Where have all the copy writers gone—and new local $’s with them?


During a week I speak with 50-75 radio stations.  Unless I am way off base the great majority do not have a copy writer. That’s bad business.

I once worked at a major market station where the sales people wrote the copy. Sound familiar? What a mistake. Paul Weyland recently wrote about business people being unqualified to write effective broadcast scripts.  Others also have written about the lack of creativity in radio today.

David Ogilvy, an advertising icon, once wrote  about “Message before medium” and went on to say:

 “A copy writer who knows his/her facts, i.e. the trigger which makes people aware of advertisements, can reach many more people than a copy writer who doesn’t.”

Good copy is more critical in radio than any other medium. You  can get away with it somewhat with TV and print because you can  see it. Radio is the theater of the mind. But you need a good copy writer to get it done.,

I wonder how many stations do “spec copy” today.  I started out as a copy writer and still do it to some extent. I’ve  lost count of how many clients we got took from zero to a sale with spec copy….on tape! One specific instance was a deli in a small town in upstate NY. The owner wouldn’t give us the time of day.  We did a spec on tape and when we told him we did a commercial for his restaurant he grudgingly agreed to listen.  He did  and signed on the counter for 13 weeks.

Let me ask you something.  If someone came up to you and said he had a picture of you and your kids at a party, wouldn’t you stop whatever you were doing – almost – and take the time to look at it?  It’s the same with spec copy. It’s the attention step in the 5 great steps of selling.

It all begins with the information you get from the client before you write the spot.
We developed a training program so the sales person, or the copy writer could get significant information to write the commercial, not only to get the client on the air, but to get results which got renewals. We’d ask the client questions to get them talking not orating.  For example, we’d ask:

 If you were at a gathering and heard someone talking about shopping
 at a competitor’s store, what would you say to get him/her to switch over to you?

One sales person who took a tape machine with him to a car dealer. He asked the owner if he would mind his taping their conversation.  Later he transcribed the tape and wrote the commercial from it.  When he played it for the client the reaction was, “That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say.”  Really?

After that it became standard procedure, i.e. to have a tape machine on hand and ask if it was ok to tape the conversation.  Never had a refusal.

The bottom line is MESSAGE BEFORE MEDIUM…and you’re better off with a good spot on a lesser station than ineffective copy on #1. And make no mistake, a good copy writer will increase your local sales.

Presently:  Affiliations Representative with The Business TalkRadio Network, The Lifestyle TalkRadio Network