Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Two Weeks as a Copywriter.

Seven weeks ago I blogged that I was hopefully embarking on a new career as a copywriter at a local radio station. I thought I was going to be doing a few weeks trial and then they would decide whether to keep me on. That was at least what my job provider told me, but the radio station had different ideas. They only ever planned to give me a couple of weeks work experience. I had the attitude that I would treat it as a learning experience and learn everything I could about copywriting.

I turned up ready and raring to go at the start of September and I was told that my start date would be postponed for two weeks. For those two weeks I waited for the call telling me the whole thing had been called off. But two weeks later I turned up for my first day.

The copywriter was busy, announcing, so the producer asked me to write some community service announcements. The first one I wrote started with a question, and I was told, don’t start with a question as it is too easy for the listener to answer in the negative and then not listen to the rest of the announcement. Fair enough.

I had done a bit of research on copywriting before I started so I had a fair idea what a radio commercial should contain. I had found that about half the commercial scripts I looked at, started with questions, but I was not about to argue with the producer. Instead, I determined to come up with more original commercial beginnings.

That afternoon I worked with the station’s copywriter. He, like the producer, stressed that radio commercials have to be conversational, which was a real shift in the way I write. He then got me to write a few commercials.

I found the hardest thing to write was the opening sentence. Once I had the first sentence written I also had the tone and theme for the commercial. I then watched as the copywriter made my commercials punchier.

I was only there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. On the days I wasn’t there I did a bit more research into commercials. My job provider kept on telling me I was doing well, which actually got me thinking I might end up with a job. I did seem to be getting on well with everyone I worked with.

But then, after two weeks, the learning experience ended. The producer told me that Edge FM was only a small radio station so everyone who worked there had to be multi-talented: copywriters also had to be announcers.

I think it was too steep a learning curve for myself to get over anyway. By the end of the two weeks I was relatively happy with the ideas I was coming up for commercials, but still thought my writing needed to become much more conversational and punchier.

The station manager got me back in last Thursday for a debrief. He said I fitted in well, but they did not have the money or work to employ me. He did say that they may get me in if the copywriter is sick or goes on holidays. So there is a slim hope.  


James Frenkel said...

With competition from tv and the internet these days, and dominated by big corporations with many stations, radio is a brutally tough business. At least it's that way in the U.S. I have the feeling that it's tough everywhere. It doesn't surprise me to hear that the station wants everyone there to be multi-talented. A small station has little choice. So maybe you should start practicing your DJ patter.

But seriously, good luck. Have you thought of approaching advertising agencies for copywriting work?

Satima Flavell said...

All grist for the mill, Graham!

Anthony J. Langford said...

That's great experience, but how times have changed. The cities swallowed all up radio and tv stations in the early 90's. Very sad for regional towns. I too got my start in regional tv - also through work experience. However this was in the 80's -when each town had its own identity. Now everything is amalgamated. Very sad. I wouldn't hold your breath but at least it have you some insight and experience.

graywave said...

For a writer, no experience is wasted. Now, at the very least you can write a novel set in a radio station (with the lovable copywriter out of his depth in the announcer role and the fresh-faced intern trying to grab his copywriting job).

Graham Clements said...

I like your story idea Graham (Greywave). I might change the main character in my latest novel from having worked in country television (where I have also worked)to working in radio.

Graham Clements said...


Even Edge FM is an amalgamation of radio stations. It has an AM version of 3NE and also runs radio stations in Deniliquin and Echuca. I just wish there was a local advertising agency to try.


Graham Clements said...


As I think I mentioned to you before, I used to work for Prime Television in the Traffic Department. Last I heard all the commercial scheduling was now centralised in Canberra for Prime. I know the local news now comes from there too. I am hoping that I can find some way of getting paid for copywriting online.

I did enjoy my time at the radio station though. Amazing how the radio announcers always seemed to be up. Wish I had whatever they were on (just massive enthusiasm I think).