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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

A mistake made in Scotland

The River Clyde, named after Glasgow’s heritage commercial radio station.

I’m just back from Glasgow where I’ve been meeting students at the Creative Loop festival.

Many of them are eager to start their careers in media and were asking about my early radio days. Well, guess what? Twenty years ago I was also in Glasgow, just as excited about setting out in this brilliant business of ours.

I made the promos on BBC Radio Scotland when its current head, Jeff Zycinski, was producing the morning show.

It was a great place to learn. I learned from more experienced colleagues. I learned from my own mistakes. Like this one:

For one promo I spent hours in the studio listening through phone-in shows and then snipping together clips of callers and other contributors who were making challenging, surprising and slightly ear-catching comments on air.

I cut the audio to “Whatever” by Oasis, so that the appropriate lyrics:

I’m free to say whatever I… Whatever I like if it’s wrong or right it’s all right

popped up a couple of times between the speech clips.

The production sounds pretty clunky and dated now but in late 1994 the track was brand new. However, I didn’t schedule the promo because I felt there was something missing. Something in my inexperience and youth I couldn’t quite place.

I cursed myself for making this mistake of wasting so much time on it.

Then, entirely separately, we organised a single and free phone-in number for all Radio Scotland programmes.

The 0500 number was genuinely beneficial to listeners, echoed Radio Scotland’s 92-95 FM frequencies and made the station seem more open and democratic as a result of having it.

And suddenly, with a reworked voice line, my little promo gained a legitimate reason to live.

[audio:https://earshotcreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/radioscotland-freespeech.mp3|titles=Free speech promo, 1994|artists=BBC Radio Scotland]

I realised that, without providing something valuable to the listeners, the promo was simply positioning without consumer benefit: vanity, if you like.

Promotional messages, like content, distribution choices and everything in radio should be useful to listeners, not just to you and your station’s brand.

Trust me, your proud ego will be rewarded another way.

For example, yesterday I was deeply chuffed to discover that nearly 20 years on BBC Radio Scotland still uses that 0500 92 95 00 number. Sweet.