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Phil’s Weekly Column – NZ’s radio industry loses a legend

Last week the radio industry was shocked to hear that creative legend Neil Jenkins had passed away suddenly while in Auckland on business.  The Wellington based Creative Writer/Creative Director may not have a name you recognise, but chances are you’ve heard him on the radio anywhere in New Zealand with his deep ‘southern man’ voice. 

Neil worked for The Radio Network and I worked closely with him when I was working in the creative department.  As some of you know my broadcast career started off in radio.  I started off on-air in the mid 90s but soon moved into creative writing.  I loved both, but found writing a much tougher challenge and I love challenges.

I knew nothing really about writing creative ads for radio – but quickly enjoyed the high pressure job where we deal with all sorts of clients – from the very smallest to the very largest. 

The real fun with writing radio ads (and weather stories) is simply communicating the message as efficiently as possible.  Too short you miss the good bits, too long you lose the good bits.    

When I moved to The Radio Network in Auckland Neil was one of the first true radio writing legends I had worked with.  Known as “Cowboy” to most people, Neil was well known for creating fantastic visuals in your mind simply by the way he would talk.  He could make a boring ad sound interesting simply by voicing it himself.   Once, with a client, he sang (still with the Southern man voice) his idea for a jingle for them.  The client was blown away that he created that on the spot – no music, no pre-planned lyrics – he just sang it…and it was funny too.

So what does this have to do with weather?

Well you may have noticed my passion for writing – I love it. 

So when I finally had the chance to set up I simply transferred the techniques I had learnt from people such as Neil Jenkins – and numerous other talented writers who I worked with and managed – in to the weather stories we write here.

This is because whether you’re writing a 30 second radio ad, a four minute TV script, or writing a weather story – we still have to do the same things.  We have to get your attention, we can’t be misleading, we need to fuel your passion for the weather, but still get a message out.  The headline can’t be misleading but it must capture you and interest you – not an easy task.  Go too far one way and you’re “scare mongers” go too far the other way and you’re “dull and boring”.

Neil had a way with words and to him every client was unique and special.

So for the “clients” are basically the weather systems – each one is unique, each one has a story to tell – and we hope that we do it accurately but also make the experience really interesting for you… like a good book that you can’t put down.

Without working with people like Neil I know I would never have invested as much as I have in learning how to write better.  With Neil it wasn’t about ticking all the boxes – it was about blowing most of them up and creating something unique that stood out.

Neil – it was a pleasure working with you.  Your writing techniques, your passion for writing, and your skills at communicating are all things that have stayed with me.  Rest in peace mate – and may the beers be endless and ice-cold.

– By head weather analyst Philip Duncan


Derek on 23/06/2012 12:49am

Excellent writing Phil, no wonder you make the weather so interesting, now we know why.

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