We’ve all heard those radio ads. 21 seconds of hilarious scenario set in a kitchen/bar/train, followed by 9 seconds of a man rattling off the terms and conditions at breakneck speed. It may sound a bit weird but we get it. No writer wants to cede precious airtime to the small print, but the legal bods get all upset if you don’t include it. It’s an occasion when words don’t need space; they just need to be delivered as fast as possible.
Sometimes they need to be delivered slower, so let’s talk about Vanessa Feltz.
Let me explain. My alarm is set to go off each morning at 6.30, but the clock likes being a couple of minutes fast. No matter how often I reset it, it seems to like going off a little early, which is why I always end up waking up to the death throes of Ms. Feltz’s radio show.
Here’s what I hear:
Roughly 30 seconds of a song, which is brusquely interrupted at a random point by the riff from Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday. Over the top of this, La Feltz announces a whole string of birthday requests in a single stream, at an extraordinary speed and without drawing breath. Requests run into each other, so if you’re not listening carefully you might think a well-meaning bunch of complete strangers are wishing you many happy returns.
Then, without breaking stride, our Vanessa thanks everyone for their texts and emails (apparently, they’re all “marvellous”), thanks her production team, announces that “Christopher Evans is up next” and signs off with a “See you tomorrow, lots of love.” Then there’s a jingle (Keep Young and Beautiful) and “This is BBC Radio 2, online, on digital radio and on 88 to 91 FM” and then it’s the news. All in all it takes less than a minute. Phew.
So, here’s my point.
Words need to breathe. They need space. Deny them this and you undermine their importance.
If I had sent in a birthday request for a much-loved relative (who happened to be awake and listening to Radio 2 at 6.28 in the morning), I’d be distinctly peed off that my message was treated like, well, some irritating terms and conditions.
The same is true with B2B copywriting; we need to give our words space. Resist the temptation to cram everything into the headline. Don’t try to crowbar eight messages into a single email. Give yourself space. Limit yourself to one message, say it well and let it…breathe.