How to win radio competitions

On-air radio competitions have always been a good source of high-value prizes. And although there are less competitions around compared to the 90s and 00s, you still have a decent chance of winning if you put the effort in.

There are lots of ways you can enter an on-air radio competition. In the past you would always have to call the studio, but now you can enter by text, email, Twitter, website – even by sharing a photo on Instagram! – depending on the station. Since I started entering radio comps, I’ve won holidays to Florida, Spain and Iceland, a Champneys spa break, weekend in London, a Smeg fridge, a pair of bikes, loads of gig and festival tickets, and over £8,000 in cash prizes and vouchers.

How to win radio competitions and contests: ten tips from top comper Di Coke

Here are my top ten tips for winning on the radio…

1. Listen to different stations at different times

Regular radio winners aren’t loyal I’m afraid – they’ll tune in to lots of different stations (national, local, and even not-so-local!) for the best chance of getting on air. If you’ve tuned in and there’s no mention of an on-air competition, turn the dial to a new station! Most competitions are on the Breakfast show (usually 6am – 10am) or the DriveTime show (4pm – 7pm) – and sometimes the weekend morning shows. You’ll have a better chance of winning on a local station, but the prizes won’t usually be as big as a national station. Tune in on a Friday afternoon, where you’ll often hear adverts and trailers for comps that start the following Monday.

2. Check radio station websites

Check the websites of your favourite radio stations weekly to see if they’ve added any new competitions or T&Cs (which can be a clue to an upcoming on-air promotion). Quite a few stations ask you to pre-register online for competitions, sometimes with a requirement to upload a photo or tell a story. Do this early – before the competition is mentioned on air – and you’ll have a better chance of being picked for the first day or two!

If a competition does require a bit of effort, that immediately reduces the entry numbers. Don’t rush to type up your funny story about your first day at a new job though – write it up in a Notes app or a notebook first, and check it’s perfect before you submit it! Applying online is great if you’re unable to listen to the radio, as the station will be calling YOU back – just make sure you answer the call!

Websites worth checking regularly are Absolute, Magic FM, Virgin, Heart FM, TalkSport, Capital FM and Kiss.

3. Save numbers in your phone

Check online for studio and SMS numbers and save them all into your phone. Do a quick ‘test call’ and hang up before the comp starts to ensure you can just press redial when they ask people to call in. If you ever get a call back from a radio station, then make sure you also save that into your Contacts – call it ‘Heart FM Promo Team’ or similar. Oh, and if you’re a regular comper you’ll know this – but ALWAYS answer Witheld or Private numbers!

4. Get a portable radio

If you have access to an old fashioned, analogue radio that’s great – digital radios and apps have a delay, so you’ll be the first to hear when to call up if you listen on an analogue (or car) radio. Don’t forget you can listen to any radio station on your laptop (via websites) and often on mobile apps.

5. Be prepared

If you know when a competition is on air, set a reminder on your phone 5 minutes beforehand (Google calendar is great for notifications).

It’s also useful to have at least one friend who you can nominate for a radio competition – you’d be surprised how many stations still have comps where they call up your friend for them to answer questions about you. If you’ll be answering questions and you know the time you’ll be called, warn your friends that you might need their help in a Whatsapp or Facebook messenger chat – or ask a person in your office to be on standby!

If you’re going to be asked questions, make sure you can be sitting in front of a computer, tablet or laptop, with Google open ready for you to quickly search for an answer.  If you know the theme of the question, do as much research as you can – even printing out fact sheets if necessary.

If you’re entering a ‘guess the celebrity voice’ or ‘what’s the secret noise’ type competition, always check the website before you call or text, to see what’s already been guessed. These comps get a huge number of repeat guesses!

6. Call at the right time

When you hear the presenter start talking about the competition, start calling straight away – for a lot of stations you’ll encounter an automated menu and will have to ‘press 1 for the studio’ so get ready to do this quickly! The phone will hopefully ring out, but if it’s engaged then hang up and try redialling straight away. If the phone does ring and isn’t answered, don’t hang up – sometimes they take 5 minutes to answer because they’ve picked up another line (this is especially important if it’s a head to head quiz as they’ll need two players). Don’t hang up your phone until they cut you off, or you hear the competition on air.

Sometimes the station might get three players lined up who ALL get the answer wrong, and will put a request out for new players to dial in – so listen in and keep your phone handy!

In America, radio stations often give the prize to the 10th or 20th caller, answering then immediately hanging up on the unlucky callers in the queue. This is rare in the UK – most stations will answer one line, and that person goes on air. Occasionally they will put you on hold and tell you which line you’re on incase you get chosen – but 95% of the time your line will get chosen because you’re the only caller on hold, it’s just to keep you nervous so you sound genuinely surprised on air if you win.

On-air competitions aren’t usually broadcast live – most are pre-recorded and edited, then broadcast within the hour (sometimes even the next day), which is why it can seem like a long time between the presenter asking for callers, and the competition being broadcast.

7. Be enthusiastic and excited

Occasionally radio stations will call a ‘shortlisted’ winner first, In most cases there is no shortlist – you’re the winner, but they don’t want you to know that. So they call you in advance, tell you you’re on a shortlist so you’ll be nervous and excited when they call you properly later on. They also call in advance because they want to be certain you’ll answer the phone. One of the reasons you might not get called back is if they ask ‘will you be available to go on air in 45 minutes?’ and you respond “Well, I might be on the school run so it really depends on the time…” – they’re likely NOT to call you back in this situation – there’s too much of a risk that you won’t pick up!

Make sure you sound excited on the phone – be chatty, but not crazy! If you get chosen, you’ll be nervous, but try to relax and imagine you’re chatting to a friend. If you get the answer wrong, or lose out to another contestant, it really doesn’t matter. There’s always next time!

8. Check the radio station’s rules

Every station has a different set of rules for their competitions – you might need to read a general set, plus a set of T&Cs for the specific competition you’re entering. They very rarely tell you full details on air – so if it’s a holiday prize, check the station’s website to see how many it’s for, when it can be taken, etc.

Bauer and Global have restrictions on radio wins – currently, Global let you win two major prizes (value of £1000 or more) in a 6 month period, and then you won’t be allowed to enter/win again for six months. T&Cs state Bauer only allow one £500 prize in a six month period. In reality, these rules aren’t always followed – but Bauer and Global will let you know if you’re banned, so keep entering until they tell you otherwise. Read more in my blog post Bauer and Global Prize Restrictions.

9. Watch your phone bill

Be careful with costs! Stations like Heart and Absolute Radio run generous text-in competitions that cost £1.50 a go – this can add up really quickly, especially if you fall for their ‘text another entry and you’ll get a third entry free!’ sales pitch. Text promotions will always get a lot of entries as they’re so easy to enter – if you need to apply online or call up, despite it being free or much cheaper, most people won’t bother!

Check the rate per minute before you call the studio too – some stations charge a large fee per minute while the phone is just ringing out, unanswered.

10. Use two (or more!) phones

Have you got a spare mobile phone? Lots of people have a second PAYG phone to use for competitions, so they can keep track of what they spend and they don’t get spam calls on their main phone! If a radio station has a call-in competition, try calling on both phones at once to double your chance of getting through. Pop the phones onto Speaker mode so you can hear what’s happening. It goes without saying that if you have a willing partner or friend in the room you should get them to try calling or texting too.

After the event…

Don’t feel too disappointed if you didn’t get through to the studio, didn’t get chosen to go on air – or if you did get on air but you didn’t win! It’s all good experience to learn from next time round.

If you do win, the station will usually hang up and someone will call you back – this might be within the hour, or it might be the next day – but don’t panic, it will happen!

Did you enjoy these tips? You might enjoy these posts too:

Have you won a radio competition? How was the experience? Do you have any tips?

22 Responses

  1. Kayleigh says:

    I have been entering Hearts radio money competition everyday since it started in the hope for some money to help me out but nothing yet.
    What am I doing wrong?!

  2. maggie maisey says:

    I try every day Enter at £2 a go on mobile but it never seems to come my way Often wonder why I enter at different times too but doesn’t make any difference It always seems to be some one else

    • Di says:

      Don’t bother with the expensive text ones Maggie – you need to enter the ones that aren’t as widely advertised. Try checking websites, listening to Breakfast shows and switching stations to find those!

  3. Tanya says:

    I’m in New Zealand, so don’t know if comps are the same. We have national comps to big concerts overseas and the cue to call is every hour or so, but they run for a couple of weeks. Was wondering whether you keep trying to enter once you have finally gotten through and have an entry? I got 11 entries into a draw to see Beyonce in San Francisco (didn’t win), 5 or 6 to see Meghan Trainor in LA (didn’t win), 12 to see Lady Gaga in Las Vegas (didn’t win)!!!! Gutted! So far I’ve got one entry to see Pink in Paris and two entries to see Elton John in Las Vegas. Do I just keep trying?!!!! Thanks 🙂

    • Di says:

      We don’t have a system like this in the UK Tanya – I think the closest we have is the expensive text entry comps where it’s £1.50 an entry. Having an ongoing hourly comp over a number of weeks sounds like hard work just for a prize draw entry! How much does each entry cost you?

      • Tanya says:

        Stressful is probably more like it lol. Doesn’t cost anything. You ring the 0800 no. when the cue to call comes on and if you’re first caller through you get in the draw. Then they randomly pick a winner at the end of the competition. I like your tip on checking all radio stations websites. I’ve scanned them all and entered two other trips on their website and to win tickets for Queen! Just found another one today to win a trip to Lollapalooza in the states. Thanks!!!

  4. Jess says:

    how do radio stations actually choose their winner for example capital cash call I literally apply twice a day I never winner or am I just unlucky? 🙁

    • Di says:

      The comps where you pay £1.50 or £2.00 to enter (like Cash Call, or Triple Play) get LOADS of entries because they’re advertised so often on air and people can’t resist making multiple entries! The winner will be chosen at random from all entries and the only way you can increase the odds is to spend more and more money which is a BAD idea! Try entering the free comps, where you enter online and then they call you back (ideally the creative ones where you have to upload a photo or a tiebreaker answer!)

  5. John Pepworth says:

    Can i enter every radio competition in the country or are you limited to the one in your local area.

    • Di says:

      Stations sometimes have T&Cs online that you can check – but I’ve rarely seen restrictions on it. BUT for some local stations if they pick up they will ask your name AND where you’re calling from, and if it’s too far from the broadcast area they might decide to go to the next caller. A lot of stations never ask where you’re calling from though – so if it’s a prize you’d really like, you have nothing to lose by calling!

  6. Victoria says:

    In the last five yrs I have won over 50 000 pounds. Worth of prizes including a car ten tellies a holiday to turkey Cyprus Majorca Malaga two trips to laris six trips to Ireland. Sky tv free fir a yr ten times four iPads an iPhone an I watch thousands of pounds worth of vouchers for different malls Bikes. Met Robbie Williams and will Young numerous overnight stays in top hotels trip to Harry Potter world u name it ave won on every radio station. Heart real smooth central Clyde absolute magic capital it’s the best thing I ever started doing and everything in the tips above is exactly what I do I prob break the rules you have to if you want to win It’s called competition for a reason

  7. LoveC says:

    How do I get a call back from a radio station on a comp that u register online since they say the system picks you up

    • Di says:

      I don’t understand the question? If you’ve entered online then you will have supplied your phone number so if you get chosen they can call you on that number?

  8. KieranWalsh says:

    We won a lovely trip to Barcelona, On Essex Radio,This year, Call back answer three questions, My wife entered,so they wanted to speak to her, at 7.30am.Had to wake her up.But we won. Won loads on old Breeze Essex radio,miss it, But a good rate of prizes.Funny one was a sofa on Christmas eve,with Breeze,we had a choice of two, and a radio car followed the delivery,from Maldon, we had to be vacuum the floor,ready for its arrival, on radio, they followed it to home,Where we had to have cheering neighbours, and be interviewed,live on radio, still it was worth £1500, And lasted years Embarrassed never. We had fun with Classic BBC Radio, a limo, to last night at the proms Royal Albert Hall chauffeur driven.From and back, Everything laid on, Did we get some looks.Yes you do win great prizes from radio. Be lucky

  9. Local stations really struggle to get people on air for comps – especially with niche prizes like event tickets!

    • emmasfabulous says:

      I have to have a thick skin when the fella asks if I’ll go on hold in case someone else rings in that might answer more questions right 😀

  10. Melanie Sarah Slater says:

    I won a macbook air with Heart fm, it was a text comp, it was an amazing feeling, dont give up is my advice

  11. I’ve been on air twice this year – both in the same month! Was lucky enough to win £500 cash and a new Samsung S8 plus with a really easy to answer question on Heat (i was the first to call in as I had the number on speed dial). I then also won £250 of B&Q vouchers with a head to head quiz with Virgin Radio! (had to pre register first and knew I was going on air the day before).

    Not been told I was banned from winning anymore from Bauer but am playing it safe as don’t want to end up having to hand a prize back or worse- end up paying back monetary value to them retrospectively!

    Would love to get more time to listen to the radio but the kids hate it on unless its banging out Aqua’s Barbie Girl or Frozen…..

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