Advertising Lessons from 1923 and 1927

He is “…hopelessly out of date, and amazingly current. He was the outstanding copywriter and strategist of his time; he made $100,000 a year and more writing advertising when that kind of money was important even to the U.S. Treasury.”

The writer was talking about Claude C. Hopkins (1866-1932), a pioneer of modern advertising. In 1923, he wrote a little volume entitled, Scientific Advertising.  No less a giant than David Ogilvy thought it so essential a work that he wrote:

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Four years later, Hopkins published his autobiography, My Life In Advertising. These two books, still readily available, are the distillation of a remarkable life’s work in sales, advertising, and promotion. For my money, they’re worth their weight in gold to anyone who sells, creates, or uses advertising to build an enterprise.

Hopkins himself wrote of his philosophy and methods:

“I am sure I would fail if I tried to advertise the Rolls-Royce [as Ogilvy later did with great success], Tiffany & Co. or Steinway pianos. I do not know the reactions of the rich. But I do know the common people. I love to talk to laboring-men, to study housewives who must count their pennies, to gain the confidence and learn the ambitions of poor boys and girls. Give me something they want and I will strike the responsive chord. My words will be simple, my sentences short. Scholars may ridicule my style. The rich and vain may laugh at the factors which I feature. But in millions of humble homes the common people will read and buy. They will feel that the writer knows them. And they, in advertising, form 95 percent of our customers.”

He gave the advertising world concepts we take for granted today: testing and measuring for results, product sampling, demonstration selling, the use of coupons, the advantage of specificity over generalization, selling service, cooperative advertising, preemptive advertising—his work for Schlitz Beer is a classic example:

“I went through the brewery. I saw plate-glass rooms where beer was dripping over pipes, and I asked the reason for them. They told me those rooms were filled with filtered air, so the beer could be cooled in purity. I saw great filters filled with white-wood pulp. They explained how that filtered the beer. They showed how they cleaned every pump and pipe, twice daily, to avoid contaminations. How every bottle was cleaned four times by machinery. They showed me artesian wells, where they went 4000 feet deep for pure water, though their brewery was on Lake Michigan. They showed me the vats where beer was aged for six months before it went out to the user…

I came back to the office amazed. I said: ‘Why don’t you tell people these things? Why do you merely try to cry louder than others that your beer is pure? Why don’t you tell the reasons?’

‘Why,’ they said, ‘the processes we use are just the same as others use. No one can make good beer without them.’

‘But,’ I replied, ‘others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.'”

The result? Hopkins gave meaning to purity. Schlitz, the number five brewer at the time, leapfrogged to a first-place tie within just a few months. He considered it one of his greatest accomplishments and used the technique successfully for other products and clients.

Want to become better at what you do? Take a lesson or two from the past and get yourself a copy of the combined volume of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins.

You can also download a free copy of the latter volume here.  Or here.



Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Consistency, Consultants, Consumer behavior, Copy, Copywriting, Demonstration (demo) tapes, Madison Avenue, Magazine, Newspaper, Ogilvy, Positioning, Print, Problem-solving, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Listening to These Commercials Can Make You a Better Writer

Rod'sMercuryAwardCrop2The finalists in the 2018 Radio Mercury Awards have been announced.

The 100 or so commercials that made the cut represent some of the best work being done in radio advertising today.

From this group, a dozen or two will emerge as award-winners, taking home the coveted RMA “tube” and, in most cases, a substantial cash prize, as well.

In my experience, ads that perform well at the cash register rarely win recognition at this level.

And ads that win awards sometimes don’t accomplish much more than that.

But when a commercial offers a compelling sales message wrapped in an entertaining story, it can achieve both.

Here are a few of my favorites from this year’s competition:

  • From FCB Chicago, this spot for Radio Flyer wagons (you had one, didn’t you?) entitled “Stinky Broccoli Forest.”
  • BarrettSF‘s spot for Exchange Bank, “Oxymoron,” turns this figure of speech into a plausible case for the bank’s “mix of tradition and the future.” If the bank is meeting or exceeding its customers’ expectations, this message ought to make ’em feel good about their choice.
  • “Bad Decisions” from Frederick Swanston for client Travel Centers of America/Minute Mart is a great example of what can be accomplished (with a chuckle) in just 15 seconds.
  • From agency Publicis, Charmin Shiny Hiney” might make the gentle Mr. Whipple blush just a bit. Not your grandfather’s Charmin spot, that’s for certain.

If you’re seeking inspiration to enliven your brand or sales message, you could do a lot worse than to listen to the great work found in the Radio Mercury Awards’ online archives. 

Congratulations to all of this year’s RMA finalists.

Posted in Advertising (General), Awards, Branding, Business, Copy, Copywriting, Jingles, Madison Avenue, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Amplify Your Word-of-Mouth (Guaranteed)

You prize good word-of-mouth don’t you?

We all do.

Word-of-mouth may not create business, but it helps create a preference for your business or brand in the heart of the hearer.

Good radio advertising can have the same effect, only multiplied and amplified.

Radio is word-of-mouth on steroids.

Individual word-of-mouth travels slowly and unpredictably. Nor can you control it. Whereas a good radio advertising campaign travels faster and wider, while under your complete control. In this way an effective radio advertising campaign accelerates the inevitable outcome of word-of-mouth*.

What’s more, local radio advertising is today’s biggest bargain in advertising, often far underpriced for the value received.


  • Radio reaches more people every day, every week, than any other single medium. In fact, radio has kept its reach while TV is eroding. See for yourself; read the charts.
  • Radio is the only pure-speech medium. Why is this important? Speech is our primary form of communication, and it’s why radio advertising is so powerful! (Skeptical? Here’s a logical demonstration. Try conducting your business without speaking. Seriously. Use only text, graphics, symbols, printed materials, etc. in communicating, but don’t speak. See how far that gets you.)
  • Radio is everywhere and goes anywhere. We listen when we walk, when we drive, when we’re doing chores, etc. Radio is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe.

“Media research shows that only two percent of the population are consciously aware of radio as a vital source of information in their lives—about the same percentage who, when questioned, report air as one of the ingredients they consume in life. […] People don’t remember radio as a source of information, because they do not consciously listen to it. Rather they bathe in it and sit in it. Just as we are not conscious of our breathing, we are not actively aware of radio-mediated sound in our environment. Yet we are deeply involved with radio, and we are strongly affected by radio programming that allows us to participate.” (Tony Schwartz, The Responsive Chord, pp. 75-76)

  • Radio offers you affordable repetition of your message. Repetition is the mother of learning – and of persuasion! No wonder radio’s R.O.I. is better, dollar-for-dollar, time-for-time, than any other medium’s.
  • Radio is accountable to its advertisers. Chances are you’ve been hearing about widespread online ad-fraud lately; it’s been all over the news. But they’re not talking about radio.
  • Brands and businesses are built by mass-reach, spoken-word media. And that includes businesses and brands right here at home. Local success stories abound, and I’d be delighted to share them with you.

A bit of advice. Beware of entrusting your reputation to social media, review sites, and other shiny online “opportunities” not under your control, where negative comments, unfavorable reviews, sabotage by disgruntled ex-employees or impossible-to-please shoppers, etc. can tarnish your brand and business, and adversely affect your word-of-mouth. However, when you advertise on radio you control the content of your message, all of it, in an environment that favors your success.

Listen, business owners whom you know and respect are continually growing their market share by means of their radio advertising. You can, too. We’re as close as your phone, and we’ll be glad to talk with you.

After all, it’s what we do for a living.



*This works in the opposite direction, as well. An effective advertising campaign will cause a bad business to fail sooner. Bad word-of-mouth travels even faster than good, as your own experience will confirm. A business (or event) that fails to live up to the expectations of those who respond to its advertising will find it more difficult to win them back next time.

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Consistency, Copy, Copywriting, Internet, Magazine, Newspaper, Pay-per-click, Positioning, Print, Productivity, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling, Voice Acting | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Speech Therapist In Your Pocket

You and I take the sounds of our words for granted. We don’t even give them a second thought.

Having learned our alphabet as kids (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, possibly our earliest exposure to the power of a jingle), we gradually picked up a vocabulary, adding to it a few words at a time.  And now, we speak effortlessly and instinctively.

But not all of us.  

Consider kids with speech disorders.  For them, learning to speak clearly can be a daunting task.

The development of communication skills begins in infancy, before the emergence of the first word. Any speech or language problem is likely to have a significant effect on the child’s social and academic skills and behavior. The earlier a child’s speech and language problems are identified and treated, the less likely it is that problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships. (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)

Chances are you know someone who has struggled with a communication difficulty, whether that be a lisp, a fluency problem, or trouble pronouncing certain sounds. With the help of a speech-language pathologist or speech therapist, their problems were met and often overcome.

photo courtesy Pullman Regional Hospital

But it’s not just kids who need this help.

People from other countries come here to pursue an education or career opportunity. English is not their first language. And even though they’re committed to learning to speak it fluently, they sometimes find it difficult to wrap their heads around certain sounds.

Hey, so do we. When was the last time you heard a group of non-native English speakers, speaking in their native tongue? Here in our college town, it’s not unusual to encounter, say, Asian or Middle Eastern students holding an animated conversation in Chinese or Arabic, for instance. What we hear are sounds, not words. So, put yourself in their shoes.

Whether the cause is physical or cultural, the fact remains: some folks need help learning to pronounce English sounds correctly.

And that’s where this story begins.

Enter Keri Jones, speech expert.

A speech pathologist at Pullman Regional Hospital, Jones has developed a breakthrough application for anyone needing to learn to pronounce English sounds correctly. It’s called Speech Sounds Visualized.

There are 26 letters in our alphabet, from which are derived 44 phonemes or sounds that form the basis of our speech communication. These fall into three categories: consonants, vowels, and blends. Speech Sounds Visualized provides an easy, convenient way to learn these sounds by watching, listening, and speaking.

Back in December, as Keri was finalizing work on the various components of her app, getting everything ready to send to the developer for final coding, she decided that the app needed a male voice to balance her own. One of her colleagues, a mutual friend, telephoned me to ask if I’d be willing to record a list of words for her. I was glad to help.

After countless hours of work by Keri and a team of project partners, including Pullman Regional Hospital, the PRH Center for Learning and Innovation, and Gemiini Educational Systems in Spokane, developers of innovative learning tools for people with autism, Down Syndrome, stroke victims, etc., the app went “live” last month in the Apple iTunes Store.

It’s already getting 5-star ratings and enthusiastic reviews, with only limited marketing to date. Everyone involved has high hopes that it will take off.

I’ve lost track of all the commercials and audio features I’ve recorded over the years, but it’s unlikely that I’ll soon forget this, my first contribution of voice work to a project that has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of people struggling to learn to speak English. For them, Speech Sounds Visualized will be “the speech therapist in their pocket,” and I’m honored to have been able to make a small contribution to its success.

Thank you, Keri. And congratulations on bringing this dream of yours to fruition.

We can’t wait to see what happens next.


Additional resources:

Steve Stone’s blog on Speech Sounds Visualized

Moscow Pullman Daily News article (unfortunately, the full article is behind a paywall, available only to paid subscribers)

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website 

Keri Jones’ profile on LinkedIn

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Putting Your Phone Number in a Radio Ad is a Bad Idea. Here’s Why.

Why you shouldn't put your phone number in your radio commercialYou’re not one of those advertisers who puts their telephone number into their radio ads, are you?

Good. Didn’t think so. Because you know better.

You chuckle at the mental image of somebody pulling over as they’re driving down the road, scrambling to jot down your number.

You know that there are seven to ten other words that would serve your marketing goals far better than that string of seven to ten numbers, right?

Seriously, unless you’re a direct-response marketer whose business is conducted principally or exclusively by phone, there really isn’t a good reason for you to waste valuable airtime by sticking your phone number into your commercial. (And if you are one of those businesses, you’re much better served by having a “vanity” number that employs a mnemonic device to aid in retention, e.g., 1-800-FLOWERS.)

Generally, your ad should contain one point of contact, not several, and then only if it’s absolutely necessary. Might be the physical location of your store or office, but these days a better choice may be your website*.

There was a time when “Let your fingers do the walking” meant using the Yellow Pages to look up a business. When was the last time you did that?  Today, we Google that information, or we ask Siri or Alexa to make the call. Today’s World Wide Web has eliminated the need to remember a phone number.

When was the last time you heard an ad for WalMart, Home Depot, Geico, McDonald’s, or any major retailer or brand? How many of them included their telephone number in their ad? Why do you think that is?

For the majority of marketers, it’s far more important to get people to remember your name than your phone number. And it’s infinitely more important for a prospective customer to know why she should do business with you, what she should think or how she should feel about doing business with you, than it is to know how to reach you. Because once she knows who you are and what you stand for, once she’s convinced that she wants to do business with you, finding you is easy.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. If you operate a pizza delivery service, having a memorable phone number is a good idea, so that whenever someone feels like pizza for dinner, they can call you (and get put on hold until the person answering finishes with a previous caller). But even pizza joints are gradually moving toward online or mobile ordering with an app; this will eventually reduce the need to use the telephone to arrange a pizza delivery.

Other good examples: emergency services (Think: “Call 911”). A hospital emergency room or urgent care provider might benefit by having dedicated, listener-friendly phone number. Ditto local taxi cab companies, HVAC emergencies, and plumbers. Ken Paulson has for the past year been training Pullman area residents to remember his phone number by means of a catchy jingle. (“Clear that drain with one call. Call 3-3-8-oh-8-2-4. Ken Paulson. Ken Paulson Plumbing.”) When you’re ankle-deep in water down in your flooded basement, it’s nice not to have to look up his number to call for help.

Music can be a powerful ally in getting people to remember your business, without even trying. Right from the time we memorized the alphabet as kids, singing it to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, we’ve effortlessly learned thousands of songs, motion pictures, products and brands, thanks to the irresistible influence of their music.

Should you have any doubt about the effectiveness of music for local businesses or brands, just ask Steve and Theresa Myers, Devon Felsted, Don Frei, Kevin Peterson, Archie McGregor, or Sam Dial to share their experience.

In a recent discussion among radio advertising professionals around the country, my buddy Blaine Parker related this experience:

We once tried to convince a new retail client to NOT put a phone number in a commercial because it would reduce traffic to the store. They had a “super secret sale” going on. Their first commercial said, “Just come into the store, say ‘Super Secret Sale!’, and get 20% off anything in the store.”

The first week of the sale went gangbusters. The client also said, “But we’re getting all these phone calls. We need to put the number in the spot!” We said, “No, you don’t. They found your phone number without it being in spot. You’re good. Add the phone number, and you’re going to kill response.” They wouldn’t listen.

The phone number went into the spot. As predicted, the phone number clouded the message. Traffic dropped off precipitously. The client walked away saying, “Radio doesn’t work.”

Sometimes, you can’t save an advertiser from himself. As for phone numbers, they are death for retail and any other message where the call to action is “come in.” The ONLY reason to include a phone number in a radio commercial is that it’s the only way to take advantage of the offer being made to the listener.

Carl Quist, proprietor of Imported Car Service in Pullman, has been advertising consistently in the morning news on one of our stations for many years. He could end his commercials with his phone number, since virtually all his customers call him on the phone to schedule service appointments. But he chooses not to. He knows that they can find his number quickly by asking the Goog. So, what does he choose to say in those final few seconds of his commercial, instead of giving his phone number? “Drive an import? Get to know Imported Car Service. On Bishop Boulevard in Pullman.” (Incidentally, his phone number is (509) 332-2314 – in case you’d like to ask him how his advertising is working.)

So, if your telephone number has been part of your radio commercial without a compelling reason, whether through inertia, laziness, or misguided advice, take it out. Replace it with words that will serve your business better.

*Brent Walker, an audio advertising specialist, provides additional perspective in his video, Think Landing Page, Not Phone Number. (You might be asked to sign up for a free account at Marketing Profs to view it. It’s worthwhile.)

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Copy, Copywriting, Jingles, Professional Services Advertising, Proofreading, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Picture-Perfect Palouse

The Picture-perfect Palouse – a slideshow featuring photos of the Palouse, captured while on drives and walks in Palouse Country throughout the year.  First-time visitors to the Palouse region describe our unique Palouse landscapes as peaceful, tranquil, different from any other place they’ve seen.  If you would truly understand the beauty of the Palouse, you must visit the Palouse…drive its paved roads and dirt roads (some 2000 miles’ worth)…and discover its charms. Until then, please enjoy these Palouse photos – just a small sampler of our Picture-Perfect Palouse.


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A Modest Proposal for Radio

  •  Do Most Radio Ads Suck?

    Jeff Sexton is an ad writer, and a damn good one.

    He occasionally teaches ad writing at Wizard Academy and is himself one of the Wizard of Ads® Partners. I subscribe to Jeff’s blog and heartily encourage you to do so, too, in the interest of challenging you to stretch and sharpen your communication skills.

    In my email today was Jeff’s latest post, “Why Most Radio Ads Suck?”  In it he compares and contrasts national-quality radio and tv spots with locally-produced radio and tv spots and argues that it’s easier and more affordable for a local advertiser to obtain high-quality radio commercials and campaigns than it is to get the same quality in a tv spot or campaign. He asks, What’s holding local radio back? and cites three reasons:

    1.) Radio stations have largely abandoned theater of the mind.

    2.) Most stations no longer have dedicated copywriters.

    3.) Most stations give away free production

    And that third observation resonated deeply with me, as I have long believed that if we, as an industry, embraced this model (as television has done from the beginning), the largest cause of our self-inflicted injuries would cease to exist.

    Sexton writes:

    If you view production as a cost center rather than a profit center, you try to squeeze as much productivity out of the production team as possible.

    And that means giving away free production as a deal sweetener to boost sales.

    Which results in an overworked production team that has little time to do anything but produce crappy ads as fast as possible.

    But what if you valued production enough to charge for it?  What if you felt that the quality of ads you ran reflected the quality of your radio station itself, and you’d be ashamed to run an insipid, badly produced ad?

    You can laugh, but such an approach has been done before and it worked like gangbusters.

    But here’s the rub? You can’t tack on production costs at the end of a sales pitch.

    You have to bake the value of production into the sales pitch from the get-go.

    Unfortunately, no stations seem willing to do that.

    Some years back, we had a vigorous discussion on this subject in one of our Friday Polls here at RSC. I’d be curious to know what folks think about that idea today. Should we, as Jeff Sexton suggests, “bake the value of production into the sales pitch from the get-go?”

    When I approached the station owner many years ago about adding a production fee to our rate card, to cover the costs of creating commercials that involved more than 30 minutes of writing and production time, he was reluctant to make that a policy. But he did say that I was free to negotiate my own arrangements with clients for whom I was going to do this kind of work – so I did. Still do. And when the spot or campaign calls for a true, non-announcery voice actor, I make the case for it. I have yet to have a client refuse to do this, once he understands the value proposition.

    You get what you pay for. Or, as Jim Williams-trained salespeople will remember him preaching: “A thing is worth what you pay for it.”

    Our national radio leaders, trainers, and industry observers have been telling us for decades that we need to provide our advertisers with better commercials. And we always agree with them. But we don’t always follow-through. Advertisers themselves make it easy, when they’re so willing to accept those chest-thumping platitudes that make them feel good about themselves, but do nothing to inspire their customers.

    So, it was good to read Jeff’s take on all of this – and I happen to agree heartily with his conclusion:

    So, yes, most radio ads do suck.

    But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

    Radio just needs to get its mojo back, if only its leaders would find the courage to make it happen.

    998 posts

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Casting Talent, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Consistency, Copy, Copywriting, Problem-solving, Professional Services Advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Radio Sales Cafe, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling, Uncategorized, Voice Acting, Voiceover | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoroughbred Radio Ad Campaign Races into Hall of Fame

One of my very favorite advertising campaigns of all time has to do with horse racing.

And life, laughter, and modern culture.

It’s DeVito/Verdi’s brilliant “And They’re Off…” campaign, winner of multiple advertising awards over the years, including their induction earlier this month into the Clio Hall of Fame.

Here’s one of the commercials from the long-running campaign, winner of the $100,000 grand prize in the 2006 Radio Mercury Awards.

If you haven’t heard this one before, you should probably swallow that sip of coffee or soda before you hit the play button.

Crazy, huh? A vivid moving picture, painted entirely with words, comes to life in your imagination.

One voice. No music. No sound effects (until the tagline).

Pretty amazing, when you stop to think about it.

The campaign has stayed true to its premise over many years, demonstrating the value of consistency in advertising. (Another good illustration: Tom Bodett and Motel 6.) Every commercial has followed the same approach. According to the press release from DeVito/Verdi:

…a fast-talking announcer provides running play-by-play of an everyday outing or happening with the same brio as if he were calling an action-packed horse race. Invariably, all of these events fall short of the excitement and thrill of visiting a thoroughbred racetrack.

“Sushi” (above) and “Dinner Date” were my two favorites among all the ads I’ve heard for NTRA. Until yesterday, that is, when I ran across this spot, “Gym.”  I’m pretty sure it’s a guy thing, but listening to it had me laughing out loud.

Here’s something you should take away from this campaign. There’s no way you could this in video or print. Only in the realm of pure audio, where imagination is given free rein (so to speak), can ads like these be pulled off.  It’s pure theater-of-the-mind.

Want to hear more from the NTRA campaign? Click the play button below.

Posted in Advertising (General), Awards, Branding, Business, Communication, Consistency, Copywriting, Positioning, Print, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling, Voice Acting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Testimonial Ads Earn High Marks from the Wizard of Ads®

Most people reading this blog know who Roy H. Williams is. The Wizard of Ads®, founder of Wizard Academy and the American Small Business Institute, author of the best-selling Wizard of Ads® trilogy and co-author with partners Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg of Be Like Amazon (Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It). He dispenses his wisdom weekly in his long-running free newsletter, the Monday Morning Memo.

A year ago, I was asked to update the tags to my client Clearview Eye Clinic’s testimonial commercials, to introduce the new surgeon who’d joined the practice. I had misgivings about messing with the commercials that had taken so long to put together and were working well. So, I decided to enlist the help of Roy H. Williams and wrote to him in advance of the August 16, 2016 “Wizard of Ads Live” webcast (now rebranded as the monthly videos of the

His generous response blew me away.

I’ve written before about testimonial advertising, how it’s painstaking work to do it right and have the people come across as real and genuine, not contrived. Even if what they’re saying is true, if it sounds contrived or uncomfortable the ad will not have the desired effect. When you hear these ads and the people come across as authentic and believable, know that a great deal of work went into putting these stories together.

Rather than telling you what he had to say, I’ll let you hear it from the Wizard himself. Thanks to Daniel Whittington of Wizard Academy for allowing me to share the video.


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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



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