Three Things That Can Make Your PROMO Writing Great ... Or Greater!
May 31, 2016
Writing for radio is a gift, a talent, a skill, and one that I didn't know I even had until I worked for Dave Richards at WRX in Westerly, RI, smack dab in between the Providence RI and New London/Groton/Long Point CT markets in the late 80's, early 90's.
Dave cared about the on-air product, therefore, not a liner went into the studio without his eyes seeing it. At first he'd change all of them, but as time went on, he'd change less and less, and eventually, he'd make small corrections while he was on-air, doing his shift, as the corrections were few.
He had successfully trained me to write for the jock, so that in a mad scramble, if a jock needed to read a liner verbatim, at least ours were written so it wouldn't have to sound that way.
And yes, the whole reason for the liner was to inspire the jock to put the whole thing into their own words, from the advantage point of their own personal lens; their life.
DAVE RICHARDS IS A GOD, LOWERCASED THOUGH a god
In hearing radio week to week from coast to coast, there are three easily correctable things that are common missteps market to market and station to station, some simply because of a lack of time, which is never an excuse, but the reality of the world we live in, but some because like a jock who gets crutches in his or her language or daily speech, we often find our writing in a land of crutch phrases as well.
I have outlined three quick points to make it all better, and make the bad go away, quickly replaced by the freshness of new ideas.
1. We Shouldn't Tell Our Audience What We WANT Them To Have or To Do!
Many Promos start with this phrase, "WXYZ WANTS YOU TO..." followed by get in free to a movie, concert, win a boat, a car, a cruise, get a pedicure, etc...but the phrasing is off, because it shouldn't be about US ever. It should definitely NOT be about what WE WANT for THEM.
Instead, we have to shift this promo from our perspective to their perspective to better entice them to listen, and truly desire what is being offered. Often this may mean NOT using your Call Letters or Identifier right off the bat.
GIRLS IN BIKINIS ON BOATS
For example, let's say that this summer one of your listeners can win the use of any boat they want, any day, weekday or weekend, through a local boat club. (They do have these, in many towns and cities: a club where you pay a down payment to join the club, then a recurring monthly fee, your dues.) But in this case, a winner WINS this opportunity with none of the payments.
As I write this, I would encourage you to actually get this prize. As I'm gearing up to give the example, I'm realizing what a great prize it really is.
Let's not say, "WXYZ wants you to win the use of a boat on Lake Nasty Wake all this summer..."
Instead, build the picture first, then get the credit...
"THERE GOES KYLIE AGAIN, BACK AND FORTH ON THAT SKI BOAT LOADED WITH FRIENDS, TUBING, KNEE BOARDING, SKIING AND SOMETIMES THEY JUST DRIFT OUT THERE LAUGHING; PARTYING TIL DUSK...AND UNTIL NOW, YOU'VE HAD TO WITNESS ALL OF THIS...FROM THE SHORE
"BUT NOT THIS SUMMER, BECAUSE WXYZ HAS ACCESS TO ALL OF THE BOATS AT PINHEAD MARINA, AND WHEN YOU WIN THIS WEEKEND, WE'LL HAND YOU THE KEYS TO ALL OF THEM, SKI BOATS, FISHING BOATS, PONTOONS WHENEVER YOU WANT'EM, ALL SUMMER LONG, WEEKDAYS, WEEKENDS, WEEKNIGHTS...AND UNLIKE KYLIE AND HER FRIENDS, YOU DON'T CLEAN THE BOAT WHEN YOU'RE DONE...WE DO!
SO, THIS SUMMER LIVE IT UP ON LAKE NASTY WAKE, AND TELL KYLIE HEY, FROM YOUR FRIENDS AT WXYZ!
THE WANTED BROKE UP FOR A REASON
Now, I know there's no inclusion of how to win, but that's not the point of this, but to simply get away from WANTING THINGS FOR YOUR LISTENER. They don't want you to want for them.
2. Writing in Present Tense Creates Stronger Copy, Even For Future Events!
Words like, "is coming, will be here, before you know it" and anything that alludes to the event NOT being now, is actually hurting the events potential, because Present Tense writing forces urgency.
For example, "Justin Timberlake is coming August 18th."
If you're in a situation where you have stock in the actual show, then this type of verbiage will definitely work against you. If it's Justin Timberlake, then you can use any word you want, even if its not proper grammar, because, Justin will sell out, but in this case, he's just the example.
In New York at CBS Top 40, when it was 92-3 NOW, we'd have shows with Jay Sean and T-Pain and Flo Rida and we could map the difference that verbiage made, when consistent phrasing in the Present Tense would actually get tickets moving, long before the date of the show, and selling out was always the goal.
AND YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE TENSE NOW
But it doesn't have to be about a show that you have stock in. It could be about tickets you're giving away, or a movie, or anything else.
Using Present Tense adds power to the phrase along with urgency, "Justin Timberlake IS HERE August 18th!"
3. Update Events As The Date Gets Closer
The first sign that I can probably beat my competition is if I hear them running spots, promos or any copy that has a date on it, that isn't updated to the actual day, or is old copy still running. This means somebody isn't listening to their own radio station, or they simply don't care about the overall quality of what is coming out of the speakers.
If the promo says, "Friday June 10th, you're getting paid..." But today is June 9th, then that's a bad promo. It is simple to update promos...
"Next Friday June 10th, you're getting paid..."
"This Friday, you're getting paid..."
"Tomorrow afternoon, you're getting paid..."
All of these updates can be made at the time the promo is first written, and they can be produced and dated and put in the system for the proper dates of when they need to execute to make the most sense.
This includes commercials. The Program Director may say that is not their domain, but if it comes out of the speakers, it is their domain, and with a little work, even your station's clients will appreciate the extra updated efforts....especially when the competitors don't think that way.