Key points for radio scriptwriting

A typical local radio station reaches tens of thousands of listeners in their home, car or place of work, yet is often overlooked as part of the marketing mix despite the fact that it is arguably the most cost effective medium there is.

Radio advertising is unique because most people are listening to it whilst engaged in other activities, such as household chores, DIY or even their job. That’s why, from a copywriter’s point of view, radio ads have to work differently to TV commercials. With television you have an engaged audience (assuming they haven’t gone to make a cup of tea), whereas with radio it’s all too easy for the listener to turn off mentally if an ad is at all confusing, boring or aggressive.

So one of my first rules of radio advertising is Keep It Simple. This starts with the marketing message which should be relentlessly single minded. Avoid the temptation to stuff your ads with ancillary propositions, no matter how tempting and important you think they are. We’ve all heard those gabbling commercials that throw about six different product features at you in the space of 30 seconds.

Then there’s the creative approach. As a freelance copywriter I’m very much of the opinion that radio commercials should generally have time to ‘breathe’. Relaxed and confident will almost always be more effective than shouty and urgent, even when it’s a time-critical offer-based ad. It’s amazing what you can achieve using just a voice or two and simple sound effects or music. The real test of creativity in copywriting is not how clever it is but how it engages and communicates.

Once the script is approved, the commercial needs to be recorded at a professional production house or radio station. Just like a TV ad, the radio script is very dependent on the quality of its production. It’s always worth spending time finding the voice or voices that are exactly right for the concept. You’d probably be surprised at how little some well-known actors will charge to voice your radio ad, and their professionalism and the quality of their voice can make all the difference.

It’s true that radio isn’t right for every product or service, but for many it offers a superb combination of local presence, wide audience reach, affordability and the opportunity for sales-winning creativity.