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Paint pictures with sound and you’re on the radio

Paint pictures with sound

Paint pictures with sound

The crackling of the house fire. The sirens blaring. Firemen yelling. When radio reporter Kyle Johnson had sounds that evoked images, he had his story.

And if you told him how to find or provided him with those descriptive sounds, you had him or at the very least his attention

Twitter is the new flavor, while blogs and podcasts are communication staples for millions. But for a captive audience, Johnson said nothing beats broadcast radio’s morning drive time. In every metro region in the country, tens of thousands of morning commuters tune in to their radios for news. And because radio news professionals are particularly hurried, they welcome pitches crafted to their medium, he said.

“With no images to work with, you have to help us paint pictures for the mind,” Johnson said. “How something sounds can be more important than the details.”

Johnson also emphasized not to forget time, and timing, when vying for the attention of radio news producers, news directors, and reporters. Two important points:

• Because most radio news stories are 30-seconds long, not much more than snippets, radio news is essentially a headline service. When approaching, don’t drill down with details. Pitch tightly.

• React quickly if a station shows interest. Stories move through the broadcast cycle within hours. Blink, Johnson said, and you miss your chance.

“Keep it brief, make it quick and time it right,” says Johnson, quoting pitching rules from ABC Radio’s Randy Lutz. Johnson adds, “Make it sound just right.”

(Kyle Johnson was at WTOP all-news radio in Washington, D.C., for 19 years. He is now managing editor of the Vocus radio team).

–Michael Blankenheim

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