Radio Advertising and Social Media

I’ve noticed an increasing trend with briefs for radio advertising and commercials getting to air. Clients are trying to get plugged in to social media and want people to “follow” or “like” them on Facebook… or to follow them on Twitter and employ various hashtags to do so.

I have no objections to this, but I do have some questions and words of caution for those advertisers.

1. What is the OBJECTIVE of your advertising? What do you want people to DO?

If the objective is to get more people to follow you on Facebook, OK, that’s fair enough. But if your objective is to get people to do business with you, to buy your product or service, why are you sending them to social media? Sending them from an advert… to another advert. Why aren’t you inviting them to your premises… or the e-commerce website where they can buy the product or service from you?

2. Why should I “like” you?

Social Media Landing Page DesignerOne of the things I’m constantly reminded of in all the Radio Advertising training I’ve done over the years is that people really don’t care about your company, even your product or service, what they care about is their need at the time, and how your product or service answers that need. Advertisers are too close to their product and believe the mission statements their company drills into their heads about the core values and the mission statements. It might give THEM a warm fuzzy feeling. But Joe Public really isn’t that bothered. Of the 500 people that may “like” your page, of the few hundred thousand that the radio station reaches… how many will buy from you? Have you given them a good reason. I wont “like” you… I’m not that emotionally invested. But I might BUY something from you.

3. Are you willing to open up the conversation?

Twitter and Facebook are double edged swords. If your business is not doing great customer service the conversation will reflect that. Travelocity is where I go before booking a holiday or visiting a restaurant, and I take note of the reviews and weigh my options. So be careful how you use social media. The boss from a scuba diving company I work for is brilliant at handling the very rare negative reviews he gets on Travelocity. He acknowledges the complaint and he describes what steps he’s taking to rectify and legitimate concerns. If you’re willing to take the good as well as the bad, to be actively engaged on social media, then great… go right ahead.

4. Are you adding value to people’s lives

I did some work for a butchery in the UK and they have a Facebook page. It’s great! Packed full of useful ideas for recipes and with their latest offers. They add value and if I was close to their outlets I would probably “follow” them. But for their radio advertising we did not mention Facebook… the objective was to bring people in to the shops because of the very good deal they were doing on a pack of meat for the BBQ. Again it came down to the desired result of their advertising. It was not to add a thousand Facebook followers… it was to move meat off the shelves.

5. How are you using Radio and Social Media together?

Does this contradict what I’ve said before? I don’t think so. If you have special offers on the radio, make sure they’re on your Facebook page as well, and the landing page of your website (I don’t want to click around to find a special offer, it should be there when I arrive… thank goodness people have generally stopped using flash landing pages!!). People will find you! You MUST make sure you’re EASY to find. People will be looking for you after you’ve advertised on the radio, but STILL your first objective is to get them to do business with you.

I listen to radio whilst using my tablet. I hear something I’m interested in I may Google it, so be prepared. Let the chatter bring in more people. But please, please, consider first what you want your radio advertising to achieve.

So you want to be a Voice Over?

The way I was trained to present radio commercials to clients was to voice them down the phone…. Or in a meeting face to face. I normally tell them, “Look, I’ve not a voice over artist, we will use a professional, this is just to give you an idea of how it will sound. This particular client was down the phone. It was a Tommy Vance style read. I had the particular VO (Voice Over) in mind and he would do an amazing job. After presenting the client said “I want YOU to voice my ad.” I spluttered, excused myself, told him about the voice I wanted to do the ad… but still he insisted. I still have copies of the two ads I voiced and it reminds me of the nightmare.

Many people think it’s easy. You just speak into the microphone…. Surely!?

The reason I was so reluctant to voice the ad is that I know how amazingly talented the VOs are. It’s not JUST about having a great voice. This is from MY point of view as a writer and producer, not as a VO, maybe some VO readers of this can add their advice. To be a great and well used voice over you have to demonstrate the following qualities.

Be able to read

You need to be able to take in the words from the page and interpret them quickly in your mind. You need to be able to understand and believe what you’re saying. And you need to make it sound like it’s not being read, especially if you are the character voice in a script. Read the script and comprehend what you will be saying.

Be able to read out loud.

You need to project without it sounding like an effort. It needs to sound clear and crisp. But It’s not stage acting. It’s closer and more intimate. Some famous stage actors make terrible voice overs or radio actors because they try to project to the back of the theatre. Radio is a different voice skill. Especially for announcer reads, every word must be clear… especially the client’s name.

Be versatile.

One day you may be a talking eyeball, the next moment a child’s voice, the very next script you will be the voice of the company in your suit and tie (not actually in a suit and tie, but you know what I mean). For this you need acting skills and versatility. I remember a VO friend of mine doing an agency session in London was asked if he could do a ladies voice. He gave his best Mrs Doubtfire effort. The sushi ordering, pims pickled agency director said “I’m sorry, you sound like a man, trying to sound like a woman.” He replied… “But I AM a man, trying to sound like a woman.” Lesson to agency, if you want a woman voice over, book one!

Be able to interpret a script.

The first read give your script the life you think it should have after being briefed by the producer or writer. If they want changes they will tell you!

Be able to take directions

I may want a word said differently, or emphasis on a sentence, or the client’s name given more prominence. You need to be able to remember these changes for your next take on the script. (you can make notes or marks on your copy of the script)

Be able to deliver take after take

In a session at a radio station in Leeds where I used to work the poor voice did 32 takes of a script. The agency producer gave very little direction so the VO was not clear on what he needed to do different or better. The VO kept delivering, time after time. It was like seeing a marathon runner going through the pain barrier and keeping going. Then the agency producer said… “That’s fine… I think we’ll go with the second take…” which leads on to my next point..

Have the patience of a saint.

The VO smiled, put the script down and went home to prepare his invoice. Years later he can laugh about it. (but not at the time). Giving your best and getting messed around is parr for the course. You will suffer endless retakes, re reads… and the other pain in the neck… clients that take months to pay you. Be prepared for it and try to keep a smile on your face. I know of a voice over artist who doesn’t get work from a company I used to work for. Not because he’s not talented, but because he is a constant complainer… and the poor producers have no control over what he’s complaining about. They would rather work with friendly people!

Be helpful but not pedantic

Not all writers are as good at English as what I am. We all make spelling mistakes. We all become word blind on scripts. Sometimes these errors are picked up by the VO. That’s great, if you point them out we can correct. But there are small things which don’t need pointing out. Just grin and bear. (I hate the misuse of their, there and they’re… as a manager I will point it out to staff who misuse, but if I have to voice something I will just make my own correction and carry on). And remember that scripts are for the spoken word, not always for correct grammar.

If you still want to be a VO, remember that like being a musician you CAN make a living from it, but only a handful make a good living out of it. With modern technology it’s becoming very competitive. If you want to have a try contact your local station and ask them if they do Voice tests. You can also find some good Voice Over classes around, from some of the world’s top VO Artists like Peter Dickson and Emma Clarke. Keep an eye out for details!
Happy Voicing!

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People Just Don’t Care

I was at a conference last week. There were a lot of great speakers and presentations, mainly about media and social networking. It wasn’t revolutionary for me, but it brought up a few issues that made me think about radio, and of course my personal passion that is radio advertising. One of the useful tools they showed us was At this website you can put in key words and see who is talking about what. Of course I put in “radio advertising”. What I discovered was a few professionals I hadn’t connected with, a few individuals talking about ads they liked, and a few people ranting about how much they HATE radio advertising.

It’s interesting to find people with polar passions, but the majority of people just don’t express an opinion. When you’re in the business you think the listener should be interested in DAB, in the radio station’s website, in the fact that you’ve won a Sony Award, a New York Festival Award or an Aquiva Gong. But people care about radio, like they care about their toaster.

A Toaster (Bothered?)

What people WANT is the piping hot and buttery serving of entertainment and the tasty spread of news and information. They are not bothered HOW it’s delivered (why should I get a digital radio when my FM set works just fine?) And for local radio it seems like they don’t really mind where it comes from (according to the latest RAJAR statistics the centralized and homogenized radio groups are doing very well and gaining audience.. their Local FM Brand doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to a few radio enthusiasts bemoaning on bulletin boards ). They don’t want ads that get in the way of their entertainment but will tolerate a certain degree of interruption because they understand that it’s the price to hear their favourite song, or a traffic update. Unlike me, the listener does not TURN UP the radio when an ad break comes along.

Or do they?

It’s the job of the advertising to reach those people who’s problems can be solved by your product or service. That problem can be a small one like “I don’t know where to take my partner for dinner at the weekend” to big ones like “I’m drowning in debt and I don’t know where to turn”

The way to get people to turn up, or at least to tune in, is to talk to them in a way that relates to their lives. Explain the problem with empathy, and give a clear solution. What do you want me to do? Why Should I?

People don’t CARE about your business… but they may care about what your business or service can do to help them in their every day lives. Why should they care if you’ve been in business for 120 years. Why should they care if you have 100 outlets (they MAY care that there is one convenient for them) they probably don’t even care that you have a wesite, facebook page or twitter address.
When you advertise, take a step out of your little world… and try to think why people should do business with you.

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