23 February 2018

The Radio Lead-In

Executive Summary

To achieve a meaningful impact with a water story on the radio, listeners need to pay attention. Here is where the lead-in to a broadcast item becomes important. It introduces listeners to the topic and arouses their interest and curiosity. Read on to understand how to get the attention of the radio audience through a good introduction to your water story.


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A lead-in, preview, or introduction (also known as an intro) introduces the listeners to the broadcast item they are about to hear - whether this is a news report, interview, bulletin, or longer report.  

A lead-in avoids too many facts and figures. Instead, it focuses on the essence of the broadcast item to follow. It conveys important information that listeners will need to understand the broadcast item to follow. Moreover, a good introduction creates interest and captures their attention of the radio audience.

How is a lead-in constructed?

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A radio lead-in consists of three parts. The “ear catcher” should arouse the interest and curiosity of the listener. Then there is an introduction that broadly addresses the topic that the following report will cover; this part of the lead-in will also connect the radio presenter to the report and the rest of the radio program.

There are several approaches one can take to writing the lead-in. It could be written in a news style and stick to the facts. But if the broadcast item to follow is more conversational or casual, then the lead-in can be more creative - for example, it could contain metaphors, examples, comments, questions, or interesting contradictions. The presenter uses basic storytelling principles and can be freer in how they introduce the item.

However, the content of the lead-in should always have relevance and appeal for the listeners and it should not double up on any of the information in the actual broadcast item.

The length of the introduction relates to the length of the broadcast item to follow. A short piece of broadcast news requires a short introduction. On average, a lead-in might be between 15 and 25 seconds long.

How is a lead-in put together?

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The presenter uses the same language as his or her viewers to ensure that they understand and become interested; the presenter uses short, simple phrases and avoids using complex language or sentence structures. Statistics, numbers, and lengthy dates should only be used in a lead-in when they are essential.

A good rule to go by is: concrete and detailed before abstract or generic. The more hard facts there are in the lead-in, the better the listener will understand it.

Presenting the lead-in

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The presenter tells the listeners what’s happening and really speaks to them, on a semi-personal basis. This establishes a connection between the presenter and the listener and arouses the listener’s interest.

The listener should not feel as though an introduction is being read; it should be “told.”


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  • Does the lead-in introduce the upcoming broadcast item in an appropriate way?
  • Is the lead-in relevant and interesting to the listener?
  • Does the lead-in arouse curiosity? Does it contain necessary and relevant information?
  • Is anything in the lead-in repeated in the broadcast item? If so, avoid this.
  • Is the lead-in the right length?
  • Are the opening remarks formulated so they are easy for listeners to understand?
  • Is the lead-in “told” rather than read?
Library References

Shortcuts to Journalism: The Basics of Print, Online and Broadcast Reporting

When basic questions about journalism come up, this handbook, written and produced by Media in Cooperation and Transition (MICT), provides clear, brief and precise answers. Shortcuts to Journalism isn’t just for journalists – it’s also helpful for non-journalists. Download the English version here or the Arabic version here.

Schmidt, E., Tirok, M. and Bösch, M. (2016): Shortcuts to Journalism: The Basics of Print, Online and Broadcast Reporting. Berlin, Germany: Media in Cooperation and Transition gGmbH PDF

Alternative Versions to