Write for the spoken word

Honesty is audible on the radio.

You can feel it in your bones when the person you’re listening to sounds authentic — like a real person. The flipside, of course, is we can hear dishonesty a mile away.

Humans have an uncanny knack for sensing insincerity. It’s something we’ve all developed over time to protect ourselves from dubious individuals, like people trying to sell us something! The moment your audience catches a whiff off insincerity, their guard goes up and you’ve lost them.

So, naturally, our radio ads need to avoid dishonestly like the plague.

Now, you’d be forgiven in thinking that this responsibility lies solely with the actor voicing the script. But it actually starts before that. It starts with writing for the spoken word — versus the written one.

Think about the last conversation you had. Now imagine how that conversation would look on the page. There would be a lot of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. You’d cut each other off. Ramble. Sometimes not even answer each other’s questions. Mumble. Say things that don’t make a lot of sense. Sometimes be super direct, and sometimes talk around the point. And all this seems perfectly natural – when spoken.

Seeing it on the page, however, can take some getting used to.

Now, I’m not proposing you write long scripts which ramble on about nonsense. Quite the opposite actually. Because when writing for radio, the language we use has to be more precise and simpler that other mediums. A reader can always reread something printed, or pause a video to ponder a difficult section. But in radio we need to engage listeners quickly and strongly, especially when working with ever-shortening durations. There’s no rewind button!

When we write for radio, we need to keep how people actually speak in mind. After all, what we write is going to heard, not read. So we need to talk honestly and emotionally. We need to write conversationally — like a real person. So we need to use language that’s authentic to the character in the story and the audience you’re speaking to. Because people don’t speak the same way as they write.

Here’s 6 points to keep in mind when writing for the spoken word. And some great examples of work that’s done so.

1. Use conversational language

2. Write simply and succinctly

3. Read your scripts aloud (does it sound natural?)

4. Time your script. Cut 25%. Then time it again.

5. Underwrite to leave room for a natural performance

6. Don’t be afraid to improvise in the recording

If you can do this, if you can manage to pull it off, you’ll have a much greater chance of connecting with your audience long enough to share your message.

The Earplug – Got a podcast in you?

How about a song? Or just a voice over? Well, the new FOX microphone from Beyerdynamic could be the kick in the butt you need to get started.

Designed with the solo creative in mind, the FOX plugs straight into your computer via USB-C and combines a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, preamp, headphone amplifier, and more for a neat little professional setup — for a novice price.

So now you can stop making excuses, and start making… something!

Radio Advertising Award 2018 – Die Gewinner

Am 12. April 2018 wurde zum vierten Mal der Radio Advertising Award verliehen. Die hochkarätig besetzte Award-Jury rund um Präsidentin Britta Poetzsch (Chief Creative Officer, TRACK GmbH) vergab Gold, Silber und Bronze in den vier Kategorien Best Brand, Best Creative Activation, Best Storytelling und Best Innovative Idea. Zudem wählten RadiohörerInnen ihren Favoriten aus der Shortlist und wählten damit den Gewinner des Audience Award. Die Gewinner wurden in festlichem Rahmen bei einer lebhaften Verleihung in Düsseldorf geehrt.

Lässt man die Kategorie Best Innovative Idea aufgrund ihrer speziellen Anforderung einmal außer Acht, so haben gerade die Gold-Gewinner der übrigen Kategorien (instinktiv) die Punkte Authentizität und Aufrichtigkeit in der Sprache befolgt. Besonders deutlich wird die nahbare und glaubwürdige Mundart bei dem Gewinner des Audience Award,  den wieder einmal Flensburger gewinnen konnte. Die Spots geben damit einen deutlichen Hinweis darauf, dass gerade Sprache aus dem Alltag  – hier regional in Norddeutschland verortet –  besonders gut bei den HörerInnen ankommt.

Die Gold-Spots

Audience Award – Die Einreichung

Flensburger (Motiv: Neulich mit Liebe)

(Kunde: Flensburger Brauerei / Agentur: ad.quarter / Produktion: Studio Funk)

Best Storytelling – Die Einreichung

BMW Connected – Time to Leave (Motiv: Bärenjunges)

(Kunde: BMW Group / Agentur: Jung von Matt / Produktion: Studio Funk)

Best Brand – Die Einreichung

Unordentliche Abenteuer (Motiv: Brief vom Unordnungsamt)

(Kunde: IKEA / Agentur: GGH Mullenlowe / Produktion: Hastings Music)

Best Creative Activation – Die Einrichung


(Kunde: Deutsche Lufthansa / Agentur: Kolle Rebbe / Produktion: Studio Funk)

Best Innovative Idea – Die Einreichung

Geld fürs Leben (Motiv: Bauch Kopf)

(Kunde: Deutscher Sparkassen- Und Giroverband e.V. / Agentur: Jung von Matt / Produktion: Hesse Studios & Stefan Kraatz)

Alle ausgezeichneten Spots und Fotos der Preisträger sind unter www.radio-advertising-award zu finden.

Foto: Radio Advertising Award / Claus Langer

Seeing from the inside