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Turning ideas into on-air content – Jill Misson

21st November 2023

This post was written on www.carnsight.com by guest author, Jill Misson.  Jill Misson is a freelance writer and broadcaster with over 20 years of experience working on radio stations in the UK and around the world. As a presenter and producer, she has hosted programmes, podcasts and documentaries for the BBC and BFBS. 

Your favourite radio station is probably on in the background while you are busy working, driving or washing up. The familiar sound keeps you company without demanding your full attention yet certain conversations catch your ear and draw you in to listen more closely. The challenge for the team behind the scenes is to create compelling content that appeals to their particular audience, provokes a response or keeps them tuned in for longer.

Radio producers and presenters need a constant supply of fresh ideas to set up interviews, features and phone-ins to fill programmes. Press releases may drop into their inboxes every day but they don’t just sit around waiting for emails to tell them what to cover and who to speak to. The creative process is much more proactive than that with a drive to produce original content by finding untold stories and new voices.

So where do the ideas come from and how are they turned into on-air content?

News

All radio stations cover the news to some extent so that’s a good place to start. Current affairs can be considered from various angles by reflecting different viewpoints or delving deeper than the headlines. Most newsrooms still get daily newspapers delivered and producers will scan them for ideas as well as searching online on websites and social media.

Programme teams have access to shared newsgathering diaries where events happening on a fixed date are added in advance with relevant contacts which helps forward planning.

Breaking news can mean dropping everything that was lined up and starting from scratch with little time before broadcast. Guests need to be found quickly. Trusted speakers who have been interviewed before on related subjects will often be called up to comment but producers also ring around other potential guests and book them at short notice.

For local radio, there is an appetite to show how people in the area will be affected or to discover how they feel about a topical issue. Reporters will go out onto the streets to record vox pops to gather a range of thoughts. Posting on social media can also bring in case studies, particularly in specific groups connected to the story by location or interests.

A big news story is always a good hook for content so pitches to a radio station can land well if they are well-timed and relevant with knowledgeable speakers available for interview.

TV & Film

Popular culture gets everyone talking from the latest plotline on a popular soap opera to the must-see movie at the cinema. TV and film can therefore be a source of good ideas for radio, not just for reviews or interviews with the stars but when stories or ideas portrayed on screen can be opened out for wider discussion or to offer advice and greater insight.

Everyday Life

Stand-up comedians come up with sketches from observing the world around them and the same goes for radio. Some of the best content starts from a simple observation that can spark a talking point. Listeners can relate to a presenter revealing an embarrassing moment or chatting about a personal experience and in turn share their own anecdotes.

Questions

A random thought or question can create fascinating content. What have you always wondered but never fully understood? People love learning new things so producers will search for experts who can explain a concept, show how something is made or answer queries on a phone-in programme.

Success

It is often heartwarming or inspiring to hear about other people’s achievements particularly when there is an element of triumph over adversity. People who are prepared to talk honestly about their own journey or personal experience, including the highs and the lows, can make great radio content. Someone at the top of their game in any field can share tips to help others succeed. To tell the story of a successful business, try to focus on the people in the company rather than the product or service you are trying to sell.

Nostalgia

We all love any excuse to look back with rose-tinted glasses and reminisce. Stories that trigger memories are a rich seam of content and can lead to warm recollections or moving accounts. This can work well on local radio where people in a community can come together to share their experiences of a school, a workplace or a venue.

Campaigns

Producers keep an eye out for fundraising events and charity challenges as they often lead to people who are passionate about raising money or awareness for a cause for personal reasons. Experiences of illness, bereavement, disability or mental health can make for strong content. Ongoing campaigns to achieve a goal can also prove interesting if listeners can follow progress and feel part of the journey.

Occasions

Certain events roll around every year so spotting an occasion like Valentine’s Day on the calendar might suggest a theme. However, finding a new way to cover it is the tricky part as so many ideas will have been done to death so an original or unusual idea is key.

Sharing stories

As you can see, radio producers find their ideas everywhere and can make content out of anything. They are always on the lookout for new people to meet and new stories to tell.

For more on the world of radio broadcasting, check out Jill’s previous blog on preparing to be on air and working within time constraints.

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About Carnsight Communications

At Carnsight Communications we create strategies and campaigns to showcase our clients’ brilliant work through PR, content and social media. We help them get noticed by the right audience, at the right time. We specialise in creative agency PR.

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