How to make a radio trail

30 seconds to impress. Dominic Ross, Anne-Marie Luff and James Stodd discuss how to create radio trails that will make your audience sit up and listen.

In a radio trail, you only have a short amount of time to grab your audience’s attention and make them want to watch a TV show, listen to a radio programme, or catch up with content online. So how can you creatively yet succinctly get across what’s great about your programme?

Toluwanimi Malomo talks to senior producer for BBC Radio Cross-Trails Dominic Ross, BBC radio producer Anne-Marie Luff, and James Stodd, head of imaging and production at Celador Radio, about the best ways to create memorable radio trails.

Time is of the essence
You’ve got a set amount of time to get a strong message across, so every word counts. Be disciplined about editing your work. Long meandering sentences will make your audience switch off – keep your message simple.

Show, don’t tell
Don’t patronise your audience by explaining too much. The most effective trail may have no voice over at all. Instead, you can compose your trail entirely out of clips from the programme, with just the crucial details given at the end.

Don’t be seduced by technology…
The beauty of radio is that you can paint a picture with just words and simple sound effects. Don’t get lost in the need to have the latest production tools. Challenge yourself – if you were left with the most basic recording equipment, how would you still manage to excite the listener?

Trust yourself
Don’t try to copy previous trails too much. If you’ve been chosen to make a trail, that’s because you’ve got something fresh to offer. Trust your instincts. Remember you got this job because you know the network’s audience.

Don’t be constrained
You may be lacking time, material or both, but you can still get your trail. Think outside the box. If you can’t get an edited version of the programme in time, then go to the recording in person and take vox pops from the audience. Don’t assume things are impossible – it never hurts to ask.

“The only limit with radio is your imagination.” – James Stodd

Anne-Marie Luff is a producer for BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra. She has previously worked as studio director for BBC News.

Dominic Ross is an executive producer for the BBC and manages cross-promotional campaigns across the BBC radio network. He has worked on the radio launch campaign for major programmes such as Sherlock, The Diamond Queen and A History of The World in 100 Objects.

James Stodd is group head of imaging and production at Celador Radio. He currently manages production and imaging for Jack FM and The Breeze radio network. In 2013 Jack FM was awarded Silver for Best Station Imaging in the Sony Radio Awards. James has previously worked as senior producer for BBC Radio Cross-Trails.