So you want to be a radio advertising copywriter?

Really!? Don’t do it.

What? You still want to take this up as a career? Writing radio commercials? OK, I’m guessing you’re probably dreaming of writing a Movie, a Sitcom, a novel or a children’s book. That’s what many of the radio copywriters I know have gone on to do, or were using their radio advertising job to give them income while they did this. Some of them very successfully.

I don’t have the talent in any of those areas…. But I can give you one or two tips to getting a job as a radio advertising copywriter at a radio station. (that being the best place to sharpen your skills), because I have interviewed dozens of candidates and sifted through thousands of CVs.) I’m not placed to tell you how to get a job at an Advertising Agency….

1. Surprise me with your application letter. I have seen so many boring and dull application letters from people trying to get jobs in radio stations. My first application letter was in the form of a rejection letter. It got noticed! Tell me about yourself and why you would be great at the job. It doesn’t HAVE to be a letter. Surprise me to get noticed.

2. Surprise me with your CV… in the interests section tell me more about yourself, interests, achievements and not just “socializing” which to me says the limit to your life is going out and partying on a Friday and sleeping it off over the weekend.

3. Even if you DO want to be a radio presenter, don’t say so in the interview. I want people who want to be copywriters… not people who want to “get in to radio”.

Writing Tests

Many stations do a writing test… they give you a brief and see what you can come up with. If this is your first job you’re not expected to know everything there is to know about writing ads. But try and think a bit more “out of the box”. We used to have a brief for blood donation, and the number of people who thought it was a good idea to use Dracula as the voice would amaze you. Not creative, a bad idea and a clichéd execution. Have fun with them but be ready to defend every word written.

The right amount of confidence

Defend your ideas to a point! Your interviewer will want to see you know why you’ve written something the way you have and that you can give the reasons clearly.

If it’s a fair point, then accept it. Most stations are looking for copywriters who can accept criticism. If you can’t take your scripts being messed with, altered, rewritten and pulled to pieces by someone who has never written a radio commercial in his life but because he’s been selling used cars of waste ground for 6 month he thinks he’s a marketing guru… (Oops…. Did that sound bitter? I’ve got NO IDEA where that came from!) then this job is not for you!
If you feel there’s a reason why it shouldn’t be changed, explain why… cool and clearly.
If there’s a tip I can give you in an interview it’s be interested. Ask questions about the job, how it works, the relationship with sales, how often you go on sales calls, what on the job training they offer etc. But as for the salary, be warned that most stations don’t pay big salaries for copywriters. What you need to do is make yourself invaluable to the station… so if you left they would be in deep trouble. Then they will throw money at you to stay.

Getting the Interview

How do you get an interview?

• Find out where jobs are advertised (for example in the UK and are good places to begin looking)

• Be creative, but don’t be a pain in the neck.

• Identify the people who are in charge… those responsible for hiring. (And if they ARE hiring)
• Make your CV interesting.

• Make your Application letter creative.

• Keep at it! For every 15 applications you send you may only get 1 response. Be resilient!

• Look for the people you want to work for! Who are the big names, the people with a reputation that you would learn from quickly? I was so fortunate to work under and alongside the likes of Dan McCurdy, Mike Bersin, Paul Renhard, Graham Elliott, Roger Harvey, Ali Booth, Cindy George & Paul Carter very early in my career. And later on with people like Tracey Reed and Tim Nice and great copywriters and producers at GWR. All people that I learned a great deal from… either from conversation or looking at the ways they handled a brief and presented to a client.

Hope that gives you a start!

A copywriter

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Let Your Staff Know

One day God was sitting when an Angel came up to him. “God, you’ve created all these wonderful things, but the guys down stairs would like to have a go… we’ve formed a committee… and we think we can do a pretty good job.” For the next week God could hear all the arguments and discussions coming from the board room… until he was finally presented with the results… “What is heaven’s name is THAT!?” He asked. “That…. Is a platypus!”


The shop assistant looked back at me blankly over the counter. He was doing his best impression of a goldfish. I was there because of the special offer on a mobile phone. Free in car charger, hands free kit and leather case. The problem was that the owner of the shop had not communicated any of their current campaign with anyone on the shop floor. The manager said it had been discussed, but no decision had been made. The owner had actually started running radio ads on the local station, but the shop did not even have the radio station playing in the store! No communication and a lot of red faces.

If you’re doing any radio advertising campaign… no ANY advertising campaign… it is essential that all your staff are briefed and know how to respond to a customer. It’s a good idea to play the radio commercials to your staff. But this is the moment to warn them, you are not looking for opinions. You’re not interested if your staff likes them or doesn’t like them. In all likely hood your staff are not the target audience for your product. You are letting them know what is going out on air. If you allow your staff to make changes, give opinions, make their opinions on the script you will end up with a platypus script. I have even had one client who would get the opinion of his 7 year old child before he ran a commercial… he was selling window frames, not even a product aimed at children. Not the actions of a smart marketeer.

Your emplotees opinions may count, you need the experience of your people at the sharp end, but at a much earlier stage of the creative, and in the overall creative collective brain of your business.

Remember, you staff need to know what’s happening with your advertising.

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Retail Sales Staff

Recruitment on Radio

My friend Ian loves his job. He is good at it. He’s dedicated. He’s also very happy in his current position. Ian does not look at the recruitment pages. Why would he? He’s not looking for a job. But one day he heard a radio commercial. The radio commercial was a recruitment ad for a rival company. They were looking for people just like him… and were offering some better conditions than his current employers and a chance to progress. For him it wasn’t about the pay, it was about the opportunity to develop his career. He was not looking to move…. but he was given a good reason to rethink.

For recruitment, radio reaches people who are not necessarily wanting to change jobs, but would move if they were given a good reason. Frankly, most of the people who scour the recruitment pages of magazines or website are people who are either dissatisfied and de-motivated in their current position, about to leave their current job for whatever reason, or are not yet qualified job seekers that will apply for any job in the hope they can bluff their way through the interview.
Radio will work well with your newspaper recruitment ads… the newspaper can give all the details and the application process… radio will reach people who are happy and motivated. These are much more desirable staff.

There are a few things to remember with recruitment advertising on the radio. Just like a product ad campaign, think clearly about how you want people to respond. Concentrate on 1 point of contact… if it’s to email a CV make sure it’s a “Radio Friendly” email address. Give the listener a really good reason to respond. With radio it’s worth spending a bit of time to ensure you only get the right kind of applicants. It’s better to have 6 applications qualified for a position, than 100 with only 1 suitable candidate. Don’t try to sell the whole job in your radio ad…. leave a bit of space and curiosity.

Also, you need to sound like someone who people want to work for. Formal language announcements on radio may have been fine 20 years ago, now you need to speak to people in a language they respond to. Government bodies are particulary bad at trying to make a job sound important by using language no one uses. Talk to the individual you are trying to recruit.

Radio recruitment advertising is very powerful.

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