3Component 3How can we create our own agricultural radio programming?

Component Goals

By the time you have finished this component you will have:

  • Identified baseline quality standards for your radio programs.
  • Thought about who will be involved producing your radio programs.
  • Understood the basics of every step of the radio program production process.

This component will help you to identify how to create your own agricultural radio programming. It aims to help you create compelling scripts for original content and adapt other types of content for the radio that meet a baseline quality standard. In addition, it includes technical tips for effectively recording and editing your radio segments. Finally, it includes suggested techniques for lowering barriers to entry so that your team is more likely to produce its own content for radio, including simple ways to provide incentives.

Video to Radio Comparison

There is a reason why radio often loses out to television in the battle for audience. Radio relies on only one of our senses to communicate its message, whereas television and video targets both our auditory and visual senses. Since both the eyes and ears are engaged, it is often easier to convey a message—or at least provide for two different types of sensory distraction. You can convey the emotion of an actor on video using both visual cues (such as facial expressions) and audio cues (such as tone of voice). If the audience does not pick up on one of the cues, they may still pick up on the other thereby understanding the emotion being portrayed. As radio does not have this luxury, it makes it all the more difficult to develop radio programming that engages and captivates your audience. This is because you have to use audio not only to convey your message, but also to help your audience imagine the corresponding visuals in their minds.

As with all things, it will take patience and practice to create compelling radio programming. Wherever possible, it is preferable to have your local radio station partners develop their own programming. This may be with the support of a local NGO partner or your project staff. Although your project staff may contribute to the development of content, it is important that your partner radio stations are able to develop the capacity to ultimately develop effective agricultural programming on their own.

Before you begin developing your own radio-ready scripts or recording programming, however, it is important that your team—including staff from partners who will be involved in content development—define what baseline quality standards will be used. Having well-defined standards will help to make sure that everyone on your team is clear about what is expected in any final product. A good starting point for establishing your baseline standard is to define what your radio programming should sound like to achieve your objectives. This is best done keeping in mind specific criteria, such as:

Specific Criteria for Radio

With your team, determine which criteria are most appropriate to your situation. You may decide to use the criteria listed above, or add or remove criteria. As part of this exercise, consider playing a couple of good and bad examples of the type of programming you are interested in to get people thinking. Each member of your team will likely have different levels of experience with your desired criteria. For instance, staff from your radio station partners will have a better idea of what realistic expectations for audio quality should be, whereas they may be less familiar with what the criteria for effective learning outcomes should be.

Use the Baseline Quality Standard Worksheet to write down each of your criteria types. A soft copy of this template is included in the Resources section in case you need to make any changes. Alternatively, you can recreate the worksheet directly onto flipchart paper. Discuss with your team what their expectations are for achieving a baseline in each area. In other words, what is the minimum quality threshold a program would need to meet in order for you to share it with farmers? A sample, completed worksheet is included below as a reference.

Sample Baseline Quality Standard Worksheet

Criteria Baseline standard
Audio Quality
(How clear was the audio? How are sound effects and music used? How is the vocal clarity of the subjects?))
All of the audio is completely audible with no distracting background noise. Sound effects and music are used in moderation and when appropriate. All of the subjects speak clearly, and in tones appropriate to the emotions being conveyed.
Story Structure
(Does the audio flow? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end?)
The story has a beginning, middle, and an end. The flow between different cuts is natural and not abrupt. The pace of the program is not too rushed, nor too drawn out.
Message Clarity
(Is it clear what message the program is trying to convey?)
It is clear what the objectives of the program are. Message is not abstract or confusing.
Engagement
(Did the program capture your attention? Did it engage your thinking?)
If the program was listened to by a group of ten farmers, at least eight of them would be visibly engaged in actively listening to it. It effectively enables the listener to visualize what is taking place.
Learning Outcome
(How well does the program achieve its desired learning objectives?)
The program provides enough information to enable a listener to reasonably understand your intended learning objectives. This may be demonstrated either by action taken or knowledge gained after listening to your program.

It is possible that once your team begins actually creating their own radio programming that some of your baseline standards will change. You may find that certain assumptions you had about what would be engaging, for example, do not fully apply to your audience. It is better to recognize this and make adjustments, than to continue using baseline standards that are not enabling you to achieve your objectives. Revisit these occasionally and make updates as necessary.

This process will also enable you to determine what it is possible for your team to do, who will be responsible, and what outside support might be necessary. During this process, you should also try to identify what barriers exist to enabling your local radio station partners to meet these baseline quality standards on their own. They may be very qualified in some areas, but less familiar with others. This will help you to determine what training and technical support you will need to provide them. In some cases you may have the capacity in-house or through a local NGO partner to provide the support they need. If not, you will need to find appropriate external support to help with this capacity development.

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Who should be responsible for developing our radio programs?

For most projects, your staff's experience with radio will primarily have been as a consumer, and not a producer. Producing content for radio is different from writing print material or storyboarding a video. It may come easier to some than others, but regardless, it will take dedication and hard work. Ideally, your local radio station partners will take the lead in the development of all radio programs with technical input from your project or local NGO partners. If you do have someone on your project staff with prior experience either writing radio scripts, recording for radio, or editing, they will likely be a valuable asset to your activity. Even if they are not available to be directly involved, make sure that they can serve as a mentor to your day-to-day radio team.

The size of the team you will need will depend on what your plans are for radio and what capacity your radio station partners have. Obviously, the requirements from your project staff will depend on the capacity of staff at the radio stations you will be working with. At a very minimum, you should have at least one staff person who can serve as a technical content contributor and provide feedback on program ideas. The staff at the radio stations you are working with may not have a background in agriculture, so you will want to support them to ensure that they are producing accurate content. The person(s) who provides this support could be part of your project team or a staff member from one of your local partners.

Since your radio station partners might not have the capacity to collect audio from the field, you may also need to have project staff or local partners assist with this. Whoever is responsible for recording audio in the field should know how to use the equipment to record good quality audio and be skilled at conducting interviews for radio. The number of people you will need to help record audio will depend on the geographic scope of your work. If you are planning to capture audio in a limited geographic area or only when your team is out on pre-arranged field visits, then you may only need one or two people for this. If, on the other hand, you would like to capture audio from a broader geographic area you will need to train a larger number of individuals to help with this. The exact numbers will depend on the scope of your plans, how frequently you will need content, and how much area can be realistically covered by one person. Ideally, any individuals you are training to collect audio from the field should work for local partners that would be likely to continue contributing to your radio station partner even after your project ends.

In some instances, you may decide to produce final products that you can share directly with radio stations or through other media. While this may sometimes be necessary, it is important to consider the sustainability of such an approach. If your project staff is solely responsible for program production, then once the project ends your radio station partners will no longer have content. Also, since it is likely that your project staff are not trained in radio, programs that they produce may end up sounding less authentic than those produced by radio station staff. That said, if you do plan to contribute edited audio segments or programs to your partners, you will need to have at least one or two people who are trained in audio editing.

If you are working with more than one radio station, you will also want someone on your project team who is responsible for facilitating those relationships. This person should be aware of all of the programs that are being developed by each station so that they can identify possible areas of collaboration. This can be a sensitive issue, since stations may want to have complete control over their content. In cases where stations are interested in collaborating with each other and sharing content, however, this staff person can play a crucial role in facilitating those interactions.

It is also recommended that you try to have at least one staff person who is trained in each step in the radio program production process. This way, your staff person will be able to accurately communicate with partners about technical elements of the process and also provide any technical assistance that may be necessary.

You should encourage your radio station partners to have at least two staff who will be responsible for developing agricultural programs. Having more than one person who is familiar with developing radio programming for farmers is beneficial for three main reasons. First, they will be able to test ideas on each other, which will likely result in a better end product. Second, they can split their time worked on each radio program so that they can continue with their other job responsibilities. Finally, if one of these individuals leaves the radio station for another opportunity, they station will not need to worry about all of their capacity in this area disappearing.

This component of the toolkit will provide your project staff with the foundational knowledge necessary for each of these steps, so that they are familiar with what is required to produce engaging radio programs. Understanding all of the options will make it a lot easier to work with local radio stations to develop programs that achieve your common objectives. If your staff are interested in learning about any of the steps covered below in more detail, some additional hands-on training may be necessary.

In the event that your staff or local partners plan to create content to share with radio stations, you may want to ask them to start small, creating fifteen-second radio spots, for example. As they get better, challenge them to create longer spots or to experiment with additional techniques. It is advisable that they work with your radio station partners on this so they are able to tap into their technical expertise, as well as ensure that whatever they are producing is consistent with the station's needs. You may also consider looking for local radio associations or international organizations with expertise in radio that may be able to provide your team with any additional technical assistance and training required.

Content accuracy

You should also choose members of your interactive radio team to check the accuracy of the content in each script. Although your project staff and local NGO partner staff will likely have a background in agriculture, they will not be experts on every topic you plan to feature. Moreover, it is possible that staff at your partner radio stations have no background in agriculture at all.

The first step is to identify who can help with fact checking content. If you do not already have topical area experts on staff, you will want to identify external experts or resources that you can use for this process. An easy way to organize this is to draw up a list of experts including their name, topic area expertise, and contact information. A basic template for this list, entitled Topical Area Expert Contact List, has been included at the end of this component for your use.

Determine a process with each of these experts in advance to define how they will be contacted and what is expected of them in terms of information and response time. If you are working with external experts, you should also determine whether you will need to provide them with any compensation for their time. The list of experts may include local-, regional-, and national-level experts.

You will also need to decide who will be responsible for contacting these experts. In most cases it is probably easiest to have the radio stations contact the experts directly. You could also consider introducing a two-tiered system where stations contact your project staff or local NGO partner staff first for fact checking. If there are still questions at that point, the issue is sent to an external expert for input. Whatever system you establish, make sure that it will be sustainable beyond the life of your project. If the project ends and all of a sudden the stations lose access to content expertise, then their program accuracy will probably very quickly decline.

The contact list template also has a section for 'additional information.' This is where you can enter notes that may be of use to your team, such as 'needs at least two weeks to respond to requests,' 'requires payment,' or 'not available more than once per month.'

Consider also developing a checklist with your team to use to facilitate fact checking each of your scripts, such as:

  • Research topic of proposed radio script
  • Consult with topical area expert to confirm the accuracy of the process you plan to highlight
  • Develop script based on this input
  • Share script with topical expert, field officers, and/or local partners for their feedback
  • Edit script as necessary based on feedback

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Who should be featured in our radio programs?

Who should be featured?

In addition to determining what staff will be responsible for the production of programming, your team will need to decide who will be featured in your radio programs. This will ultimately depend on the content and radio format of each program you will be creating. Your programs may include your own staff or topical area experts who conduct interviews or share their own experiences.

While having technical experts is important, it is also extremely important to engage farmers in all stages of your radio program production process. Since farmers are your target audience, farmers should also be at the center of your programming. In many cases, farmers may also be more likely to trust other farmers like themselves who have similar experiences. They may have already heard about a practice or technology that your program is promoting, but often will want to hear from a farmer who has already made the switch. Your programs should include stories from farmers, including challenges they faced beforehand, how the change in practice or technology helped, and what downsides other farmers should be aware of.

Not only can this be empowering for the farmers, but it can also be a valuable way of increasing local engagement with your activity. It may also increase the chances of sustaining your activity beyond your project, since farmers who participated in the process will likely feel a sense of ownership over the content and its validity. In fact, research conducted by Farm Radio International under the African Farm Radio Research Initiative found that farmers who were "engaged in the design and development of farm radio programming were almost 50 per cent more likely to take up agricultural practices deemed to improve their food security than passive listeners." 1

Improve through engagement

Last, in many countries radio programs—especially those produced at the national level—have traditionally provided more of a voice to experts, government officials, and other white collar professionals. The power of radio, and in particular interactive radio, is that it allows farmers to be heard. By including farmers at the center of your programs, you are helping to give them this voice, while at the same time achieving your objectives.

When selecting participants, make sure though that you use a diverse cast of subjects across your different programs, looking at gender, background, expertise, social status, and so on. Over time, this will help to ensure that your pool of programs appeals to a more diverse audience. Be sure to check the local reputations of anyone you plan to include in your programs. If an individual you include in your program has a poor reputation among your target audience, they may be less likely to listen to the message even if it could be useful to them.

It is also important to make sure that whoever you have selected has a good voice for radio. Since radio relies entirely on audio, this is crucial. You may find a very knowledgeable expert or successful farmer who just is not the right fit for radio. Expressing one's emotions without relying on facial expressions or hand gestures can be difficult for many. Someone who has difficultly conveying emotion vocally, speaks in a monotone voice, or has a speech pattern or accent that is difficult to follow should not be used for radio unless you have time to effectively coach them. One way of getting around this, especially if their perspective would add to the value of your program, is to consider having someone else paraphrase what they've said so that you can still use the essence of the content.

Consent Forms

When approaching someone to ask for their participation, explain exactly how the audio you are recording will be used and why you are asking them to participate. This is particularly important when approaching farmers, who may not have had any past experience being recorded. Make sure that they know how widely you are planning to broadcast the program as well.

You should consider creating a consent form that you can ask all individuals who you are recording to sign—or their parents, in the case of minors. Consent form text can be fairly basic, such as:

"I agree to allow [insert name] and/or its partners to copyright and use the audio they have recorded of my voice for radio broadcast. I understand that this audio may be used without restriction. I understand that I will not receive payment or other compensation for use of this material."

Another approach that has been used is to record consent via audio instead of using written release forms. You can do this by recording a member of your staff explaining why you are recording them speak and how it will be used. If you choose to use audio consent, make sure that you save all of your audio consent clips both on your computer and backed up on an external device or online.

1 Perkins, K., Ward, D., & Leclair, M. "Participatory Radio Campaigns and food security: How radio can help farmers make informed decisions." (Farm Radio International, 2011) [Accessed on 6/26/12 at: http://www.farmradio.org/pubs/farmradio-prcreport2011.pdf

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What is required to create effective radio programming?

As mentioned earlier, this toolkit aims to provide you with the foundational knowledge necessary to create your own effective radio programming. It is not, however, a comprehensive guide to radio production. This section is divided up into the technical elements of pre-produced programs, which includes developing content, recording audio, and editing a final product.

Perhaps the most important pre-requisite to creating this effective programming, however, is working effectively with quality radio station partners. If your objectives are aligned and you collaborate well, your programs will likely see the benefit. If, on the other hand, you have different objectives and difficultly collaborating, the programs that are produced will likely fall short of what they are trying to achieve.

If you want to learn more about radio production, quality technical training manuals and curricula on radio content creation that you can consult for more details or specific activities include:

Content

Before you begin creating any radio programming, your team needs to decide upon the type of content that you plan to disseminate over the radio. Common content areas for agricultural radio programming include:

  • Agronomic information, including best practices, improved techniques, and success stories
  • Market price information
  • Weather information
Opportunities

If you are interested in learning more about the potential opportunities and challenges with using radio to provide market price information, check out Farm Radio International's report entitled, Marketing on the airwaves: Marketing information service (MIS) and radio online at bit.ly/farmradiomis.

Of those three content areas, agronomic information is the most likely to need to be scripted and planned in advance. This is because the learning outcome from agronomic information programs is primarily going to be a change in practice or behavior, whereas market price and weather information programs are primarily aimed at providing actionable information to farmers. Market price and weather information are also almost exclusively presented in a news format by an announcer, whereas agronomic information can be presented using a variety of different formats.

The following sections of this component will be most useful for projects that are planning to develop programs with an agronomic information focus. That said, there are elements of the content development process that are also useful for market price and weather information programs. Even if your primary focus is agronomic information, you may also want to consider providing market price and/or weather information at the start or end of your program as an additional way to capture your audience.

If you are planning to work with radio stations to provide market price or weather information, you should develop the systems through which that information will be shared with the station. Stations need to be able to know that they will receive information on a reliable schedule so that they can plan their announcements accordingly.

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Script writing

Scripts are the backbone of any radio program. A well-written script will make it much easier for your team to record an engaging radio program. Before you start to write any scripts though, your team should develop the general messaging for each program that you plan to produce. This will enable you to create a basic blueprint for each program that you can share with your team, partners, and any other stakeholders in advance of creating your script. It is important to capture these ideas in writing so that they can be shared.

One such way to do so is by using what is called a creative brief, such as the one below. A creative brief is a tool that guides you through several questions about your proposed radio program to help outline your messaging and objectives. It can be used to propose completely new content or to help outline your plans for adapting content. The primary benefit of using a creative brief is that it will help you to clarify who your target audience is, what your learning objectives are, and what your general program idea is before you begin working on your script. This will end up saving you time in the long run since you will likely be more focused on the end goal of each program before you start your script, as opposed to figuring this out along the way. You can use the Creative Brief Template in the Resources section to help with this process.

Proposed topic: Appropriate use of personal protective equipment
Proposed duration: Three minutes
Prepared by: Kinoti Kaberia
   
1. Target audience – Who do you want to reach with your radio program? Be specific.
Primarily smallholder farmers in the Rift Valley who are not currently using PPEs or who are using them ineffectively.
2. Learning objectives – What do you want your target audience to learn or do after they hear this radio program?
After listening to this radio program, farmers will understand the importance of using personal protective equipment and know where to go for additional information on how to use and where to purchase PPE.
3. Program summary – What will the program be about? What type of format will it use? Who will be featured? What will the general tone be?

The program will use a feature format to tell the story of a woman whose son became ill from improper use of PPE. It will include interviews with her re-enacting what happened, along with expert commentary about why PPEs are important and how to use them. The tone will be serious, but will end on a humorous note with a story from the woman about how using PPEs have led to her family finally enjoying her cooking since they no longer get sick from pesticide contamination of their food.

4. Opportunities – When and where can this program be used?
This program should be broadcast through our local radio partners in the Rift Valley right before and during planting season to encourage the use of PPEs. It can also be played during field days right before we begin sessions.
5. Rationale – How would this type of program achieve your learning objectives?
Our project is already providing training to farmers on how to use PPEs in this region. This radio program will reinforce that messaging with farmers in a way that they can relate with, making it more likely for them to use PPEs appropriately.
Adapted from Spot On Malaria: A Guide to Adapting, Creating and Producing Effective Radio Spots, written by Cate Cowan and Lonna Shafritz, (Washington, DC: CHANGE Project, 2005)

Each time you finish developing a creative brief, share it and get feedback on it from any relevant stakeholders or partners. In some cases, your radio station partners might develop creative briefs on their own to share with your project team for technical input. Your project staff may also develop their own creative briefs to pitch to radio stations. These briefs are meant to be rough sketches of the proposed program. It is important to not get too bogged down in the minutia of your creative brief or you will never get to the point of script writing. Certainly do make adjustments to your creative brief based on feedback, but once you have agreed on the overall messaging and objectives you can save the thorough edit for the final script itself.

Helpful Tip

Helpful tip:
While writing your script, periodically read it aloud to make sure that the dialogue sounds natural.

Once you have finalized your creative brief you can begin the process of developing it into a complete script. As stated earlier, writing for radio is unlike any other type of writing because we are writing words that are meant to be read aloud. That is to say, we are writing for the ear and not for the eye, which is our usual target for most writing. The same applies whether you are writing your script from scratch or adapting other material for radio.

If your team does not have the time or capacity to write scripts from scratch, you may want to adapt relevant, ready-made scripts for your audience. There are several organizations that offer a good selection of agricultural radio scripts and resources available online. Even if you do plan to write your own scripts, you will likely still find these sites good sources of inspiration and ideas.

When developing scripts, you should consider following the "Seven Cs of Effective Communication." This tool is used by radio broadcasters and other communications professionals to create more effective communications. Below is an adaptation of the Seven Cs as used by Farm Radio International:

Command Attention Command attention: Your program should command the attention of your listeners by using formats, topics, and information that will appeal to them. It should also be fresh and relevant to your audience so that it piques their interest. It should also enable listeners to imagine the scenes, so that they feel as if they have been transported into the program.
Command Attention Cater to the heart and head: Connect to your audience on both an intellectual and emotional levels. Your listeners should understand why the content you are presenting is important, but also feel something after they listen. By emotionally connecting with your listeners, you will likely increase their ability for remembering the intellectual pitch you are making.
Clarify Clarify your message: Unlike written content, which can be read and re-read to understand, your audience will likely not have a chance to immediately replay your program—although there are some tools for doing this that we will talk about later. For this reason it is very important that your message is clear enough to be understood from just one listen. There are a few different ways that you can do this:
  • Be natural - Write in the same way that you would speak. Avoid being overly formal.
  • Repeat key messages - You should repeat your key messages at least twice, if not three times, during your radio program to ensure they are picked up on by your listeners.
  • Be direct and concise - Use the active voice and clearly link your subject to your verb.
    Bad:
    Broad beans and maize are the main crops grown by farmers in this village.
    Bad:
    Maria Lon, who is the leader of the Chimoio farmers association, says the harvest was good this year.
    Good:
    Farmers in this village mainly grow broad beans and maize.
    Good:
    Chimoio farmers association leader Maria Lon says the harvest was good this year.
  • Help the listener visualize - Your audience cannot see what is happening, so make sure to help them visualize each scene. You can do this by adding sound effects (such as birds chirping to represent being outdoors) or mentioning actions in your dialogue (such as having one character say "Emanuel, why did you run here?" to let us know he ran).
Benefit Communicate a benefit: Given the small margins they work with, many smallholder farmers are risk averse unless they see clear benefit of change. Make sure that your script demonstrates tangible benefit from whatever you are trying to promote either through real-life testimonials or realistic dramatizations.
Creae Trust Create trust: Try to use individuals who are already known and trusted—or hold known and trusted positions—by your target audience. Communicating an accurate message that leads to concrete benefits is another way to build audience trust over time. Conversely, it is very easy to lose the trust of your audience by providing them with inaccurate information. Make sure that you always fact check your script for accuracy before finalizing it.
Call to action Call to action: Your program should not only make people want to listen, but it should also encourage them to take some action consistent with your learning objective. By the end of the program they should know where to go for additional information or how to try something on their own.
Call to action Convey a consistent message: This refers to your messaging over time. Make sure that you are not presenting confusing or contradictory messages in your different scripts. In other words, do not promote the use of chemical pesticides in one script and then praise the benefits of organic farming in other. Also make sure that your messaging is consistent with the mandate of your local radio station partners.

In addition to these general rules, you will need to consider several other factors when writing your script, most of which will depend on the channels you are planning to use. If you are broadcasting on the radio, your program will either be announced or produced. Announced refers to content that is read live on the air by the station's DJ or announcer, while produced refers to pre-recorded programs that are played by the radio station. Each radio station will have its own protocol for how they prefer to broadcast.

Contributing your own scripts

As mentioned earlier, it is preferable to have staff at each station be responsible for developing scripts to ensure long-term sustainability. In some instances—particularly early on in your partnership—your project staff may play a larger role in developing scripts.

If your project staff plan to develop script ideas to share with local radio stations, you should make sure to use whatever script format the station uses to eliminate any potential confusion. This could entail simply providing a brief script to be read on-air by the announcer, or it could include directions for including actualities (or sound bites), which are recorded audio clips that should be played at a specific point in the program.

Timing

A note on timing:
Most people speak about three words per second, so keep that in mind when writing your scripts. Counting out your words can be a good way to assess the likely duration of your script.

You will also need to consider how long your proposed program will be. This will depend on the amount of air time available to you at each radio station. The shortest option is often referred to as a spot. These are most commonly used for public service announcements and other types of awareness messages, and typically run from between fifteen seconds and one minute. Slightly longer than that is a micro-program, which tend to last between one and three minutes. Beyond that, you have standard length radio programs, which for most agricultural programs can run anywhere between three and fifteen minutes.

 

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Formats

Each of the types of programs mentioned above may be self-contained with a beginning, middle, and end included in the program or part of a series. A series includes multiple programs that are linked across a common theme and broadcast over multiple days, weeks, or months. A number of stations also use a magazine format to package their programming. This format includes several different programs centered on a general theme within an established time slot. Although lengths of magazine shows vary, they tend to be between fifteen minutes and one hour.

If you are working with multiple radio stations it is possible that some of them will have different preferences as to what type of radio programming they are interested in. Keep this in mind if your project staff plan to develop scripts for them. You may need to split a single program into a series or create two versions of the same program with different lengths to meet the needs of your partner stations.

Finally, your team will want to determine which type of radio format to structure your script around. When we refer to radio format here we are basically referring to what type of program you will use. There are a variety of different formats, each of which can be used to convey your message.

Deciding on which format is best for your program will depend on three things: your partner radio station, your target audience and your learning objectives. Different learning objectives may lend themselves to one style over another. The most important thing to consider is what formats are compatible with the radio stations you are working with, along with what has the best likelihood of engaging your audience and communicating your message.

Below are eight of the most common radio formats that you will likely consider for your scripts:

  • Skits include the use of a variety of different storytelling genres to convey a message, such as drama, soap operas, comedy, mystery, and so on. They can be either a reenactment of an actual event or a fictional representation. This type of format is often extremely popular, although writing a script for an engaging skit is generally more difficult than other formats.
  • Interviews are a question and answer format used between a radio announcer and guest. These can be done either live at the radio station, remotely via phone, or pre-recorded at another location. Questions for the announcer should be scripted in advance, including potential follow-up questions, depending on the responses of the guest.
  • Panels are facilitated discussions led by an announcer and a panel of guests. These can be done live at the radio station or pre-recorded elsewhere. It is not advisable to conduct a panel remotely via phone since panelists will not be able to read visual cues from each other, which can lead to awkward pauses and people speaking over each other. Scripting for a panel is similar to that for interviews.
  • Documentaries provide a nonfictional, real-life account of a topic. These can often be powerful devices for communicating the real impact of something, especially on topics to which your audience can relate. Documentaries cannot be fully scripted in advance, although you can prepare scripts for narration and guiding questions to be used by your interviewer.
  • Infotainment presents factual information in a way that aims to be entertaining. It is best understood as incorporating the entertaining elements of skits together with the factual—and often more serious—content of a documentary or news show. Infotainment programs can be fully scripted in advance, although striking the right balance between information and entertainment requires some practice.
  • Game shows provide listeners with the chance to compete to win prizes. On radio, they are normally built around a quiz or puzzle. They can be done live at the radio station or remotely via phone, either live or on delay—such as asking listeners to SMS their responses to a question on one day and then announcing the winner the following day. Like interviews and panels, announcer portions of the program can be scripted.
  • Reality shows are fairly new to radio, despite their ubiquity on television. One example is Farm Radio International's pilot program called FarmQuest, which will showcase six to eight young people competing to win 'best new farm'. Their stories will be recorded and broadcast as a serial radio program, and listeners will vote by mobile phone to select the show's winner. These cannot really be scripted in advance, but you will still want to weave the content you record into a cohesive story.
  • Straight talk entails an announcer—it is generally just one person, but can be more than one announcer—speaking directly to the audience, often in freeform on a topic or series of topics. It is very difficult to script straight talk, although you can provide announcers with general themes or points that you would like to be made.

Script templates vary, but they generally all include information such as title, duration, writer, and dialogue or other audio. They also include cues for your actors and audio editors. Cues should always be written inside of parentheses and in capital letters to distinguish them from dialogue. It is also helpful to double space your script to make it easier to read. If your program will be played on the radio, make sure to also include a suggested introduction for the radio announcer to read before playing it.

A Radio Script Template is included in the worksheet section of this component. This is provided as an illustrative example of what to expect, although ultimately your team's scripts should end up following whatever format is used by each radio station partner. It is also important to stress that sometimes less is more when it comes to scripts. Often times people who are reading a script word for word end up sounding unrealistic. You may find that rather than having a detailed script, a clearly written out storyboard that provides guidance on structure and the general gist of dialogue, but allows for natural conversation is preferable. Even if your team decides to use a detailed script, remember that scripts are to be taken as guidelines to keep the program focused and accurate. The dialogue in them can, and should, be modified by those reading them to sound natural.

A sample script might look something like this:

Title: Isabel's brush with tragedy
Learning objective: Listeners will know how to properly apply pesticides using personal protective equipment
Duration: 3'30"
Written by: Enrique Massa
   
Suggeested introduction:
Up next is the latest segment from True Farm Stories. You won't want to miss this one. Poor Isabel has had a rough life, but finally things are about to get better. Or are they? Remember to send us your thoughts and questions by SMS to 39555 while you listen. We will be reading out and responding to questions after the story is over.
SFX: AMBIENT SOUNDS FROM A FARM, FOLLOWED BY SOUND OF SPRAYING PESTICIDE
MUSIC: TRADITIONAL SONG (10 SECONDS THEN FADE UNDER SFX)
Characters:

NARRATOR: The following is a true story about a woman named Isabel. For many years she has struggled to make enough money on her small plot to support her family. In recent years her crops have been plagued by beetles. This year is going to be different though. This was the first year she has been able to purchase pesticides for her crops and she is excited about what will surely be a good year.

ISABEL: I'm glad that I bought pesticide this year. This year should be a good harvest.

TOMMY: (FROM AFAR) Mom, I'm back from school. Can I have a snack?

ISABEL: Of course, Tommy. Come over here, you can have some of this bread. Let me tear you off a piece.

SFX: SOUND OF ISABEL SETTING DOWN SPRAYER. TEARING BREAD.

TOMMY: Thanks, Mom. When will dinner be ready?

ISABEL: Let me finish up spraying our field first. Then I will come set dinner.

TOMMY: Okay, mom. I will wait for you at home. Bye!

SFX: SOUND OF SPRAYING PESTICIDE

NARRATOR: What started out as a happy moment for Isabel will soon turn scary as she returns home to find Tommy lying on the bed clutching his stomach.

ISABEL: (FRANTIC) Tommy! Are you okay? What is wrong?

TOMMY: (WEAKENED VOICE) I'm not sure mom. I have a terrible pain in my stomach.

ISABEL: (SHOUTING) Maria! Tommy is sick. Please get help! Hurry!!

NARRATOR: Poor little Tommy. Things did not need to turn out this way, if only Isabel had correctly applied her pesticides. Dr. Festus Mitchell from Extension University has seen it all too often, but he tells us the solution is easier than you may think.

The following section should be used when you are inserting pre-recorded audio:
Audio Insert Name: EXPERT INTERVIEW
IN WORDS: What most people do not…
OUT WORDS: … it's that simple.
DURATION: 0'45"

You may want to consider creating a few demo creative briefs or scripts using different formats to convey the same message when you are first starting out. Share these demos with a small, but representative, sample of your target audience to gauge their impressions. You can also use a pre-test to check whether or not your message is connecting with your audience. Pre-tests are a great way to check the potential effectiveness of your ideas before you spend too much time and money fully developing them. They can be conducted through a structured focus group or less formally during visits or events by sharing them with farmers with whom you work. You should also determine who will be responsible for this if your radio station partners do not have the capacity to carry out pre-tests on their own.

Sample pre-test questions

For comparing radio formats

  • What type of radio programming do you normally listen to?
  • Of the formats presented, which do you think you would enjoy most? Why?
  • Of the formats presented, which are you least likely to listen to? Why?
  • Are there any formats that you would definitely not listen to? Why?

For checking message effectiveness

  • Which parts did you enjoy? Why?
  • Was there anything that you did not like? What? Why?
  • What did you learn from this brief/script?
  • What do you think the main message of this brief/script is?
  • How would you improve this brief/script?
  • Do you have any questions about this brief/script?

Doing pre-tests, even if informally, will help you to have a better understanding of what your audience likes and the clarity of your messaging. This will save you from producing a complete program only to find out that it does not connect with or is not understood by your audience. Based on their feedback, you can make revisions to your creative briefs or scripts so that they are better aligned with your audience's needs. Of course, a pre-test is no guarantee that your target audience will like your final product, but it will certainly increase the odds.

Finally, when creating your scripts, it is important to remember to not make them overly formulaic. If all of your programs follow the exact same format and have the exact same story structure, you will likely lose the interest of your audience over time. Most people will find it difficult to stay engaged in radio programming that is completely interchangeable. Some variety will keep help to keep your audience engaged and will be increase the likelihood that you achieve your learning objectives.

Suggestions for lowering the barriers to entry:

Some of your partner radio stations may not have experience developing agricultural programming, while your project staff may have no experience in script writing at all. You may consider introducing small incentives, such as a monthly 'most popular script' or 'best peer-reviewed script' award to recognize the work of staff at your partner stations or any project staff who have contributed to script development. This could be as a simple as providing winners with a certificate or small prize.

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Recording

Recording audio for your radio program can be broken out into two types of recordings: studio and field. Studio recordings are audio that you record directly into a computer in either a studio or a quiet office. Field recordings are those that you record while you are out in the field using an audio recording device. The process by which you will record either in the studio or in the field is different, although they both rely on similar principles.

Studio recording

In almost all instances, any audio that is recorded in the studio should be done by your radio station partners at their facilities. If for some reason you need to record audio elsewhere, such as in your office or that of a local partner NGO, you will need to have an appropriate setup. Do not worry if you do not have access to a professional setup, as you can set up your own do-it-yourself recording studio on a modest budget. To get started, you will need the following:

Studio Recording

Tips for reducing noise:

  • Stuff cloth under the door to create a seal.
  • Apply weather stripping to your window and door frames.
  • Hang up heavy curtains over the windows.
  • Seal any cracks or holes in your walls.
  • Place a carpet on the floor.
  • Turn off other appliances (such as air conditioning).
  • Place your microphone away from your computer so it does not pick up noise from the computer.
  • A quiet room
  • A desktop or laptop computer
  • A microphone
  • Audio recording software

Probably the most difficult of these items to find is going to be a quiet room. You will likely be working in an office with other colleagues and also have sounds from the street finding their way into your office. First, try to identify a room that you can use that is least exposed to outside sound. This could be an internal room without windows or a room that is located on a quieter side of the building. Last, but not least, make sure that your colleagues are aware whenever you plan to record so that they can make a concerted effort to be quieter than normal and to try to avoid doing anything in the space around your recording room.

Sound Card Purchasing Info

If you do decide to purchase a sound card, TopTenREVIEWS provides a good breakdown of the top ten rated consumer sound cards on their website.

Since audio recording is not particularly resource heavy, you should be able to use most of the desktop or laptop computers you already have in your office. Many computers already have an embedded sound card on their motherboard. While this type of on-board sound can be sufficient, you may want to invest in installing a separate, higher quality sound card. When purchasing a sound card, look for a sound card with a 192kHz sampling rate, 24-bit resolution, and a signal to noise ratio (SNR) of at least 95dB. If you are unsure if your computer's sound card is of sufficient quality, record a sample and share it with the radio stations you plan to work with. They will be able to tell you if your recording meets their minimum sound quality standards.

You will also want to invest in a good quality microphone for your recording. Since you will be recording the voice of your subjects, you will most likely want to purchase a unidirectional microphone. Unidirectional microphones primarily record sound directly in front of them, and will reduce the level of background noise picked up. If you will be having more than one person record audio at a time, consider buying a desktop microphone. This type of microphone sits on your desk and can be shared more easily than a headset microphone, which is worn on one's head. You should also consider purchasing a pop filter (or pop shield). This device is placed in front of your microphone to help reduce the popping noise that often occurs when recording spoken sound. If you cannot find an affordable pop filter locally, you can create your own using an embroidery hoop and nylon stockings.

Pop Screen Example

Last, you'll need audio recording software. Adobe Precision is a high-quality audio recording and editing program that retails for around US$325. If you want to test it out before purchasing it, Adobe offers free trials versions on their website. An alternative to Adobe Precision is a free, open-source program called Audacity. It has all of the functionality that you will need to record and edit audio and is fairly intuitive to use. It can be downloaded at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. At the bottom of this page and in the Resources section, you will also find a guide covering the basics of audio recording and editing in Audacity. The website wikiHow also offers a guide on How to Get Higher Audio Quality when Using Audacity, which is worth checking out before you get started.

If you plan to record interviews over the phone, you will also need to invest in a telephone recording device. There are a couple of low-cost ways that this can be done. One way to do this is by using a telephone to PC adapter that connects into both your landline headset and your computer to record the conversation. There are also cheaper alternatives that include an earbud and microphone. These plug directly into your digital recording device or computer and pick up both your audio and that of the person on the phone. When using a telephone recording device, always make sure to do a test call first to make sure that it is functioning properly. The last thing you want is to have completed an interview only to find that none of it was recorded.

Field recording

Recording in the field is a great way to collect stories from farmers and other practitioners. These recordings will often sound more authentic than studio recordings, because they will include actual ambient sounds from wherever you are recording. For your field recordings, you will need to have an audio recording device. Since you will be editing the audio on your computer, we recommend using a digital recording device. These can be found as standalone devices or integrated into other devices (such as MP3 players or mobile phones). If you plan to be doing a lot of recording outside, you should also consider purchasing a windscreen for your audio recorder to help reduce wind sound.

Field Recording
Photo credit: Development Support Centre

When recording out in the field, it is always a good idea to fully charge the batteries on your device in advance. Also, if your device has removable batteries, consider purchasing a backup set of batteries that you have bring with you fully charged as well.

If you are planning to interview someone in the field, remember to take the following steps to ensure that your subject is prepared and that you are able to capture useful content:

  • Let the interviewee know in advance when you will be arriving and what to expect.
  • Prepare your questions in advance and share them with at least one colleague to ensure that they are clear.
  • Structure your questions in a way that allows for an open-ended, but guided response.

For example, if you want to find out what a farmer thinks about the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on small-scale agriculture, phrase the question in a specific way that would guide the farmer to respond on that point. Rather than asking "What are your feelings about GMOs?", ask "What impact do you think GMOs will have on small-scale agriculture?" The second question guides the farmer to respond to the specific topic you are interested in, whereas the first question could result in their responding to any number of issues associated with GMOs. It is also important to avoid asking leading questions, such as "GMOs have the potential to transform small-scale agriculture, don't you agree?" If there is a chance that the farmer might not be familiar with whatever it is you are asking them about, ask them beforehand what that term means to them. This is important because if they do not fully understand the question you are asking them they will not be able to respond in a way that captures their actual feelings.

Also, make sure that you identify a location for the interview that is comfortable and has limited amounts of background noise. There is no problem with recording some background noise, but if there is too much noise it can distract from what is being said. By selecting a comfortable location for the interview, you can also increase the likelihood that the person you are interviewing is focused on the questions you are asking.

Keeping Track

Keeping track
When recording in the field, you may find it easier to create new audio clips for each question and answer. You can then use a notepad to write out a few words about each audio clip. This will make it easier for you to manage your audio clips once you are back in the office.

You will not be able to plan all of the interviews you conduct though. For instance, you may be out in the field for other purposes and discover an interesting story that you would like to record. If that is the case, try your best to develop specific questions on the spot. Use follow-up questions as well to guide the person you are interviewing to talk more about the topic you are most interested in. You can also tell them explicitly what you are interested in learning more about and encouraging them to speak primarily about that.

Being out in the field is also a great time for collecting sound effects and other ambient noises that you will use for your final programs. Always make sure to record for longer than you think you will need. It is better to have too much than to have too little and be forced to loop your sounds. Keep a database of all of your sound effects and ambient noises using an easy-to-understand naming convention so that you do not have to record new versions of the same sound each time. There are also a number of online databases that offer free or cheap sound effects and ambient noises. Just search around.

Suggestions for lowering the barriers to entry:

All of your radio station partners will already have sufficient experience recording audio. If your project or local NGO partner staff will be recording audio segments on behalf of your partner stations, however, they will likely need some support. Provide staff with appropriate training on how to use the equipment and engage with interviewees. The more experience your team has with recording audio both in the studio and in the field, the more comfortable they will become—and the better-quality they will be able to produce. You may also consider creating video tutorials on the different elements of the recording process that your team can use as an illustrative guide. Finally, as with script writing, consider exploring ways to promote positive competition and recognition for high-quality work.

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Editing

Editing audio can be a time consuming process, but digital recordings and computer editing software make the process much easier than it was in the days of the tape. These advances have made it possible to produce audio recordings without weeks or months of training. Rather than discussing any particular editing software here, this section will focus on specific steps that you can take to make sure that you understand the process. For the most part though, the production team at your partner stations should be responsible for any final editing. That said, there may be instances where your project or local NGO partner staff will need to edit audio segments that they record, such as farmer interviews.

Logging Clips

The first step to editing is logging your recordings. Since you have likely recorded much more audio than you will end up using, logging all of your clips will make it much easier to edit a final product. The benefit of working with digital recordings is that you can rename each file based on a logical system. In radio parlance, each of these clips or sound bites is called an actuality. You should be familiar with this term, although for this toolkit we will use the term 'clip' to refer to individual digital audio files. Logging your clips will make it much easier for whoever will be editing the final product to navigate your raw material.

To begin logging your recordings, you will need to listen to each of your clips. This can be a tedious and boring activity, but it is a crucial part of the process. You can use the Audio Logging Worksheet to keep track of which clips you think you plan to use. There is no need to log clips that you know you will not use. Below is a short example of what that might look like:

Clip Name Description Time Code (start/end)
Narration1.wav Intro narration 00:15 – 00:38
ExpertInterview1.wav Interview with Dr. Mitchell explaining dangers of improperly applied pesticides 02:22 – 02:41
FarmNoises1.wav Sounds of plowing, chickens in the background 00:19 – 00:35

This worksheet has three columns. The first column is where you input the file name of each clip. The next column you should use to type a description of the clip. This should include enough information so that you are able to easily identify the content of the clip when editing. The final column is for the start and end time of the portion of the clip you plan to use listed in minutes:seconds. If the person logging your audio is different from the person who will be editing it, you may also want to include 'in words' and 'out words' here. These are the first few words to start and end the portion of the clip you plan to use.

Try not to use any clip that is longer than 30 seconds unless it is extraordinarily engaging. Otherwise, if you plan to use more than 30 seconds from a given clip, break up the audio with other clips, such as narration or sound effects to keep your audience engaged. It is important to reiterate here that you should also be mindful of the tone of the dialogue in each clip you are selecting. Do not select clips based on content alone. If the tone of the dialogue is boring or the audio is unclear, it is better to discard it and find a better clip—or re-record it, if possible.

Rough Edit

Once you have finished this process of logging and identifying the clips you will use, you can begin to lay out your selected clips onto a timeline. This step of the editing process is known as the rough edit. There are two ways to carry out this step. This first is to do a paper edit, which means that you write out the order of each clip and transition instructions. The other option is to use your editing program to manipulate and edit your clips directly.

The benefits of doing a paper edit first are that it can be done in a group so that your entire team is able to provide input. The best way to do this is to write the name and length of each clip on index cards so that you can tape them to the flipchart paper. You may also find it helpful to be able to manipulate and move clips around with your hands rather than moving everything around on the computer. That said, you can also do your rough edit directly on your computer if you are working alone or if you find it easier.

If you decide to do a paper edit, the easiest way is to lay out flipchart paper or use a whiteboard to write out your timeline. A basic paper edit might look something like this:

Basic Paper Edit

Once you have laid out your timeline, you can lay out the index cards for each of your audio clips directly onto the timeline. You will find that this process is very similar to what editing looks like in your editing software. At this point you should also make note of any audio that you are missing that you would like to add so that you can record the extra material.

Tight Edit

Copyright Info

A note on audio:
You may be tempted to use popular music in your radio program. If you plan to use any music, first make sure that you have the rights to use it or that the music is freely available for use without a copyright. For more information on legal sources of music visit Creative Commons.

After you have finished your rough edit, you can begin the process of tightening up your edit by making additional adjustments to your audio and transitions. The tight edit should be done directly in your audio editing program, so you will want to transfer the results of your paper edit into your editing program before starting. This is also your opportunity to make any changes to the volume levels of your clips to ensure that the volume is even throughout the program. Always make sure to save your project when editing. This will allow you to go back to your radio program at a later point to make additional edits. In addition, it will also save you the frustration of losing all of your work if your computer freezes or crashes. Like all computer programs, make sure that you save your project often while you are working on it. In addition to the basic tutorial on audio editing with Audacity provided in the Resources section, video and text tutorials for using all of the most common audio editing programs can be found online.

Mastering

The final step of the audio editing process is to master your audio. This step is taken after you have finished your tight edit and are ready to finalize your radio program. Before you master your audio, make sure to listen to it from start to finish a couple of times to confirm that you are satisfied with it. If you notice anything that you are not satisfied with, go back and make the appropriate adjustments. Once you are satisfied, you can export your final radio program into an audio file. Your editing software will give you the choice of exporting the final into a variety of different formats, such as WAV, MP3, M4A, and others. It is very important that you export your radio program into whatever format is preferred by the radio stations you are working with or on any other devices you will be using to disseminate your program. It is best to know this in advance, but the good news is that as long as you have saved your project, you can always re-export your audio file into a different file format.

Once you have finished mastering your radio program, you may also consider creating a transcript of the final version. Having a final transcript of the program will make it easier to translate and adapt your programs into other languages. Since this will take time, only create final transcripts if you have plans for using them.

Suggestions for lowering the barriers to entry:

Your radio station partners will almost certainly have an expert on staff who can edit audio to create a final pre-produced program. Should your project staff decide to edit audio for purposes other than radio, such as to record a podcast to share with colleagues, it will take them some practice. To facilitate their growth, encourage them to watch training videos available online or challenge your team to create their own training screencasts for other colleagues using free programs like Jing.

 

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Success

Critical Success Factors

  • Establish baseline quality standards.
  • Select the right people to do the work.
  • Clearly define partner responsibilities.
  • Consider sustainability from the outset.
  • Create farmer-centric programs that are relevant and engaging.

Worksheets

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