Help Wanted: Have a Job to Fill? Attract More, Better Applicants with Radio Advertising

Losing a key employee sucks. It’s also inevitable.

Sooner or later, most often when you least expect it, your MVP is going to drop the bomb: she’s moving on.

You’re going to need to fill those shoes, and fast.

What’s the best way to attract your next superstar? Hire your local radio station.

Many years ago, when newspaper was still King of Local Advertising Media, your automatic response might have been to place a Help Wanted ad in the classifieds and wait for a response. And wait. And wait some more, becoming increasingly discouraged by the shortage of suitable applicants.

The problem? Help Wanted classifieds, by definition, are for the unemployed, often the chronically unemployed, and those unhappy with their present situation.

Whereas the superstar you need isn’t unemployed, isn’t looking for work, ergo isn’t scanning the Help Wanted ads.

She may be working for a competitor. Or she may be working in a different field, in a comparable position. But even though she’s not looking for a new job, she might consider a better opportunity were she to hear about it.

How’s that going to happen? Well, if one of the people in her circle of friends and associates knows about the opening, it could come up in conversation.

Or, you could advertise the position on your local radio station and create the conversation.

Putting your recruitment advertising on radio will reach more prospects and influencers, faster and more effectively, than anything else you can do.

The result? You’ll find and hire your superstar sooner, minimizing the strain on your business, not to mention your mental and emotional well-being.

Consider radio’s advantages over other media:

Reach. Radio’s vast weekly reach (91% of adults) is superior to that of any other medium. Can you say “opt-in?” Radio is the ultimate opt-in advertising medium!

Frequency. Radio gives you multiple opportunities throughout the day to reach listeners with your message.

Intimacy. Radio is highly personal. It’s a conversation between the host and listener. They share a connection.

Intrusiveness. Tony Schwartz said that radio’s biggest advantage is that people are born without earlids. People hear your ad, without making any effort to do so.

Polite company. Radio keeps you company without being a distraction. You can listen while you’re driving, jogging, gardening, or any number of other things. That’s a unique advantage pure audio has over visual media.

Imagination.  On radio, pictures are more personal; the experience, more real. Because pure audio engages the imagination better than any visual medium.  On radio, anything’s possible.

Time Spent Listening. People spend more of their day with radio than any other single medium, including broadcast TV, satellite TV, local cable, and the Internet.*

Car radio. It’s almost a separate medium; as Chris Lytle famously observed, “A car is a radio on four wheels.” Prospects traveling to and from their jobs in their vehicles are a captive audience. Can you think of a better time and place to tell them about your opportunity? 

Spotlight.  On radio, your ad is like a spotlight shining on you and you alone, for a full 30 or 60 seconds. (Whereas in newspaper, you’re surrounded by competing ads. Maybe they’ll spot yours, maybe they won’t.)

Timing.  You can choose when your commercials will air. If you can swing it, I recommend a higher frequency schedule, at least 10-15 spots a day, every day for 10 days to 2 weeks. The cost of this schedule is far less than the cost of a prolonged vacancy to your business. But if you can’t afford to do this, “own” something. At the very least, buy a couple spots in morning or evening drive, every weekday, and talk to listeners on their way to and from their jobs.

A Launchpad to Your Website.  Your radio advertising opens a conversation that you and your prospective candidate can continue at her convenience online. Use your website to elaborate on the details: compensation, benefits, work environment, opportunity for advancement, your company’s reputation, etc., etc.  One client I worked with was concerned about the time it would take to deal with a flood of applicants. I suggested that we create a “knock-out” online questionnaire, a sort of pre-application that would allow the business owner to prescreen all the candidates. Those who stood out would be brought in for a thorough interview, leading to the selection of the best-of-the-best. (This may sound a bit harsh for those who don’t pass initial muster, but in reality, it’s more respectful of their time as well as the employer’s. And all who take time to apply are thanked for doing so. ) This combination of radio advertising to attract candidates and the website application to pre-screen them has worked very well. I recommend trying this.

Here are a few additional suggestions to help make your recruitment radio advertising more effective:

  1. Use current employees in the commercials, but: Do. Not. Script. This. Seriously. If they sound at all forced, even though they’re being truthful, they’ll come across as contrived. Instead of scripting them, just turn on the recorder and have a conversation with them. Get them talking about their typical workday, its ups and downs, the variety of things they do during the day, the people with whom they interact. Ask them to share what they like best about the company, what attracted them in the first place and what keeps them interested. What would they say to a friend who might be applying for work at the company? Keep it conversational and keep it real, then incorporate the best soundbites into the commercial. This is time-consuming and painstaking. And uniquely effective.
  2. Skew your advertising to run more heavily early in the week. Generally speaking, fewer ads are scheduled on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, compared to the rest of the week. But there are not fewer listeners on those days. So, your early-week ads will reach the same number of people, and there will be less competition for their attention. Also, people are more focused on work-related matters early in the week. Toward the end of the week, they’re focused on how they’re going to unwind on the weekend.
  3. Use a single point of contact for responding. These days, your website is best. Avoid the temptation to include your phone number, street address, and the kitchen sink. Your website carries all that information and a lot more.
  4. Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list relating to the job, to address your expectations as well as your prospects’ concerns. It’ll save you both time in the long run.
  5. Use respected community leaders in the commercials, talking about how great the company is, its involvement in civic affairs, its contributions to the betterment of the community, etc. Again, make sure these endorsements sound sincere and genuine. They’ll help raise the stature of the employer in the eyes of the prospective employee.
  6. Think about where your ideal candidate might already be employed and make mention of that in your commercial. Here’s how one of my own clients worked that into the message: 
  7. Make the company or the job sound like fun by using humor – but make sure the humor really works, and that it serves the message rather than calling attention to itself. Here’s a great example used by Pizza Hut a few years back: 
  8. Treat the vacancy as a problem the radio listener can help you solve.  For this local jeweler, hiring a new key employee would enable him to eat his lunch in peace. Seriously.
  9. Build the spot around the candidate, rather than the company. Good advertising isn’t about the advertiser; it’s about the advertiser’s customer. Describe the prospect using language she would use, talking about the things that are important to her, then bring the company into the picture. A company recruiting assemblers began its message by saying: “You like working with your hands. You’re good at putting things together. You take pride in the things you build…”
  10. Target by message, not demographics.  What I mean by this is, don’t agonize over the format of the station (trying to reach the “right” people); instead, focus on getting the message right. For example, say you’re a beer distributor in Ohio, looking for a delivery driver. Instead of placing a lifeless classified ad (“Wanted: beer delivery driver. Must have CDL. Wage and benefits DOE. Apply at…”), you decide to do something a little more fun:  Think that message might find its way to the right prospect? The right message will find its way to the right people. Just ask The Wizard.
  11. Use radio to keep your pipeline full.  Attract qualified applicants even when you don’t have an immediate vacancy. Invite interested parties to get on an inside track to employment at your company–a pre-screened waiting list, if you will–so that when an opening occurs, your next hire is already in the breech. Consider airing a “This Week at (Your Company)” feature; use it to salute employees, commemorate milestones, thank customers, or even remind people about community events, etc. If your local radio station airs a community calendar, consider sponsoring it. It’s a great way to stay top-of-mind and make people both inside and outside the company feel good about it.

You might want to print this post and keep it handy. Because sooner or later, you’re going to be blindsided by the sudden departure of a key employee. That’s when you’ll want to enlist the help of a powerful ally, your local radio station, to help you find and hire your next MVP, sooner.

*Share of Media Consumption table courtesy Radio Advertising Bureau

Medium Avg. Minutes Per Day % of Total Media Time
Radio 142.3 21.5%
Internet (No e-Mail) 113.2 17.1%
Broadcast TV 95.3 14.4%
e-Mail 87.0 13.2%
Local Cable 84.7 12.8%
Billboards* 53.1 8.0%
Newspaper 44.6 6.8%
Satellite TV 40.6 6.1%
Total Media 660.7 100.0%
The Media Audit, January 2012 – March 2013 -Radio’s Share of Time Spent with Selected Media -Average Minutes per Day (Adults 18+)- Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding *Billboards based on time spent driving



Posted in Advertising (General), Business, Client-voiced commercials, Copywriting, Internet, Newspaper, Print, Problem-solving, Professional Services Advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, recruitment | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For All Your [Fill-in-the-Blank] Needs

cli·ché (noun) – a phrase that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought

Just for fun sometime, make a mental note of all the ads you encounter that contain these five words: “for all your __________ needs.”  

Every time you hear or see that phrase, know that the copywriter was on auto-pilot. It is simply the most insipid, threadbare, worn-out, uninspired, unoriginal, vapid, meaningless, and useless phrase in all of advertising.

While by no means the only cliché upon which too many copywriters lean to fill time or space, it does top the list.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I stumbled across a remarkable website created by Larry Fuss, owner of Delta Broadcasting, for the benefit of radio advertisers and radio advertising professionals alike. It was a page entitled FOR ALL YOUR STUPID CLICHE NEEDS.

I’ve often wondered how the phrase became so ubiquitous. Did the new advertiser or ad writer assume, because they’d heard it used so often by so many different businesses, that it must be important to include it in their own advertising? Or were they, as my friend Larry so bluntly put it, just being “incredibly lazy?” (In the interest of full disclosure, having been an ad writer for more than 40 years, I’ve foisted my share of this drivel upon listeners, too. Hopefully less often these days.)

Some clichés seem to attract certain categories of advertisers. Automobile dealers, for example, are overly fond of this one: “There’s never been a better time to buy!” Does anybody really believe this? Of course not. Not even when the announcer is shouting it with a reverb effect to boost the hype.

In one ear and out the other.

So why do they continue to use these ridiculous, overblown claims in their advertising?  Why do advertisers insist on saying things like: “Never before and never again will prices be this low!” only to inform you the following week that their big whoopdedoo is being “held over by popular demand?” 

Please, please, please give consumers credit for being smarter than that.

The typical car buyer goes into the dealership having done enough research online to know as much about the vehicle she’s going to buy as the salesman who’s going to sell it to her. Same goes for most other significant retail purchases. The internet and smartphones have tilted the scales in favor of the consumer. Get over it. Today’s buyer wants the the plain truth, not hype. Just the facts, ma’am.

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.” – David Ogilvy

If this was true fifty-plus years ago, when Ogilvy penned those famous words, how much more so today?


Posted in Branding, Business, Client-voiced commercials, Copy, Copywriting, Ogilvy, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Bodett, Still Kickin’ Butt for Motel 6

rmalogoIn 1992, Tom Bodett’s “Singing Phone Number” spot for Motel 6 took the $100,000 Grand Prize in that year’s Radio Mercury Awards.

Since then, his radio spots have been Mercury finalists or winners 22 more times, with another Grand Prize win in 2009 for his clever “DVD” spot.

The 2017 Radio Mercury Award winners were announced this week. Heading the list of award-winners: Motel 6.

One of Radio’s enduring success stories, Tom Bodett has been the sole pitchman for Motel 6 for more than 30 years. Throughout three decades of swirling changes in society, culture, politics, technology, and the economy, they’ve kept up with the times without changing their formula for success. One guy reading great copy, same kitchy music, same tagline: “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

Congratulations to ad agency The Richards Group, spokesman Tom Bodett, and client Motel 6. Thanks for keeping us entertained while reminding us of your promise to provide a clean, comfortable room at the lowest price of any national chain.

And to leave the lights on for us.

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How the New Business Landscape Is Challenging Tradition and Igniting Radio Advertising Sales

How long before the rest of the matches in this photo will ignite? It’s a good way to think about an emerging trend in business, including radio advertising sales.

A recent article in INSIDE RADIO talked about new and emerging prospect categories for radio.

There’s no question that the business landscape is shifting under our feet. We’ve been feeling its rumbles for years, and they’re becoming more pronounced.

Consider the “insane, retailer-wrecking” growth of Amazon.  Time reports that Amazon now has more than 80 million Prime subscribers, consumers who shell out a hundred bucks a year for a combination of entertainment (videos, music, e-books, and audio books) and shopping (2-day free shipping).

According to Jeffery Eisenberg* in a recent American Small Business Institute weekly video, Amazon is the fastest company in history to ever hit $100 billion in sales.

Of particular interest: they close an astounding 74% of their web traffic! (How’s that compare to your close ratio?) People go to Amazon prepared to spend money.

Consumers love Amazon because Amazon loves them.

“The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company.” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

Recently Amazon announced the hiring of 100,000 new employees. Meanwhile, venerable stores like Macy’s, Kmart, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Target, Sears, and others are closing by the thousands in 2017 alone.

Depending on the size of your market, these changes may or may not be affecting your business today. But they will have a domino-effect (or matchbook-effect, to return to the photo illustration above) that will eventually impact all of us: consumers, retailers, and advertising companies.

Small business owners need to be keenly aware of the shopping experience they’re providing their customers. Surprise and delight must be their (and our) mantra. As Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, has been telling us, we must focus less on branding and more on bonding with our customers.

Those of us in radio advertising sales would do well to challenge our current clients (and ourselves) to ask: what are we doing to love our customers like Amazon loves theirs?

As advertising professionals, we must carve out time regularly to identify, research, and understand new and emerging trends and prospect categories. But just as importantly, we need to be bringing our existing advertisers a regular stream of new ideas to invigorate their advertising with more customer-centric messages.

It’s a practice that can only enhance our client relationships.

*Eisenberg and Williams have co-authored a new book, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It (serialized in recent Monday Morning Memos), filled with insights gleaned from a careful study of Amazon and others, that can be applied to any business, yours included.


Radio folk: are you incorporating pro-radio messages into your social media? Here’s an example of a Facebook cover photo/meme we’re using at Grace Broadcast Sales and Radio Sales Cafe to remind our followers of the unique power of speech-driven advertising. Feel free to copy/adapt for your own use.

God's Gift to Radio Advertising: Humans Don't Have Earlids



Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Consistency, Consumer behavior, Copy, Grace Broadcast Sales, Internet, Positioning, Productivity, Promotions, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Radio Sales Cafe, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advertising to Make You Smile

april-1st-300x300Over the past few years the guys at Howard Hughes  Appliance, TV, and Sleep Shop have used their radio advertising on April 1st to feature imaginative new products or uses for existing products, invented solely to give listeners a little chuckle.

They’ve introduced breakthroughs such as refrigerator planters, pet drying attachments for clothes dryers, pedal-powered appliances for the fitness-minded, self-cleaning refrigerators, Holographic Transport Television (HTTV), and innovative uses for your microwave oven (think: Peep jousting).

Here’s a small sampling of my favorites.


The first time we did this, listeners were caught off-guard. Many called the store or even dropped by just to express their appreciation. A few actually came in looking for the items being advertised, improbable as that sounds.

It’s strictly for fun, not for profit (in a short-term transactional sense). But this is a forward-thinking advertiser, who recognizes that there’s more to a relationship than to be sell-sell-selling all the time.

In today’s (4/10/17) American Small Business Institute monthly video with Roy H. Williams and Wizard Academy Vice-Chancellor Daniel Whittington, I asked the Wizard what he thought about this use of advertising dollars. After listening to a few spots, he said that not only is this a good idea for April 1st, but for an advertiser committed to building long-lasting relationships with listeners, it could be worth doing at different times throughout the year, just to change things up.

Might this be something worth doing in your market?  It can’t hurt to give it some thought. After all, we’re pummeled by so much bad news throughout the day, your listeners might find it refreshing to hear from an advertiser whose objective is to make them smile.

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Consumer behavior, Copy, Copywriting, Positioning, Promotions, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Effective Advertising and the Law of Exclusion

Your business is defined principally by what-you-sell or what-you-do. Are these the only things you talk about in your advertising?

May I suggest that you are also defined by what you won’t do or sell, by what you exclude.

The principle of exclusion conveys that you’ve drawn a line in the sand, and you stand on just one side of it. You don’t try to straddle both sides. You’re not all things to all people.

The contrast sets you apart. It helps consumers to understand with greater clarity what your business or brand is all about. Those who identify with you are more likely to do business with you.

Here’s a great example:

Carl owns a repair shop called Imported Car Service (ICS). He specializes in servicing, maintaining, and repairing imported cars. Over the years, Carl has recorded dozens of radio commercials, most of which have been written to provide his customers with valuable tips and tricks to add to their driving pleasure and to help reduce their cost of ownership.

But this spot does something else. It tells owners of domestic brands that ICS isn’t interested in working on those particular vehicles, because all of their time, effort, and infrastructure is poured into serving the needs of import car owners. Telling you what they won’t do makes their advertising more credible and effective, as Carl himself will tell you.


We’ve had a lot of dark skies and rain in recent weeks. When there’s a sliver of clear sky in the west at sunset, the rays of the setting sun seem to intensify, casting a fiery glow on objects underneath the canopy of dark clouds. This view of the WSU skyline caught my attention on just such an evening. If the light had been evenly distributed overhead the scene wouldn’t have been as interesting. But set against a backdrop of darkness (the exclusion of light), it really pops.

Just like your advertising, right?

For those who read to the end, a gift.

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Copy, Copywriting, Demonstration (demo) tapes, Positioning | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advertising and the Two Gateways to the Brain

ear-eye-300x154Which is more powerful, the eye or the ear?  If you could keep just one of these two senses, which would you choose?

Strange questions to ask, but stay with me for a moment.

We don’t give much thought to our senses; we just use them. Hearing, sight, smell, and touch all affect how we perceive our environment and the people with whom we interact.

In advertising, we’re concerned primarily with the first two, hearing and sight. Which of these, if it came down to it, would you give up first?

Whenever I’ve asked this question of different people, I’ve heard both answers. But I’ve also noticed a tendency among those who answer without hesitation to say they’d give up their hearing to save their sight, while those who take more time to think about the ramifications tend to favor preserving their hearing.

Strangely, we sometimes confuse them in our everyday speech. For instance, a friend tells you about something he’s learned and you reply, “I see what you mean.” Or we see (read) something interesting on the dinner menu and say ‘that sounds good.’” Why is that?

Al Ries and Jack Trout, co-authors of Positioning: the Battle for the Mind, one of the most influential advertising books of the 20th century, conducted extensive research in an effort to learn how the human brain responds differently to ear-oriented stimuli and eye-oriented stimuli.

EyevsEarThe March 14, 1983 issue of ADVERTISING AGE carried the article that detailed their findings: “The eye vs. the ear.” (It was subsequently reprinted as a chapter in Jack Trout’s excellent follow-up book, The New Positioning.

“Written language,” they said, “is recoded by the mind into an internal form of oral language. It seems that your mind must translate printed words into their spoken equivalents before it can understand them.” 


When people communicate with one another, the ear is the preferred avenue of entry, either in person or over the phone.

When people turn to one of the senses for pure pleasure, the sense they generally turn to is the ear. Compare, for example, the time spent listening to music with the time spent looking at art or photography.  There’s no comparison.  The ear wins by a huge margin.

What are the implications where advertising is concerned?

Clearly there is a striking inconsistency between advertisers and the target of their advertising, the prospects.

Prospects spend 85 percent of their overall media time immersed in ear-oriented media…and only 15 percent of their time with eye-oriented media such as newspapers and magazines.

Advertisers, on the other hand, spend 55 percent of their dollars on eye media (print), and only 45 percent of their dollars on ear media (broadcast).

It’s worth repeating: Consumers spend 85 percent of their overall media time immersed in ear-oriented media, and only 15 percent of their time with eye-oriented media such as newspapers and magazines.

The emergence of the Internet and new media has added more variables to the equation, but the central fact remains: the mind works by ear.

Speech remains our primary form of communication. Print, in any form, is an imitation of speech. The only pure-speech mass medium is radio.

P.S. You remember Paul Harvey, don’t you?  For my money, he was radio’s most trusted voice. Got a minute and 12 seconds to hear his take on all this?



Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Consistency, Consumer behavior, Copy, Copywriting, Demonstration (demo) tapes, information overload, Jingles, Magazine, Newspaper, Positioning, Print, Problem-solving, Professional Services Advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Radio Anything’s Possible

It’s well established that sounds enter the brain faster than visuals, and the memory of those sounds fades more slowly. Which is why, as Paul Harvey once pointed out, as a kid in the classroom, you could answer the teacher’s question, “What did I just say?” accurately, even though you’d been daydreaming and your thoughts were a million miles away moments before.

Speech is mankind’s primary form of interpersonal communication. And radio, because it is the only pure audio medium, is the most intimate and personal of all advertising media.

Radio also happens to be the most visual of all media.

Say what?

It’s true. Pictures in the mind are more vivid, more personal, and therefore more “real” to us. And they’re unique. A hundred people can read the same book, but each will have different pictures of the people and places described in the story.

These things came to mind as I watched the video accompanying the Call for Entries to this year’s Radio Mercury Awards (radio’s counterpart to the Oscars).

Wasn’t that fun?

Wait a minute, you say. Aren’t you contradicting yourself? That’s a video.

Of course it is.

But when there wasn’t a picture on the screen, you were still seeing something quite vividly in your mind!

That’s the power of pure audio. That’s the power of radio.

Still unsure? OK, click the play button below and close your eyes.

Makes the point, doesn’t it?

Produced by WBEB-FM in Philadelphia, that commercial won the 2010 Radio Mercury Award in the Station Produced category. (Six years earlier, I’d been honored with the same award for a spot I’d created for Keeney Bros. Music Centers, entitled “Dreaming.”) What many Radio Mercury-winning spots* have in common is that they’re entertaining, captivating, and visual.

Whether your goal is long-term brand-building or short-term cash-register-ringing you need, you really ought to explore what radio advertising can do for you. If you’d like to learn more, give me a call

*Want to hear some of the most engaging radio commercials ever produced? Check out the Radio Mercury winners archive. You’re welcome.


Rod-148x150Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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Political Advertising: Radio Wins the Vote

voteThis is the story of how one political candidate harnessed the power of radio advertising to win a competitive election.

Following the death of Washington State Representative Steve Hailey, a former state legislator, Don Cox, was appointed to fill his seat. Cox chose not to run for the open seat in the next election, but five other candidates threw their hats into the ring, one Democrat and four Republicans, among them Hailey’s widow Patricia (“Pat”) and Pullman resident Susan Fagan.

The primary election was to be held on August 18, 2009. Washington being a vote-by-mail state, ballots were sent out at the end of July, giving voters several weeks to make their choice. One of the quirky and somewhat controversial aspects of our primary election is that the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

I was drafted to handle the radio advertising for Susan Fagan’s campaign. My recommendation was to start early and advertise consistently. Given the size of our sprawling district – larger than the state of Connecticut – we had several radio markets to cover. The plan was to introduce the candidate, her background, and her qualifications to voters, and then to build the campaign around the endorsements of people throughout the district who knew her and supported her candidacy.

I did not want to use prepared scripts and risk having the individuals sound stilted and artificial, which is often the case when asking people to read from a printed page words that are not their own. Rather, I chose to interview – in person or over the phone – the people whose recommendations might resonate with voters. Most of these interviews lasted from ten or fifteen minutes though some took considerably longer. I’d prepared a list of questions to keep the conversation focused and to elicit meaningful answers, but we kept the conversations open enough so that each individual would feel comfortable sharing his or her thoughts spontaneously and naturally.

As experienced producers know, the greatest challenge and real work is in the editing, deciding which ideas, words and phrases to keep, which ones to leave out, and how best to combine them for clarity and punch. It’s painstaking and time-consuming, often involving hours of work to create a single one-minute spot. But it’s an investment that makes all the difference when it comes to the end result.

We created seven commercials for Susan Fagan’s primary election campaign, considered to be the more important of the two elections because of the number of competitors for the final ballot. The messages went through several revisions and refinements, based on input from Susan and her campaign staff. We aired them sequentially, each running exclusively for several days before being replaced by the next.

Here are three commercials from the series:

Susan Fagan ended up cinching the top spot by a comfortable margin over second-place finisher, Pat Hailey.

One of the ironies of the outcome of this primary race (to me, anyway) was that the candidate who theoretically should have conducted the most effective broadcast campaign, given his background in television journalism, his current position in marketing and communications, and his campaign promise to be, in his words, “your communications warrior” came in a distant fifth of the five candidates. He did his own radio spots, in which he sounded quite confident (some thought maybe even a bit cocky) that he was the man for the job. But his strategy, as embodied by his radio schedule, proved anemic. He ran ads on just two days of the entire campaign: the day the ballots were received in the mail, and again several weeks later on the Monday before the election. By contrast, the top two contenders’ radio campaigns ran throughout the period.

Ultimately, Susan Fagan’s reliance on relentless radio advertising proved the best overall plan. Her main competitor acknowledged as much to the Daily Evergreen newspaper:

Pat Hailey, republican candidate for the 9th District House position, said Fagan is likely in the lead because she spent more money and had an extensive radio advertising campaign.

That November, Susan and Pat squared off in the general election, to determine which of the two would serve for the remainder of Steve Hailey’s term, one year. Susan again relied on radio advertising for her general election campaign. Susan’s message was simple and and straightforward. If she prevailed in the general election, it would be for a one-year term, after which she’d have to campaign again:

“One year from now, you’ll have a chance to evaluate my performance and either hire me for a full 2-year term or send me packing.”– Susan Fagan, candidate for Washington State Representative, from one of her 8 radio commercials prepared for the general election.

She went on to win that election and the following year ran unopposed for the full two-year term. Susan again ran without opposition in the 2012 and 2014 elections.

Susan and her campaign committee were unanimous in their conviction that it was her radio advertising, more than any other single factor, that helped her reach and engage voters, leading to the outcome of the race in her favor. Winning those first crucial elections gave her the opportunity to live up to her campaign promises and Susan went on to serve with distinction until her departure from the legislature in 2014*.

Someone responding to this story on another site asked why we thought radio was particularly effective for Susan’s campaign. My reply was as follows:

1) Radio is pure audio. It allows advertisers to leverage our primary form of communication, human speech, with all its emotional depth and conviction.
2) Radio is intrusive. We hear – even when we’re not listening. “God’s gift to radio is that people are born without ear lids.” – Tony Schwartz  (Paul Harvey noted this, as well.)
4) Radio provides the most affordable frequency in broadcast advertising, and its ROI is superior to that of television. Radio enables an advertiser to reach his prospects repeatedly and over an extended period of time.
5) People are social creatures. We value the opinions and recommendations of others (witness our reliance on user reviews and ratings for a host of purchases). Employing the variety of testimonials conveyed the idea that many knowledgeable people throughout the district were impressed by Susan’s track record in previous endeavors.
6) Websites, blogs, and social media allow a radio advertiser to continue the conversation at greater length and in greater depth. I always recommend when appropriate that my clients use radio to drive traffic to their websites, where visitors can engage them at their convenience any time of the day or night. Radio + website/blog is the most powerful combination in local advertising today, in my experience.

*Susan Fagan’s subsequent resignation from the legislature in 2014 amid allegations of financial improprieties is not germane to this post. Suffice it to say that many local Republicans who know Susan well and are familiar with the machinations of party politics felt she was maliciously railroaded by members of her own party.



Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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DON’T Use That Song in Your Commercial


I was recently asked for a favor: to provide a short voice-over for a video intended for presentation at an upcoming trade show, in exchange for dinner and wine for four at a swanky restaurant, worth around $200-250. We live in a small town and the business owner was under a time crunch, so I drove to his office to have a look at his project.

A few minutes later I walked out, having declined the job

The script they wanted me to read was (with the exception of one word substituted for “farmer”) a word-for-word ripoff of Paul Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer” speech to the FFA, which reached a wider audience a few years ago as a Chrysler commercial for the Super Bowl.

Of course, it was a great piece of copy. Paul Harvey was a master of wordcraft.

But it wasn’t theirs to use.

I asked the individuals if they’d obtained permission to use the copyrighted script. Obviously, they hadn’t. A short while later I received a text saying they were scrapping the project.  But they’d already used the same script at least twice before, for different corporate video presentations. The regional media and marketing company that produced the video should have known better, but evidently didn’t know – or didn’t care enough to give it a second thought.

To put it plainly, using someone else’s copyrighted material in your advertising is illegal and unethical.

Whether it’s a photograph you’ve snagged off the internet to use on your website or a hit song you’d like to use in a radio or television commercial, if it’s copyrighted intellectual property, you can’t use it legally without going through proper channels to license it for this purpose — a cost-prohibitive situation for all but the very deep-pocketed national advertisers.

A number of radio companies have been sued in recent weeks for unauthorized use of celebrity photos on their websites. In this week’s Small Market Radio Newsletter, publisher Jay Mitchell wrote the following warning to broadcasters:

How Not to Get Sued
If you’ve been keeping up, you know that no one is immune from potentially-crippling legal action from photographers and image agencies targeting websites of deep-pocketed (or so they think) broadcasting companies.

News flash: It’s not just the big groups that are in danger.

While none of our radio web clients have been snagged—we monitor things like that, and as a result, they’re extremely careful—a small business client did get slammed by Getty Images for a picture that was used “FPO” (for position only) during the development phase and left up by mistake when the site went live. (That dumb mistake cost us $500, but it could have been much more.)

The thing is, you can still access pretty much every image you want or need—you just have to know where they come from, and what the usage rights are.

We all use Google to find appropriate images to illustrate our web pages, stories, and promotions. When we do, we usually enter the keywords into the search field, then click on “Images.” There’s one extra step you can take to avoid trouble. After you’ve performed your search, filter the results this way:
1. Click on “Search Tools.”
2. Click on “Usage Rights.”
3. Click on “Labeled for reuse.”
4. What now displays is probably safe to use—but you need to look more closely.

The usage rights of most, if not all, of the images you see are governed by the Creative Commons licensing system. Some images, noted by “CC0,” are in the public domain and completely free of all restrictions. Others are only for noncommercial use, others cannot be altered, and some can be used only with attribution.

To find out more, you have to view the image in context—on the web page from where it came. To do this, click on an image, then click on “Visit page.” Locate your image, then click on it to display the actual usage rights. The image on this page [there was a picture of cats -RS] was located just that way; its rights are listed as “CC0 Public Domain | Free for commercial use | No attribution required”

To play it even safer, go directly to websites that participate in the Creative Commons system—some of which are Flikr, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay and Vimeo. (For more information, visit

The image you want—as long as it’s licensed for commercial use—may require attribution. Play fair, give the photographer his or her due, and you’ll never have to worry about getting sued.

Longtime radio talent coach and advertising guru Dan O’Day has written extensively on the subject of using copyrighted music in your radio advertising. (His advice, in a word: Don’t. )  But it’s such a common and pervasive problem that years ago he wrote a book on the subject, intended primarily for radio station production departments, but useful for anyone involved in radio advertising.

Just as there are plenty of legal ways to obtain photographs and illustrations for your website or print pieces, so there are many sources for royalty-free music that can be used as theme music for your business. Most radio stations have in-house libraries of such music. Others subscribe to online royalty-free music services (as I do for my own business). If you really want to set yourself apart, consider partnering with a jingle production company — I can recommend several — that will create a piece of catchy music or a song that will be yours and yours alone, as for instance…

So, to avoid finding yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit (even if the possibility is remote, the penalty can be severe), avoid using copyrighted materials belonging to someone else in your advertising.



Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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