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Sales Tip - The Five Second Radio Headline Test

Here's a simple, but possibly painful test to perform on your radio script before you've produced it. Read the first 5 seconds of your commercial out loud to yourself or to members of your intended audience. Then stop and ask: "Would you continue to listen to this commercial?"

If your commercial is already produced, then play the first 5 seconds of the spot, put it on pause and ask the same question.

If the answer is "No," go back and re-write your opening "audio headline" so that it catches the attention of and intrigues listeners to stay, because if you don't get them in the first few seconds, you won't keep them for the rest of the commercial. If the answer is "Yes," then go on to tell the rest of the story with an interesting middle and a strong ending.

That critical 5-second opening could be words, interesting voices, sound effects, music or any combination of those elements. It might be funny, poignant, shocking, intriguing, dramatic, or newsworthy, but make sure it's relevant to the audience you want to reach as well as to the rest of the spot.

An attention-getting opening that isn't part of a story that develops in the following 25 or 55 seconds will only confuse or irritate your listener. A relevant story that doesn't have a strong opening won't have any audience.

If you don't capture them in the first 5 seconds, often the rest of the commercial is wasted time. When you do, you're on your way to building rapport with the over-communicated audience.

Source: Veteran radio consultant Jeffrey Hedquist. To learn how to sell more on the radio using stories, email jeffrey@hedquist.com.