How to make a great radio package

How to make a radio package

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Radio packages are a great way of telling a story to listeners through words and sounds.

A good package - essentially pre-recorded reports fearuring interviews and sound effects - will grab the listener's attention and tell the story in an entertaining and creative way.

Our handy guide, written by experienced BBC reporter Karen Hoggan, has everything there is to know on how pupils can create a good package for radio - from ensuring they record everything they need on location, to advice on how to mix their material together into a finished product.

Karen has put together packages for the likes of Today, PM, You & Yours and World Service, so has plenty of tried and tested techniques for making memorable radio reports.

Remember - these are just guidelines. It's a good idea to follow them, but the more creative and inventive you can be, the better. And when it comes to bringing a radio report to life, practice makes perfect!

Getting started

What you need for a good radio package:

  • Recordings of your interviews
  • Lots of sound effects
  • "Wild track" - the background noise when you are interviewing someone
  • A narrative: for this, you could record yourself on location, explaining where you are and including facts about the story and introducing interviewees. Or you can record "links" in the studio later, when you have worked out what you want to say

Firstly, whatever you do, you need to plan a rough outline of your report. You need to know how long it is supposed to be and what points you want to make. This will help you to decide what interviews and sound effects you need to record.

Consider the following areas in your planning:

Research: You need some facts about the story you are covering. You need to know who your interviewee is and why you are talking to them.

Sounds: Sound effects are very important on radio because, unlike TV, you don't have pictures to help you. Even before you go to your location THINK about what kind of sounds you might hear that would make your package sound interesting. When you get there LISTEN carefully. Then record the sounds - in a school these might include the school bell, pupils in the playground, classroom noises, keyboards, pupils changing classes, sports classes - football etc etc etc.

Wild track: Wherever you are recording make sure you record the sounds around you without anybody (including yourself) speaking. This will help you when you put all the bits of your package together.

Interviews: Make sure you listen to the answers to your questions carefully and if you're not satisfied with the answer, make sure you follow it up with extra questions. Record your interviewees' names and how to pronounce them. Our interview masterclass video has everything you need to know to get your interviews right.

Now you get to mix it all together!

Try following these steps:

More radio resources for School Reporters

Step 1: Write your "cue" - the introduction spoken by your presenter - first. Cues act as a 'headline' to your piece and are vital to grabbing the attention and interest of the listener.

You can find out all you need to know about writing good radio cues in this BBC College of Journalism guide to radio cues.

Step 2: Beginning your package. It's often nice to start your package with some sound effects to make the listener feel as if they are there or so they can picture where you are.

Step 3: Developing the story. You could bring in either:

  • your voice from the studio
  • your voice from location
  • one of your interviewees - probably just 20 or 30 seconds of the interview (you have to choose the best bit).

Step 4: You then continue mixing these elements, in any combination you think works, into a package that makes sense, is fair and accurate and is interesting to listen to.

Tip: You can use the wild track to make the connections between these elements sound smoother. If you go from something you record in the playground to an interview in a classroom, the sudden "jump" in background noise will be distracting and annoying to the listener.

The wild track is faded in and out under the different elements to make it sound smoother.

It isn't easy, but after a bit of practice you can make a really good report that tells a story in an interesting way - and which makes people want to listen to the end.

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