Copywriting for 2017

This year’s Presidential Election had many surprising results, but one of our takeaways has been how communication has changed. The two primary candidates credited with the greatest populist appeal stood out because they both spoke differently than the other candidates. One is now President-Elect, in part because his messages penetrated the consciousness of a sizable portion of the electorate. His speech stood out.

What does this have to do with the business of running radio stations today? If you’re still writing promo copy the way you were just a few years ago, it’s time for an update. Just as we’ve become immune to the turns of phrase in political speeches, the ears of too many listeners have become immune to the turns of phrase in radio promos.

It’s natural. Today’s workforce across this country features fewer people doing more work – and it’s the same in radio. Those who write promos have less time to think about how to stand out; how to break away from the pack. When everything sounds the same, nothing stands out – and, in turn, nothing gets noticed.

We’ve heard promos in the past few weeks from around the country, including one that described contest entry being “as easy as” a list of six different actions and four specific times of day to play their game – all in hopes of winning a prize with no more description that it was from a local mall. Another promo used the line, “all you have to do to win,” followed by only four actions contestants would need to take. At a time when people feel busier than ever, these multi-step entry mechanisms are very tall orders.

As a business, we need to work harder to make our messages interesting and relatable (and make participating in our contests accessible). It’s difficult. If you hear your station voiceover person’s cadence and intonation in your head when you’re writing promos, it’s hard to write things that sound different. When you’ve been writing promos for years, it’s hard to write things new ways. When there are a dozen more urgent priorities pressing on your time, it’s almost impossible to do anything new and different.

Here’s a modest suggestion. Write the next promos the way you always do. Then, find a few people inside your station’s target who are outside the station’s programming team (extra points if they’re not employed at the station). Have them look over the copy. Then, record them explaining to you what the copy means. Take their explanations, edit them for length and correctness and produce those. The goal is to put promos in the voices of real people; to stand out by being different.