Creative Services

Tips and Strategies for Blogging

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Blog letters pinned to white wall

I’m sure this has only happened to me…  but, have you ever had the order come down from above (think more corporate, less angles) that you need to write a blog post on (x) by (x)?

If you’re like most people the first thing that escapes your lips is a whispered “how am I supposed to get this done?”.  Well, relax it might just be easier than you think!
Here are a couple of tips and strategies that might just stir the creative writing process for you!

Step 1 – Read

The first step in writing a great blog post is to know your topic and chances are you’re not the first one to ever write on your subject.  So, why reinvent the wheel?
Solomon said it best “there is nothing new under the sun”.  There is no need to make things more difficult then that have to be.  Go online and find other blog posts on your subject and gather ideas.  Notice how other bloggers have organized their thoughts, and begin to formulate your own ideas on what you want to write about.

Step 2 – The Outline

Begin putting together an outline;
  • Create a topic headline
  • Brainstorm, and develop key points
  • Write an opening and Introduction
  • Write your thoughts on the subject
  • Conclusion
The mechanics of writing are pretty simple it’s the content and your personality that give it life!  I would suggest that you include quotes from the blogs that you checked out at first (for research of course).  Then, top it all off with a call to action.
It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but after all when you post online it pretty much stays there forever! (no pressure)

Step 3 – Pen to Paper or Voice to Text?

Even if you’re not the most skilled writer in the world chances are you know how to speak.  That being said, the good news is that through the use of some very handy technology you now have an advantage over most writers in history past.

The Smart Phone

Most smart phones come with some type of voice recorder, and if not, there are plenty of apps you can download.  Record yourself talking on the key points that your blog needs to touch on, and then write or type out the content.

Dragon or voice to text software

There are more and more apps and technology that allow users to simply talk and type content directly to the page.  Budges vary and so does software cost, so be sure to take a look around and do some research.  Is this a one time deal, or have you tapped into your passion for the written word?

Elance or Fiverr.com

Too lazy to type it out, or not tech enough for talk to text?  You can always outsource the typing to someone who can.  There are plenty of people willing to transcribe your audio and even organize your outline into a proper format (for a fee of course).  Same thing as before, do your research and see if this will work for you.

Conclusion

Times are changing and many professionals will be heeding the call to blog more often.  What we make of the experience and the process will ultimately be reflected in the content we create.  So, why not enjoy it!

Nathan Gist

PAR Director of Social Media Engagement
PER Production/Imaging Director
PER Afternoon Drive Host

Pictures Tell a Story

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pictures worth a 1000 words

“A picture’s worth a thousand words…”

When you get home tonight, look around your house at the many pictures you have hung up.  If you are at your desk right now, look around at the pictures of your friends and family.

Those pictures tell a story.

They tell of family vacations, graduations, a loving union, a birth of a child, etc. Whatever the picture is, it says something to you. A picture conveys much more than you could ever say in words.

As humans, we are visual creatures. We like to look on the beauty of what God has created, and we want to somehow capture it.  In a picture, something right in front of us, we’re able to keep seeing it.

So human beings love to take pictures and look at them… what does that have to do with our websites? EVERYTHING!

When someone visits your website, your home online, you have the opportunity to grab their attention. But you have a short period of time to do that and limited space too. So what is the most effective way to get them to buy into your web presence?

Pictures and graphics!

What kind of pictures should I post?

The message in the picture should match the message you are trying to get across. Recently, our Spirit FM team hosted diaper drives for several local pregnancy centers. Instead of using a banner with simple text on it, we used a picture of a mom and a baby. This picture set the tone for our drives, related to the lives of our listeners and told a story that spoke volumes.

What did the picture of the mom and the baby say?

  1. Your donation is helping moms care for their babies.
  2. Remember what it was like to have little ones?
  3. Remember how much diapers cost?
  4. You could be a blessing to this young mom.
  5. There is no greater love you can give a mom than to help her take care of her baby.
  6. You’re helping a mom say yes to life.

To each person that picture said something different, something we could have never conveyed in words alone.

When choosing a picture for your website or social media:

  1. Make sure it tells a story.
  2. Make sure it fits the tone of your printed words.
  3. Make sure you have a high quality picture.  It should be clear, not grainy, and it should fit correctly physically, etc.
  4. Make sure they fit your stations demographic.  Just like we analyze on-air breaks and how they could relate to “her” better, do the same thing before posting a graphic.  Make sure it’s something that would connect with her.
  5. Make sure it fits your stations story.  Every word spoken on-air, every status on Facebook, every graphic on the website is a continuation of your stations story.  Make sure the graphics continue that story!

As radio stations, we are always thinking about the on-air product but sometimes forget about the other media we produce.  Remember your website is a part of your station, it’s a representation of it.  Graphics play a huge role in the success of your website, so pick wisely!!!

~Colleen Larkins

Assistant Manager Spirit FM, PAR website coordinator

JUST GET IT DONE!

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clocking in

A passion for what you do is critical to achieving excellence consistently.  It is the difference between one who is all “In” and another who is just “Clockin In.”

If audio production is not your “passion” and youre charged with that responsibility at your radio station, it can be an overwhelmingly heavy weight.  In small market radio and many medium market stations, you may wear multiple hats.  Someone must be in charge of production.  Tag, youre it!

Okay, so audio production is not your passion.  Perhaps you are proficient with the administrative side of this vital area of operations, but you lack some of the skills to really do masterful audio work.  A few pointers of how to approach this creative and subjective craft could help develop the “must do” part of your work into a real “passion” for it.

Isaiah “Izzy” Knight, Afternoon Host and Media Director at Spirit FM in Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia, has some tips that just may be what the doctor ordered.

Knight says, “Creating efficiencies and working smarter will provide you time to create a more effective and compelling product.”  Heres what he recommends:

TEMPLATES

“Audition CC and CS6 have a feature called ‘Templates.’  It is an easy way to have your toolbox of SFX and Beds automatically loaded with your rack presets ready to go.  Just set up your session and export it as a template.  If you have an older version, just set up a blank session and save it to your desktop.  Just remember to hit ‘Save As.’

PRESETS

Set up a rack for each voice-over person you have.  Unless theyre voicing a spot in another studio, you should never have to tweak their audio again after it is set (unless youre going for a new effect, of course).

BATCH PROCESSING

Have a voice tracker or other outside dry voice audio?  Batch process their files using your settings to give them a bit more punch and match your station.

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES

There are several ways to approach this workflow.  It needs to be simple, provide accountability and include enforceable deadlines for each person in the process.  Knight prefers paperless.  If budget is an issue for you, going digital can be done FREE by using Google Docs.  Create a form with the fields you need and it will automatically populate the spreadsheet.  This operation is working very well at Spirit FM.  If you have a budget for third party vendor software, Vcreative is a good tool at www.vcreativeinc.com.

POLICY

Make these deadlines, presets and templates standard operating procedure. Standardizing your work flow will save you time in the long run and the continuity will make your station(s) sound significantly better.”

You never know…what is a “just get it done” drudgery to you now, may grow into a passion you never dreamed of, bringing all your hidden creative talents into full bloom.  And thats excellence!

 

Marc Tischart

General Manager

Spirit FM

First Steps to Excellent Production

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AudioProduction

 

Among the most satisfying functions of a radio station is audio production.

At the same time, this is one of the most frustrating jobs, particularly with commercials. You can crank that frustration level up a few more notches when producing underwriting announcements for a non-commercial station. The FCC guidelines are enough to cause bouts of heartburn with the “do’s and don’ts” that have a myriad of interpretations, depending on which FCC legal counsel or “so-called” station expert on the matter you’re speaking to.

The up-front work before a spot goes to production is critical to achieving excellence in the final product, before it goes to air. This begins in the sales department. Non-commercial stations sales people are typically referred to as underwriting representatives. How about we call them  Sponsor Care Specialists? I like that. Anyway, the SCS has the power to make the difference between mediocre client service and care that speaks “excellence”.

This begins with how the SCS presents what we can and cannot say in their script. As a non-commercial, educationally licensed station, we provide acknowledgments or a“Thank You’” for the sponsor’s tax-deductible donation. Semantics play a key role in helping the donor understand the differences between commercials and underwriting spots. Though we will not address the FCC Underwriting Guidelines here, simply stated, we can provide acknowledgements similar to those heard on Public Broadcasting stations. It is incumbent on the SCS to know what these limitations are and how to navigate sponsor questions to arrive at a script that is agreed on by all parties.

With the Underwriting Agreement in hand and the Production/Insertion Order with approved script ready to go, these documents, including any special instructions, go to the Traffic Department for processing.

Phew!! That sounds like quite an ordeal! This phase of the production process is critical to excellence. Having a solid and sustainable means of communication between the Underwriting Department, Traffic and Production is paramount in the second phase. Having a work-flow that covers the necessary details for each Agreement and Order saves time and frustration.

Once Traffic enters all Agreement and Order information into the station traffic system, Spirit FM takes advantage of Google Spreadsheet to communicate the Production Order details, i.e., Business Partner, Start Date, End Date, Cart Number, Voice Talent/AGY, Date Sent to Talent, Date Completed, Underwriting Rep.

Now Production is ready to take it from here. The SCS tells the sponsor/client that it takes five (5) business days, typically, to process their order and have it ready for air. This keeps us in control of the procedure and minimizes rush jobs that threaten our ability to achieve excellence consistently.  It is recommended that the Sponsor Care Specialist (SCS) not provide the mp3 file of the produced spot until the end of business the day prior to air.  Remember, the script has already had prior client approval. This avoids giving the sponsor the time to have co-workers, friends, family and dog from giving their opinions that often lead to changes. Talk about a source of anxiety and frustration, for the Production Department especially! I worked at an AM/FM commercial property several years ago with six (6) sales people. Imagine the bottleneck if each of them had changes to scripts and spots that could have been avoided with prior, proper planning.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, so there will be occasions when last minute changes and rush orders take place, but these should be the exception and not the rule.

Though the relationship between sales, programming and production has been challenging since the dawn of radio, following protocols such as these are some of the First Steps to Excellent Production. And, a much happier Team!

 

Marc Tischart

General Manager, Spirit FM