention span is at an all-time low. Communicate your benefits right from the start or a creative way, like an opening that draws them in.
Address one person at a time by saying ‘you’ (instead of we or us), and use the same words your listeners use in everyday conversation. Reach inside the mind of your audience that reflects how they think, so you will trigger silent feedback. If they ‘don’t wish to be bald,’ why not bluntly ask: “Are you afraid of becoming bald?” in a spot that promotes a hair loss treatment. Don’t replace ‘bald’ using fancy words such as ‘depilated’ or the euphemism ‘hairless.’ Tell it the way it is.

• Tell funny persuasive stories

Engage your listeners with humor or storytelling (or both). Facts tell, stories sell! Humor is a great method to add emotion and create rapport, but never let the humor override the message. Otherwise listeners will share the story with a friend, who will laugh and say: “what was that for?,” after which they’ll go: “I don’t know, but it was funny.” You don’t actually need humor in your spots or promos. Any compelling story, where people want to hear the end, will work. But having some fun certainly can’t hurt and can be a big plus if prepared correctly. Great spots position the core message in between (or right after) the story.

• Highlight your pictures with words

Wonderful commercials and promos use storytelling on a higher level. Marketing research shows most listeners will only do something after having imagined it first and radio is the theatre of the mind! Visual copywriting engages your listeners while triggering their imagination, so the subject of the spot (like a product) is in their thoughts as a ‘mental picture.’ They see themselves driving that Mercedes! As the human brain is wired to fill those gaps between desire and reality, one day there’s a good chance they will purchase it. Here are some visual copywriting tips for radio:

• Avoid cliché openings like ‘picture this’ or ‘imagine that’ and begin with the story instead.
• Name things people can picture easily. Avoid any abstract words or expressions.
• Use active and present tense verbs in the second person (e.g. ‘you can drive this car’).
• Place a noun before adjectives; not after (e.g. ‘the water is crystal clear and blue’).
A commanding part of visualization is to let listeners see the end result of whatever you’re selling or promoting. Instead of “WXYZ gives you a chance to win 6 first-row tickets to see Lady Gaga in Rome!,” write: “ Do you want all your friends to adore you? Listen for a chance to win a trip to Rome for you and 5 friends, where you can get eye to eye with Lady Gaga, standing front row at her Rome concert. WXYZ is making you the star.”

• Get rid of the waste

It’s always impressive to win an award for the best-written commercial. It’s much better to turn an advertiser into a life-long client! Write to communicate; not to impress. Your commercials are not a website, so leave out that the company has been there since 1972 and avoid addresses and phone numbers your listeners can’t remember. Tell your client to have a site with an easy to recall address (e.g. When you practice ‘less is more’, the more your 15 second spots will be to the point the better you’ll use your 30 or 60 seconds to tell a compelling story which highlights the Unique Selling Proposition. Create your spots to have a strong beginning and end, as listeners will most likely remember those two parts.
• Broaden your creative juices

For creative output, you need input. It’s that simple. One part is attending movies, concerts and reading magazines making sure you stay in touch with current pop culture and current affairs. Another part is living life: getting married, having children and (hopefully not) getting divorced. It’s not difficult to find inspiration if you live a full life and explore many different events. In the movie “Yes Man,” actor Jim Carry commits himself for a year to just say ‘yes!’ to anything the universe is offering him; from Korean courses and guitar lessons to much more.
The advantage of possessing a wealth of skills and knowledge is you can easily associate things, and play the ‘what if’ game to make new combinations of basically unrelated existing items. What if Jim saves someone’s life because he understands Korean and plays guitar? Certainly, this question may have led to that movie scene! Use that same creativity for your radio copywriting.



Marry your Listeners

Marry your Listeners!
Build a winning franchise and increase TSL in your market.


Gary Begin
Sound Advantage Media
Jackson, TN.

Radio is an art form but also a business. Producing great radio involves both commerce and art. But more than art & business, successful radio stations are married to their listeners. When we fail to satisfy our listener’s needs and desires, we don’t meet listener expectations or revenue goals. As an industry we need to rejuvenate the creative spark in our radio product. Radio’s underlying sameness from market to market has created a homogenization in sound across the country. Our creativity has been stifled in the name of corporate profit. This is a problem, especially in small to medium markets.

In my twenty-five years experience as a Program Director and Air Personality in Large, Medium and Small markets across the country, and now as a consultant, I’ve seen great radio stations succeed because they foster a strong creative environment coupled with strong leaders who act as mentors. Station employees who tap into that well of creativity and apply it to their everyday craft, help build winning franchises. Radio works best when it connects emotionally with its listeners; just like good marriages. And satisfied listeners are good customers.

Here are a few examples of building that winning franchise and increasing TSL in your market:

The more locally focused your presentation, the greater the opportunity to serve your community with excellence. “Local” should become your new buzzword. Great stations know one of the best ways to winning an audience is having an air staff that live, love, and play in the community. Become tapped into what’s going on in your town or city, and then deliver the information in a useable and interesting form to your listeners. Communicate!

Chain stations are programmed from far away and while everyone likes the “hits”, not every market has the same interests, hobbies, spare-time activities, etc. Do you and your staff understand what your target audience interests are? Do you understand their needs and wants? Are you listening to your audience or are you vulnerable to attack from the competition? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, you are vulnerable.
“Ask yourself, as if you were the competition: “where are they the weakest? “ Fix that area ASAP. Use research to benchmark your progress and determine if you’re cutting through the clutter, and how your target audience perceives your programming

If you don’t have a web site; for shame, get one! Maintain a site where listeners can answer surveys and take part in special online-only contests. Make it fun and involve the listener often, at least twice per day part. And remember, stream, stream, stream your audio. This will allow you to pick up listeners in un-conventional ways. Do you really care where their listening as long as they’re listening? Go where your listeners are going. Today that often means the internet.

KISS (Keep It Simple…)
Great stations are simple stations. We never confuse the listener. This means not just playing the right songs, but playing them in the right order and giving your play list some expansion. On music stations, 70% or more of any given hour is music. Make sure your air staff’s comments reflect the music and image of your station.

More than just needing to be simple, we need to be consistent and stick with a well thought out game plan. Worse than not sticking with your plan, is not having a plan to begin with. Inconsistency is frequently caused by:

Lack of commitment
Lack of confidence
Too many distractions

Today’s successful stations are not produced overnight.

Don’t fail your listeners. If you are in a marriage worth saving, you go to counseling to see how to be successful again. Your radio station is no different. How do we often fail?

Lack of research
Assumptive familiarity
“Personal Favorite” of the PD or MD
To get the trip/concert/promotion
Rights Songs; Wrong Order
Someone called in a “requested song.”

The encouragement of a strong creative environment begins with a mentoring program. Successful stations are professional, forward-thinking organizations which hire and train the very best people, and find a way to keep them happy! In the new millennium, it’s a much more difficult task to find a great air staff and productive sales people. We need to bring “communications” back into the communications industry.
Successful mentoring starts with: Leadership: Delegate authority and encourage teamwork. Be different. Don’t follow conventional rules blindly. Become passionate about your projects. When management is excited and enthusiastic, a trickle down effect occurs.

Involvement: Don’t reject ideas out of hand because they seem wild, crazy, or unproven. People who are involved in a decision making process participate much more enthusiastically than those who just carry out their
Boss’s orders. Help them contribute and show them you value their opinions.

Brainstorm: Something normally thought of as a group activity, is also a great area for private problem-solving. Do it away from the station. Find a quiet place; a park, someone’s home, a friendly restaurant with private meeting rooms; any place where management and staff can feel mentally and physically comfortable to talk
Incentives/Bonuses: Showing your staff you appreciate their hard work and good ideas with bonuses or incentives helps create staff loyalty, making it difficult for competitors to lure your best people away
Ford Motor Company claims “Quality is Job #1.” We need to think of our radio product in the very same way! Most families have a family physician and dentist, an insurance agent and your favorite hair stylist. Why can’t we also have a family favorite radio station? Any radio station can become wed to it’s listeners for life. You simply need to communicate with them and the desire to always keep them happy!

Congratulations! And may you both be happy and successful together for the rest of your lives.