Fine Tune Your Radio Copywriting Skills – James Rada Jr.

While most towns nowadays have only one newspaper, they will generally have multiple radio stations. For a writer, this means multiple opportunities to write spots for radio salespeople who want effective ads for their clients.

Radio has been called “The Theater of the Mind.” Written correctly, a radio spot can convey vivid imagery that would be too expensive for some companies to pay for in a television commercial.

Radio also has its disadvantages, which must be worked around when writing a radio spot. Because of the large number of radio stations with various niches (rock, country, talk, news, etc.), the audience is very fragmented. Advertisers might have to advertise on a number of different stations to reach their total market. Also, clutter from too many commercials lessens the impact of your spot.

Radio’s biggest disadvantage, though, is that it is used as background noise. This means consumers may hear your commercial but might not actually listen to it. And those people that hear your commercial view it as an interruption of their program or music.

If you’re going to write a radio spot, here are some tips for making your spot stand out from the crowd.

  • Stress a benefit to the listener. Give the customer a reason to buy the product. Don’t Say: Macy’s has new fall fashions. Say: Macy’s fall fashions make you look better.
  • Grab the listener’s attention. Radio allows you to use a wide range of sound effects. I once combined the sounds of a car and a briefcase opening and closing to create an image of a small car that was being folded up and put into the briefcase!
  • Zero in on your audience. If you know who you’re selling to, radio’s fragmentation can be used to attract the right audience. For instance, because of the general age of the audience of a rock station, it doesn’t make much sense for AARP to advertise on it. If you have ever heard ads that start with a line like, “Allergy sufferers, now there is relief from your hay fever” or “If you’re concerned about your family’s well being, you want to keep them healthy”, both of these opening statements immediately target their audience (allergy sufferers and concerned parents).
  • Keep the copy simple and to the point. “To be or not to be” may be the best-known phrase in the English language, yet the longest word in the phrase is three letters. Big words don’t impress people, but they may confuse them.
  • Sell early and often. At most, you’ve got 60 seconds to convince the customer to use the product or service. Use all of those seconds for your client’s benefit. Stress one point and do it frequently. Don’t try and sell a great deal, the reputation of the company, and the quality of the product in a single spot. You’ll dilute the power of the message.
  • Write conversationally. Radio is personal. It allows customers to feel you are sitting beside them in the car talking just to them like a friend would. Read the copy out loud to see if sounds friendly or stilted.
  • Use positive action words. Words like “now” and “today” urge action and are particularly useful when advertising a sale. “Drive by Anderson’s Hardware today to take advantage of our anniversary sale.” Radio has a quality of urgency and immediacy. Take advantage of them.
  • Put the listener in the picture. Writing for “The Theater of the Mind” means you don’t have to talk about a new car. Revving engines, the squeal of tires on a turn, and dramatic music will put the listener behind the wheel.
  • Mention the client often. Also, make sure listeners know where the advertiser is located. If the address is complicated, use landmarks to get them there.

Radio copywriting can prove to be a steady source of income for you. It’s not unheard of to earn $50 for a one-page radio script, which represents a one-minute radio spot. Though it won’t get your name out in front of an audience, it will help pad your bank account.

James Rada, Jr. is an award-winning copywriter living in Gettysburg, PA. He has written radio spots and other marketing materials for a number of regional and national clients. His web site is located at