“Radio is a visual medium.” 

I was given that little nugget by the lovely Tony Hertz, something of a friend/radio guru. For me, it proved an epiphany and transformed my approach to writing radio. Radio is the closest most of us copywriters will ever get to being an art director. We can paint scenes and create whole worlds using only language and sound.

I am writing this naked on a deckchair.

See what I mean?

If you want to write a great radio script, here are a couple of pointers that have always worked for me.

Enjoy the silence

You have 30 seconds of airtime to fill. What do you do? 99% of advertisers think about how much those 30 seconds cost and fill them wall-to-wall. The result is a breathless diatribe of jingles, sound effects, and voices so enthusiastic they sound a couple of heartbeats short of combustion. Against that wall of noise, a pause is powerful. Silence immediately draws a listener in. Perhaps Mr. Ronan Keating was right. Sometimes you do say it best when you say nothing at all.

Don’t scrimp on production

When radio is great, it’s wonderful. Like a great book, its power lies in its ability to evoke images in the mind. But when radio is bad, it’s bloody awful. Having written and produced hundreds of radio ads, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to execute. Bad writing is fully exposed with nowhere to hide. Lured into thinking of radio as poor man’s TV, some clients produce ads with budgets less substantial than a pair of paper pants. Fall into that trap at your peril. 

Podcast power

Radio advertising doesn’t have to be a 30-second spot. I am passionate about podcasts. There is some wonderful content out there if you’re listening. With the exception of the Guardian and BBC, I have yet to discover a brilliant branded podcast, although it feels like a medium with more untapped potential than Alaska. Brief me to create a podcast series for your brand, and I will be forever in your debt.