What's It Going To Take...?

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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:18 am

Radio Does Not Have An Effective Strategy (Part III)
From time to time, some very bright, experienced and sincere pundits will drop by with a set of admonishments about generating better ad copy for radio. I accept that many of the points have merit with all improvements on the banal, annoying and innocuous ad services being supplied by most of radio.

My first (rhetorical) question: It’s 60 years later and radio has yet to figure this stuff out!? This is rhetorical because most readers already have the answer. It is a sorry case, because radio has ignored the preparation of more listenable and, of greater importance, more influential spots. Radio has never made this a priority. Further, neither has radio made detailed inquiries into the on-air presentations of its talent.

Our friend, Bob McCurdy, is the most recent pro to recommend an overhaul of the methodologies of spot generation. Many of the points he makes have credibility with me. Others, not so much. But, at least and to his credit, he attempts to open another worthwhile and necessary discussion. My issue is that Bob’s ideas and efforts ignore the underlying fundamentals of broadcast communications.

Electronic media, of which radio is the senior medium, operates on a completely different set of proven, neurological accessing elements, and almost all are unknown to the radio group. Audiences access electronic media as a sub-dominant hemisphere, brain exercise. Print, meanwhile, is a dominant hemisphere access. While I have provided more detailed explanations of these phenomena, the takeaway for us is: Radio is operating under different rules. Some are exceptionally positive for radio and some are severely limiting.

Meanwhile, and I cannot overestimate this point: These neurological elements make the requirement of a fundamental re-assessing and implementation of new and different approaches to our ad creation and talent-presenting approaches.

That engaged, radio professionals call for significant improvements in the generations of ads and, I would add, the presentations of the on-air gang, can only be healthy and advantageous for the industry.

Presented in the most simple of terms, radio spots are required to accomplish, at least, the following:
1. Get and maintain audience attention.
2. Generate an emotional response from audience members.
3. Get the advertisers’ names and offer in there, as well – if they insist. J

Even if some radio practitioners make a solid, sincere effort to up their games as they apply to spot generation, a number of traps remain that would only add limitations to the results of the exercise.

Because of the aforementioned neurological accessing of radio by audience members, a couple of core and fundamental adjustments will have to be made. (There are many more.) They are intuitively challenging, mainly because they are not consistent with radio traditions and the (alleged) newness of the material is subject to suspicion and skepticism. I get that.

Radio is not a direct or a one-to-one medium. The justification for retaining that old assumption has been the accurate description of radio being heard by one pair of ears at a time, and at all times. In other words: a singular and subjective experience. I get that, too. The trouble under which radio toils is in the assumption that there is a connection to that unknown, unspecified listener. Radio never has, doesn’t now nor will it ever be able to accomplish that impossibility. Life, after all, is only experienced subjectively, and as an individual.

Another assumption that leadership has been making is that radio in general and the speaker in particular has the authority to make demands for behaviours from audience members. The only people who actually do have that kind of authority are cops, bosses, border guards and moms. Everybody else had better make nice or it’s “Bite me!”

Yes, it would be really nifty if radio started applying the many ways that commercial content can be improved. But, I continue to posit that unless the core and fundamental changes to radio’s approach, including the ones mentioned (above) are undertaken, any of the other improvements suggested will still be undermined and severely limited.

I agree that it is the content-heavy “direct response” ads that require immediate attention, especially since they represent the majority of radio’s ad presentations. Most of them, alas, have little or no “creativity” about them. Still, to be more effective, major adjustments must still be made – even as the “painting over rust” analogy still applies.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion, based on years of testing in the on-air and commercial production environments, that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting have yet to be addressed or applied. info@voicetalentguy.com
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:46 pm

What’s Normal Is Normal
Maybe my 50 years in radio (30 years on the air) and my general skepticism makes questionable my actual youthful exuberance for the potential of the medium. My brains might have been addled some, as well. I mean, any reasonable individual who takes on the task to re-direct the communicative aspects of radio is, practically, attempting to till a field of rocks with a broom.

I appreciate how at least half (my guess) of the people who are now plying the radio trade began their careers after the medium was crippled by consolidation, and was forced to endure the programming atrocities that came as a result. I remind myself how these folks may have no idea of what it was like when radio was “all live – all the time”, or when personalities in all day-parts were on the air from 10-14 minutes an hour, or when tunes were one-at-a-time and certainly no more than two back-to-back.

The phusterclucking of spots is a more recent, but still debilitating phenomenon that benefits no one – not audiences, not advertisers and, ultimately, not the stations. There is little in radio (besides an inarticulate boob on the air) that is more off-putting than a seemingly never ending series of poorly executed, banal, patronizing, insulting, authoritarian and annoying commercials. Any on-air “personalities” communicating at the same levels have earned and can expect a litany of criticisms.

Radio’s leadership have more than thrown out the baby. The bathwater, the basin and the faucets have all been jettisoned. And yet, after a couple of decades, it all seems so normal, especially to those who weren’t around and don’t realize they are participating in a very bad dream.

Now, before any reader assumes that I am leading up to a call to jump on a “way back” machine of sorts and return to those halcyon days of yore and radio lore, a sobering reality check is in order. It’s too late for that trip. The bus left a long time ago and, besides, most of the talent has already been crushed. What remains has become, again, “normal”, and as such, even tolerable.

More importantly, however, radio’s communicative status quo is held in such high esteem, it has also become defensible! The main defence of radio’s reality has been nothing more than wild assertions, sincere to be sure, but only as cogent as any position that is not backed up by evidence.

I have always claimed that radio is a magic medium – so powerful as to maintain its reach, its influence and ROI as an ad medium, and a significant loyalty from its listeners. All these attributes continue in spite of the internally imposed, self-destructive practices that are recognized to be in force, particularly by reasonable and considerate practitioners.

Radio is stagnant – unwilling to entertain those practices that could drive radio’s current position as the #5 ad medium into the stratosphere. Indeed, in recent times, research is being provided that demonstrates how radio is potentially in a marvelous situation. This information, however, is useless so long as the medium’s leadership stays in their gumboots – mired in the muck of tradition, dogma and denial.

Returning to “talent” – on air and in creative departments: It is my position that a massive and fundamental program of education be undertaken by those in leadership roles – corporate and individual – in order to take advantage of more modern and available strategies and methodologies of broadcast communications.

To put the situation in another way: I am satisfied the evidence of the practices of radio over the last 20 years and longer is conclusive, and points to generated shambles of which the responsibility can be laid at the feet of the consolidators. This has left the medium marking time up against a massive wall. Radio does not have the resources, the knowledge or the motivation to arrange for getting past this wall.

The opportunity to train the talent that exists and those who are coming into the business remains, but is likely to be ignored by the vast majority of owners and management. While those who subscribe to the idea of “live & local” are to be encouraged, a bulging and more costly danger is presented. It would be a mistake to simply throw anybody with a pulse on the air only for the purpose of filling a day part. What is required is a new, more listenable and more influential “normal”.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. Ron makes the assertion, based on years of testing in the on-air and commercial production environments, that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting have yet to be addressed or applied. info@voicetalentguy.com
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:26 am

Language On Life Support
Sometimes, pushing this “talking-rock” is like pulling my own teeth with a string and the handle of a door I can slam. The Tooth Fairy’s puny payouts hardly made such a premature exercise worthwhile. That excruciating (apparently there was a better method) experience was one reason for my conversion to Easter Bunnyism. I ultimately let that one go, too, because the returns on my emotional investment were negligible. I was credulous, to be sure, but I also found out the delivery of chocolates and candy was outsourced.

Radio, I submit, is continuing with behaviours and is demonstrating attitudes that are akin to membership in the EB-cult. Radio, for the most part, is made up of the moderates – those who go along with the ingrained or imprinted traditions; keep their heads down and who also realize the diminishing returns that come from challenging any of the litany of radio’s vaunted edicts. Then, there are those who won’t make challenges because the distinctions are well outside their awareness.

The majorities of practitioners who have anything to do with the verbiage we are presenting on-the-air and in our copywriting have yet to even begin studying the fundamentals – never mind the nuances – of broadcast communications. Rather, it’s more likely the adherents to this radio-cult will come out roaring and swinging against anything to which they don’t cotton. They also refuse to make any inquires.

And so, the annoying banality continues – on air and from the local copy departments. Plus, sped-up, helium-sucking, legal disclaimers are just the cherries plopped on top of all that extraordinary goodness, dripping from each rich, delightful, creamy dairy-based earful of standard, stellar ad-content.

Only lucky are those in radio who still enjoy the innate, unexplored, unexplained power of radio – a power so extraordinary that listeners’ critical, thinking faculties are bypassed, and where emotionalism is the main factor for influencing those audiences. Yet, radio’s leadership keeps insisting that the ads be of the authoritative, content-heavy variety and, as such, burden themselves with the responsibility for those ads being less influential than they could be or should be.

But, as with Easter Bunnyism, the status quo is accepted, promulgated and defended – at all costs – even as throwing in with the status quo is still delivering only around 7% of available revenue. I am not impressed. This is not a medium that is firing on all cylinders. I mean, not only have we failed in larnin’ to talk good, it never occurs to people that a whole range of communications above a basic use of English is also available.

A juicy example of the former is in an impressive and articulate article from Roy (The Wiz) Williams. In glowing terms and precise syntax he demonstrated how the use of metaphors is so much more interesting, engaging and influential when addressing a radio audience. After reading the piece, my first response was, “Preach it, Brother Roy!” My second, more considered response was, “Fat freakin’ chance, Roy.” Both Easter Bunnyists and radio cultists do not accept metaphors. These take too much time to develop, and this results in less time for products, prices and the obligatory “Don’t miss it!” And besides, “Metaphors don’t work, anyway.” Just ask anybody with long, floppy ears, a puffy tail and who is packin’ the radio hymnal.

Meanwhile, I am part way through reading an actual book (hard copy) about DNA. Among other things, I have learned the following. 1. If I had to take an exam today, I would flunk out. 2. The rice genome contains between 42,000 and 63,000 genes whereas the human genome is estimated to contain between a mere 30,000 to 40,000 genes. (Maybe instead of eating a bowl of rice, I should be asking the grains some complex, important questions.) 3. Genetics also has related equivalencies with mathematics, music and linguistics! For us, that means our methods of communicating to a broadcast audience have many gaps, chasms and sheer cliffs. Or, as Noam Chomsky once said: “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” And who, I wonder, is going to argue with that? Not I.

I am, however, delighted when well-versed radio professionals step to the fore – lining up as we do for unlettered and uniformed abuse – to call for drastic, immediate improvements in the medium. The backhanded benefit - provided by cranky, stuck-in-the-dogma detractors who drool behind anonymous troll-handles - is that other readers might start making some comparative judgments. Bunny-esque cultists will not be saving the language or the future for radio.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. Ron makes the assertion, based on years of testing in the on-air and commercial production environments, that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting have yet to be addressed or applied. info@voicetalentguy.com
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Mar 13, 2017 6:33 am

Defining The Negative In Radio

Reader Alert: Language lesson ahead.

Almost all language delivered on the radio is made up of some combination of: The natural, intuitive speaking habits of the writer or the presenter, and any acquired forms of speaking based on radio’s long-held but sloppily-acquired and unchallenged traditions. These would also include the factors of tempo, speed, volume, intensities, range, pauses and tonality. Only peripheral and occasional attention or practice has been devoted to any of these elements.

One of the many components of radio communications that has, I suspect, never been addressed is the use of the many forms of the negative. It is the case where we, as natural speakers of the language, have always used the negative in our everyday speech and, of course, we use it on the air and in copywriting, as well.

Since a personal, subjective experience can make for a more useful learning experience, I invite readers to participate in the following exercise.

My first request is for the reader to direct their attention to making a mental picture of any small, brown dog. Next, change the colour of the dog to white. Some will construct a static photo of the pooch while others will have generated a video. The relative size of the image in the mind’s-eye will also be, comparatively, somewhat unique to each person.

The next part of the exercise is to go along with the following: Don’t make a mental image of any small, brown dog. And, don’t change the colour of the dog to white. Don’t’ make a static photo and don’t generate a video.

What happens? In a bizarre twist in our processing of our own language, the negative (“don’t”) becomes almost irrelevant. Those images are still being constructed even with direct instructions not to!

In an earlier piece, I introduced “Transderivational Search (TDS)” as a sophisticated process that every one of us goes through – in order to derive understanding and meaning of what we have just heard or read. This TDS process is an ongoing, automatic and unconscious behaviour that we must experience in order to understand.

Essentially, the process considers the entirety of a listener or reader’s life-experiences in order to find matching elements that will corroborate the content of the new sentences being provided. For example: Anyone with no exposure to winter skiing will have more limited choices when asked to develop an internal representation of different kinds of snow.

The questions for communicators then, are: What do I want a listener to experience internally? Do I want them to internally generate the exact opposite of what I am suggesting they avoid? How do I get away from that habitual, but still undesirable strategy?

Here are some standard, everyday uses of the negative – on the street and in radio:
- “Don’t miss it!" To understand that sentence, every listener must go through the unconscious process of coming up with internal experiences of what “missing it” would be.
- “Don’t worry!” The same principle applies.
- “Don’t drink/text/phone and drive.” People are required to internally access the experiences of drinking/texting/phoning while driving – just to understand the sentence.
So. What parts of the messages are being reinforced? They certainly won’t be the desired ones.

The fix is in stating the communicator’s intent. “Drive sober.” “Drive fully alert.” A more influential replacement for “don’t worry” is, essentially, a form of: “….and feel good.” Etcetera.

A local auto dealer is tagging all their spots with “Buy from us – with no regrets”. While a sincere statement, the listeners have no choice but to internally generate any number of regretful circumstances that might arise from buying at this dealership.

Some broadcasters might take the position that these are trifling matters. The danger, however, is in the fact that these approaches also have a cumulative and long-lasting effect.

Our language delivery practices are the last of radio’s elements that have yet to be developed. I am sure that most of radio’s ownership and leadership have never even considered these matters. And if they have, the evidence suggests they have no appreciation of how powerful a massive improvement in our communication methodologies would be to the future of the medium. Are we just an advertising platform that enjoys 7% of available revenue? Or, are we endeavouring to become effective “Communicators”?

(Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion, based on years of testing in the on-air and commercial production environments, that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting have yet to be addressed or applied. info@voicetalentguy.com)
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:21 am

Content May Be Secondary

(At the risk of bloviatin’ ;-) … a short pre-ramble.)

Because I have noticed how only some attention has been paid to a phenomenon of radio of which I have been aware for decades, do I offer it up again – as a bonus that can be an extra asset to radio reps.

Radio, lucky for all concerned, is considered a “passive” medium. By that I mean: Listeners can actually chew gum, drive, wash dishes, do surgery and perform any number of tasks while having the radio on at the same time. The benefit of this is that listeners will also (as often as not) tolerate the commercials. There are limits, of course, and radio certainly exceeds them consistently. Still, radio enjoys a consumer-tolerance not found in other media.

People who are online can’t wait for the 4 seconds of the 30-second ads to pass before availing themselves of the option of blasting out of the spots, or instantly bashing the banner ads – in order to get to their desired material. The online experience, by comparison, is an “active” process and takes a user’s full attention to participate. Again I repeat: Lucky for us. (Thus endeth the pre-ramble.)

Meanwhile and as to the title:

The sincere but plaintiff wail for “content” goes on unabated. Pundits insist on the desperate need for more and better content. How to generate this content, who is going to deliver it and at what cost, particularly at the local level, goes unaddressed. Syndicated programming or smaller block features, I am satisfied, are less about providing better content than it is about sucking a little more lower-cost marrow from radio’s bones.

Now, philosophically and practically, I agree how more and better content certainly wouldn’t hurt, especially for those stations that are almost bereft of much that would qualify as “better content”. Even so, there is another element that usurps the priority stapled to “content”:

"Connecting" To Listeners

Generally, radio presumes and vigorously asserts it is already connecting with listeners. And, in some cases, it does. Rather, some individual “personalities” are successful at “connecting”. For the most part, however, and fundamentally, radio goes about its patronizing and maudlin communicative processes, and then labels these banal and anemic attempts “connecting”. Throwing breadcrumbs at a flock of seagulls, while generating a flurry of noisy activity, doesn’t do much to quell the appetites of hundreds and hundreds of hovering and diving birds. They are left hungry - and bitter. (Some observers have suggested sinister, seagull-plots are being hatched.)

Too often, on-air folks have been strangled so harshly, they come off sounding like they are straining to “connect” with cans of mixed vegetables. Although a little cruel, it may not be much of a stretch to suggest that some of these presenters are about to pass out from their own hunger - and lack of oxygen.

Audiences have no responsibility to connect to a performer. That burden is borne by the performers. It is up to the talent to be more listenable, more congenial, more informative, more entertaining and more credible. And as often, it is also up to the talent to be less authoritarian, less invasive, less confusing, less patronizing and less painfully predictable. I also acknowledge how talent has been suppressed so much over the last decades that they are in no position to act on those responsibilities mentioned above. Essentially, talent has been forced to wear 40-pound boots, and then ordered to fly.

As a lousy mind reader – just like everyone else – I can only speculate, although with some confidence, that ownership and management are completely unwilling to address the only element of radio over which they hold complete control – the forms our communicative methodologies take. They seem to be taking the position that everything about this matter is quite acceptable.even hunky dory, and that no particular improvements are necessary.

Based on what has been getting most of the attention lately, a more assertive telling of “the story” along with slicker sales techniques will launch radio back into a higher echelon of advertising media. This, I submit, is only a portion of a, necessarily needed, more complete and more fleshed-out strategy.

Radio, I further submit, is still in a position to exploit its potentials and the potentials of its performers and creative department staffs. Force-feeding extra, arbitrary content, while probably worthwhile, is still not nearly enough to make improvements of much distinction or value. Squabbling, dissatisfied and cynical seagulls are not particularly desirable or valuable companions. Connecting more powerfully to audiences is less about meat. It’s more about the secret sauce – and lots of it. Adding the connective "sauce" encourages otherwise famished radio audiences to chow down, enjoy and - to come back for more.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. Ron makes the assertion, based on years of testing in the on-air and commercial production environments, that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting have yet to be addressed or applied. info@voicetalentguy.com
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