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Six Pointers for Writing Radio Promos and Imaging

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Sometimes, I sit in my chair with a full cup of coffee, a cleared desk and a blank Word .doc page staring back at me waiting for station imaging to flow out of me like dirty water from a fire hose.

I sit.

I stare.

I check email.

I refresh Twitter. Just in case.

I end up writing something predictable, pedestrian, and yet somehow entirely acceptable and often times complimented by the radio station. We’ve all done this no?

Writing great production and imaging is hard. First off, “great” is debatable. Does great mean reflective of the brand promise? Does great mean encouraging listeners to take action? Does great mean you were able to fit 43 seconds of sales copy into a 30 second promo? Great is debatable.

Aside from that, it’s also hard because radio folk have come to expect a certain sound and style and anything too far off the ranch is quickly stamped out. (Raise your hand if you or your station is still using Star Wars laser sound effects.)

And it’s hard to capture a moment, an emotion, tell a story that resonates with the listener while selling them something (music, a benchmark, a contest, the news) that they didn’t know they wanted. Over the years my style has changed and evolved, as I assume yours has. Here are six of the most recent pointers I’ve picked up from various sources. Please share yours too..

SIX POINTERS FOR WRITING PROMOS and IMAGING

TIMING:  :60s are dead. :30s are tired. :05s to :20s are where it’s at. The caveat! If you’re doing a :30 or :60 chunk it up in sections so you’re delivering one message or thought every :10 or :15 seconds. So, instead of one :60, think of it as four :15s.

TELL A STORY: People won’t buy what you’re selling until they can see themselves benefiting from it. Create a world for them to imagine.

NEVER SAY “IMAGINE THIS”: While creating that world leave our phrases like “imagine this” and “picture yourself.” Just take them there. Create the world you want them to play in.

Golden CirclePEOPLE DON’T BUY WHAT YOU DO, THEY BUY WHY YOU DO IT: This is from a popular Ted Talk from Simon Sinek. The idea here is don’t sell me 10 songs in a row, sell me the experience of zoning out to some killer tunes for the next half hour while the guy in the cubicle next to me refreshes his email every 30 seconds. I don’t care how many songs in a row you play, I want an uninterupted listening experience to bliss out to because it relaxes me, makes more productive, and makes me happy.

SWEET NOTHING: Being an audio medium, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do in production is nothing. Include silence in your promo. Stop everything for one beat longer than is comfortable.

TREAT WORDS LIKE WEEDS – CUT ‘EM DOWN: I like to write my script out completely and then chop it in half. And then chop it in half again. I look for extraneous words and phrases. Every word counts. Every word reflects the brand. It’s the difference between a “chauffeured limousine” or “a limo to haul you around” or “transportation included” or *delete* you can read about that part on the website.

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