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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

Six ways to get that promos or production gig

The recession and UK radio’s continuing consolidation are affecting the amount of work available for radio promos writers and producers.

As someone who employs creative promos folk, both on staff contracts and as freelancers for short-term projects, it’s an effect I see daily. I’m receiving an increasing number of emails and demo reels from talented writers and producers who are horribly short of work.

What a change from just eighteen months ago when we’d struggle to find any extra pair of hands (and their accompanying ears) to get us out of a production crisis.

However, despite the current gulf between supply and demand, many people are selling themselves short.

I may not have any freelance work to offer right now but if you’re out there trying to pick up a project or two I can share some tips based on what’s been dropping into the inbox these past few weeks:

1. Highlight your specialisms.
You may well consider yourself to be a decent promos all-rounder but just about everybody has a sweet-spot or particular talent. Perhaps you’re a great comedy writer, an accomplished director or sound fusion artist. Maybe your knowledge of dance music is unsurpassed or you’re a trained journalist.

In making promos you spend your professional life picking out brand USPs, simplifying them, dramatising them and then making them memorable. Now do the same for yourself.

It’s understandable that you’ll want to appeal to the widest possible market but the truth is that you’re unique and that’s why someone will hire you.

2. Show you care.
The call that says “I love the way your station crafts its promos and thought you might like to know that I’m currently available.” is far more impressive than “I’ve just been made redundant and wondered if you have anything going”.

“Gissajob” didn’t do much for Yosser Hughes’ fortunes and it’s an unattractive approach in professional radio too.

Unbelievably, I receive approaches from people who haven’t even listened to our output. Care a bit and it will show.

3. Make human contact.
Let’s be honest, an unsolicited email is a bit cold. Better to arrange an email introduction from a mutual acquantaince and then quickly move to a phone call or, best of all, contrive a meeting.

If work is a bit light then you certainly have time to pay a personal visit. This will show you’re genuinely interested in the station/company you’ve approached and it will let you demonstrate what a lovely person you are. It’s also an opportunity to see how different places operate and start to build expereince in new areas.

4. Have a showreel ready to go.
There’s no excuse for not having a showreel. You will be asked for one so don’t risk losing the momentum in a new relationship because you haven’t bothered to keep your reel up to date.

Ensure the content backs up what you’ve said about your specialisms (see point 1) and keep it short. How short? Well, two minutes should be quite enough to demonstrate your brilliance. Two minutes packs down into an emailable mp3 file without hammering the bitrate too.

If you really want to sell yourself on versatility remember you can demonstrate diversity with just two well-chosen items.

5. Relevant adjacencies.
Ok, “relevant adjacencies” is rubbish copy but it’s a phrase I saw in an internal report the other day and I’ve been waiting for a place to deploy it.

Promos projects and campaigns are increasingly multi-platform entities so promos production people with video, digital publishing and online skills are becoming more valuable. Can you also shoot and edit video, use a CMS or do gorgeous photography? Can you understand Analytics, do your own voice work and write music, code and storyboards simultaneously?

If so, you’re better than me and I might just need you one day. Mention it.

6. No means no.
It’s tough turning talented people away, especially when you’re keen to work with them, but often the answer is going to be “sorry, no”. Or as my HR colleagues would put it “not on this particular occasion”.

There will be good reasons why your skills are not snapped-up immediately so withdraw gracefully and stay positive. If you’ve made an impression you will be remembered. Stay connected via appropriate channels such as social media and events but don’t send repeated emails or leave countless, increasingly anxious voicemail messages. The volume of communication does not multiply your appeal accordingly.

Finally, while this is all written with short lead-time freelance work in mind, these principles apply equally to full-time jobs. Let’s just hope that one day we see some being advertised again.