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Making Waves in Radio

1. Start from the listener's perspective Don't start with the advertiser's name and product as in "If you're looking for the leader in shag carpets, look for Sir Shags-a-Lot." This might work if huge numbers of people suddenly got the urge for shag carpet on this particular day. But if we want to build a longer-term connection to the advertiser, we need to start with what interests the listener. What are they really looking for - aesthetics? Prestige? Comfort? Remember, people aren't buying products, they're buying solutions.

2. Stick to one chief point A radio spot isn't a print ad. You can't segment it into a bunch of vaguely related offers. You will whipsaw your listener back and forth until they can't remember anything. You can't start with the shag rug speech and then suddenly switch to window blinds. If you want to talk about blinds. create another spot and rotate it into your schedule.

3. Don't try to cram in too much copy Don't try to squeeze so much copy into 60 seconds that both the announcer and the listener are gasping for breath. Ideas need to breathe, too. So much so that you may even consider providing a few places for the announcer to pause and say (gasp!) nothing. This serves as a kind of subhead to point number one, the listener's perspective.

4. Communicate benefits, rather than features Make the features relevant by solidly linking them to benefits. Almost any benefit hill beat almost any feature. Because benefits, not features, are what people are really buying.

5. Show, rather than tell This pointer applies especially to the areas of "quality," "value," "trust" and other abstract concepts. Your listeners want proof, not promises. What will the product do? How long will it last; What makes it better: In short, the attributes of a product are not defined by adjectives, but by performance.

6. Write simply, clearly, briefly Since your audience isn't going to read what you write, you have to make sure your copy sounds good. That means short sentences. Few adjectives and adverbs. Powerful picture words. Dynamic action words. A good radio spot is like a good conversation. And isn't a conversation exactly what you'd like to have with your prospect?

7. Don't shout Never mind what car dealers and appliance retailers do. Don't shout. People don't like it. In fact. Ave suspect that if we all made a habit of shouting at car dealers, they might finally get the message. And never mind if some car dealer says shouting works. It's probably in spite of the shouting that he sells cars.

8. Make it clear who the advertiser is After you've established that you understand what your prospect needs, make sure the listener knows the name of the company who's responsible for providing the answer. How often to include the advertiser's name: We think the sane approach is: whenever it's appropriate and unforced as a natural expression of the ad's message.

9. Be helpful Ask yourself as you write, "Is this helping the listener to get the message? Make sure that in your cleverness you don't forget to organize your copy to get the listener safely through the message so they can take appropriate action.

10. Make a call to action Don't forget to give your listener a course of action. It could be to phone, to stop by or simply to remember you if they're not currently in the market.

Former Detroiter Jim Conlon is co-owner of Radio Works in Houston and co-author of "Radio Advertising 101.5, A Step-By-Step Guide To Creating Better Radio Advertising."

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