Radio Imaging is what allows a radio station to stand out – using only sound.
What is Radio Imaging?
Radio Imaging is a type of branding that a radio station uses to create a signature sound. This enables listeners to easily identify a station and connect with its content. Successful radio imaging gives stations a competitive edge in their respective markets.
There are several different types of radio imaging that can be used by a station to create an identifiable radio brand including: promos, sweepers, intros and outros, station ID’s and drops. Each piece serves a different purpose for a station and is used in different places during the course of the day.
Effective radio imaging not only reminds listeners which station they’re listening to, but also engages them with the overall culture of the station and its various social and online platforms.
Why is Radio Imaging Important?
Radio imaging is essential in creating a uniquely identifiable station brand. It’s employed to create, drive and sustain the overall vision of the station. By creating a brand that listeners can identify with and want more of, audience grows. Maximizing audience is integral to ratings and revenue success.
Radio imaging can make or break the success of certain shows and even the overall station, which is the reason the industry as a whole attributes such value to it.
What Elements make up Radio Imaging?
Radio imaging is a composite of sounds that are used in different ways to appeal to a radio station’s audience. Each radio station has its format ranging from urban adult contemporary to news/talk/sports, from rock to Spanish, etc.
For example, Lite AM stations will play jingles that blend well with the music being aired. Typically, intense electric guitar playing won’t be used in the imaging as it wouldn’t be consistent with the overall sound that the audience tunes in for.
The other important element of radio imaging is proper voice-over talent. The voice of a should reflect the overall brand that the audience identifies with. It’s important to hire professional voice-over talent who evokes the personality, energy, tone and attitude of the station.
When is Radio Imaging Useful?
Radio imaging is useful when a station is trying to increase its brand presence within a market, establish a new voice within the market, or to create a fresh image within a market. This can be done through various types of radio imaging, as well as new voice-over talent.
Types of Radio Imaging
Promos, which is short for promotions, are a type of commercial showcasing the station. These are used for upcoming events that a radio station may be hosting or to highlight a show that the station is trying to increase the ratings for. For example, a promo may be created for a morning show that has introduced a new on-air host. It’s a way for them to showcase the new personality and how he/she fits in with the station while also driving tune-in.
Intros and Outros
Intros and Outros are used for specific shows on a radio station. The hosts and on-air teams of those shows create content that aims to attract audience. Those personalities become brand ambassadors for the station, and a proper intro and outro for their show will give the listener a sense of the entertainment, news and or/information that will be provided.
Bumpers are typically short segments that include a voice-over track from an on-air personality or an artist. They’re used before or after commercial breaks to transition from one segment to the next.
Sweepers are the sounds that you often here between songs. They’re typically a station identifier or short promotion. For example, a sweeper can be used during a period of “uninterrupted commercial time” and will blend well in between the songs using similar sounds. This allows the station to impress their brand on their listeners, while still giving them the uninterrupted music they came for.
Station identifiers, often called station ID’s or stingers, can be used to fulfill the requirements of a licensing authority, but they can also be used as a form of branding. Some stations use their DJ to announce their station, and others choose to create a more produced piece that can be used more than once.
Drops are often short clips from movies, television, or sound effects that are played during a radio show. For example, if an on-air personality likes a particular phrase from a popular TV show, they can create a drop that can be played with the touch of a button.
How is Radio Imaging created?
Radio imaging is created by a radio station’s programming director, often with the assistance of other members of the radio station’s staff. The program director decides the tone of the station, and how they believe they can best fit within their market. They take into consideration the sounds that are currently being played, and decide on the best way to position themselves to appeal to their audience.
From there, they determine the types of pieces that will push their station’s branding, the tone and attitude of their branding, and even the voice-over artist who will help create the desired sound.
Radio imaging pieces are then created by combining different voice elements, sound effects, and relevant music. It’s a compilation of sounds that are cohesive with the content a station broadcasts. The first step in creating a single piece is to outline the overall concept. It includes the tone of the piece, as well as the script for the voice-over talent. It may also include supplementary pieces that can be used to create cohesion in other areas of the station.
The next part is to record the voice-over talent reading the script. Sometimes the talent only needs to read the script once, other times they may read it several times with inflection at different points to create different emphasis. A good voice-over talent will understand the station’s overall voice, audience, and attitude.
Once the voice-over talent has been recorded and approved, the next step is for the production director to layer in the sound effects and other elements that will enhance the sound of the piece. Effects are often laid onto the voice-over talent’s words, music is laid behind that track, and other sound effects are added to further enhance the piece.
Radio imaging can truly be a work of art. The most notable and successful imaging is created by prolific personalities who not only create stimulating sonic imagery, they also innately understand the needs of both the station and its audience.
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