The vast majority of people listen to radio to be entertained, informed, or a combination of the two. If you have to write promotional or public-service copy that will be broadcast, it’s important to keep those points in mind.

It’s also important to remember that radio doesn’t have a rewind button. In fact, that’s more important than most people who create radio announcements realize. With a print ad, a website, or a brochure, it’s easy for the reader to scroll back, glance back, or turn to a previous page if he or she misses a key piece of information. That can’t happen with a radio commercial.

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There are several little things you can do to make your radio commercials more effective. First off, it pays to catch the listener’s attention right away, and there are two sure-fire ways to do that. One is to start the spot with some sort of loud sound – whether it’s an odd sound effect or an opening note of music.

Another way that’s particularly effective in a dialogue spot is to have one of the actors use someone’s first name. That signals the ears that a conversation is about to follow, and whether or not we admit it, we all like to eavesdrop.

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I’ve long had a particular affection for radio advertising. It goes back to my younger days when I sat in broadcast booths and shared time and temperature before spinning large round pieces of vinyl. Handled correctly, radio spots are almost a mini-version of the programs that captivated audiences in the days before TV. Often, they’re more entertaining than the programming they support.

But a lot of people who create radio advertising don’t seem to grasp the realities of the medium and its listeners. A key example of that is what they expect the listener to take away from the spot. Many expect listeners to remember complicated phone numbers or website addresses. Locally, a law firm and a construction company that run sponsorships on public radio do that even though their names are difficult to understand and even harder to spell. If your CPA firm’s name is Finklestein, Chapeau and Huang, do you think most listeners are going to be able to spell that on the first try?

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