What's It Going To Take...?

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

Postby pave » Mon May 16, 2016 8:20 am

Radio’s Real “One Thing”
In a candid and self-effacing editorial, Radio Ink Chairman/CEO, Eric Rhoads, pleaded guilty to the charge of having his attention drawn away by “shiny objects” - more often than with which he was comfortable. Harsh penalties will not be applied, but “forgiveness” may be indefinitely withheld. Besides, those “shiny object” episodes are still considered as standard issue “guy-thingies”.

However, Eric’s admonition for those who shared his penchant for being so easily waylaid was about choosing “one thing” on which to focus and to keep working it to completion. The title of Eric’s article was “What Is Radio’s ‘One Thing’?” In the movie, “City Slickers”, Jack Palance as “Curly”, asks Mitch if he wants to know the secret of life. Curly holds up a finger and says, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean sh**.”
Mitch replies with, “But, what is the ‘one thing’?"
Curly smiles and says, “That's what you have to find out.”

That’s a piece of dialogue that has been consistent with the experience of music-radio since before the movie was even released in 1991. The difference is that radio has not considered there might even be a Curly’s or Eric’s “one thing”. Determining what “it” might be and going after it has never been on anybody’s agenda.

It will come as no surprise, then, particularly to astute regular readers that my position – all along – has been that radio is unwilling to consider anything that has not been part of its own self-inflicted dogma for a lot longer than City Slickers has been available. Essentially, radio’s position can be paraphrased as: “There is no ‘one thing’. So, there is no point in looking.”

But, alas, there is, indeed, a “one thing” and it’s a biggie. It is fundamental and goes directly to the core of this communications business.

It is the model-of-communication that has been in place since Marconi first said, “And the Hits just keep on comin’!” If not then, it has been the gold standard since the first announcer thundered, “Your sale ends Saturday. Be there!” (More on this a little later.)

Meanwhile, in the same jam-packed Radio Ink issue –dripping with goodness in each, rich, creamy and affordable mouthful, Roy H. (“The Wizard”) Williams re-opened and made deeper a wound in the radio status quo by describing how stories (“metaphors”) were so much more powerfully influential than just factual content when delivered over the air. Plus, a story is a lot more interesting to a listener for far longer than is a shopping list of “deals, deals, deals” foisted on an audience by applying overwhelming speed and otherworldly intensity.

Roy’s work with Spence Diamonds is exemplary. Jewellers, often known to be a little snooty in their advertising attempts to attract a monied audience, have been bypassing an enormous, potential customer base – those folks who won’t be dropping 50k or more on a bauble. Through the use of metaphors and other powerful resources in their radio ads, Spence has been steadily growing their business since Roy’s outfit came onboard. (I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the creative was presented.)

The generalized downsides, however, to putting these metaphors to work in local markets would be, I think, obvious.
- The people who are able to craft these sparkling examples of broadcast advertising are no longer working - in most markets.
- Those writers who do have the skills, and are still employed, are likely already overwhelmed by their having to “type the hopeless hype” – reams of it.
- Managers have yet to accept the principles as described by “The Wiz” as practical.
- Local advertisers get terrified by any copy that doesn’t include a list of offers and an admonition to: “shop now for your best deals”.
- Local managers start experiencing revulsion and throat-vomit when “creative” is offered as an alternative to direct response, content-only ads.

Meanwhile, as sophisticated and powerful as are Roy’s materials and urgings, my version of radio’s now-required “one thing” starts well before the application of metaphors and other sneaky, but nifty ad manipulations.

At the most fundamental levels, radio’s core approach to audiences – on-air and ad creation - must be improved – drastically. Allow me, then, to re-introduce only three elements for consideration, and to do so in the form of simple, but sly questions:
1. Is radio a “one-to-one experience” or is it something else?
2. Do speakers on the air (“live”, V/T’ed or in the spots) have any actual authority over anyone in the audience?
3. Do human beings experience their lives through their sensory functions, as well as their cognitive and unconscious processes?

Now, I have always been willing to concede that outstanding personalities and outstanding commercials will supercede, trump and negate or make unnecessary any materials I have been offering. Unfortunately we would be discussing less than 5% of what goes out over the air that would qualify as anything close to “outstanding”.

It’s the other 95% that requires fundamental improvement – the inane presenters, the shabby commercials. Even the preponderance of “direct response” ads – the bread & butter-like spread that supports most of radio’s efforts need to be and can be improved – drastically.

With that, I invite Eric (and others) to take a few moments for considering these 3 (above) elements. They do, in fact, make up a portion of radio’s missing “one thing”.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue May 24, 2016 9:11 pm

Blaming The Audience
“The attention span of a gnat”. That’s the justification a number of radio people insist is the problem when they become aware that audiences are tuning out. They also refuse to take responsibility for generating such audience behaviours and, often, will claim their audiences are dysfunctional dolts. I have been hearing that hobbled justification my entire career. (To be fair, I sometimes have wondered myself.)

As counter-productive as it is, this convenient rationalization is delivered with severe sincerity – almost as “fact” – with uncomfortable penalties awaiting those who might question the edict. Does it ever occur, I also wonder, to the leadership that audiences lose their concentration because: What is being offered to them is mostly from the dull, boring and insulting crap-category? Short answer: Hardly ever. And yet, radio-folk have continuously railed and stamped their little, indignant footsies as they proclaim the real “dummies” are in the audience. Granted, and to be sure: There are some. Still, the practice of affixing blame to an entire group only freezes the blamer.

I also have to conclude the leadership of contemporary music-radio is (so far) unwilling, or perhaps incapable of “standing back”, so to speak, and listening to their stations as an audience member might. Other ways of describing this useful and important behavioral capacity are: “Taking the second position”, and as an “ability to dis-associate”. Some might also call the position as being “objective” – an interesting, but still confused claim, at best.

I also suspect he majority of management and leadership listen to their own stations only to confirm that already-instituted, unchallenged dogma and traditional, habitual practices are being followed. (This was the justification for the “ Bat Phones” - direct lines from the PD’s office to the poor saps in the control rooms.) One of the job descriptions for PD’s then was: “Must be a maniacal egotist with obsessive and sociopathic tendencies.” There were a swarm of qualified practitioners, some of whom dressed in leathers and were sporting masks and floggers. (I recall responding to my PD after one of his useless and feverish rants that when nowhere, “If you’re going to abuse me again, you’ll have to dress up.” Fortunately, for me, he laughed, and the meeting broke up.)

Meanwhile, as I ask for the indulgence of regular and astute readers, I want to repeat the challenges offered in my last piece. At the most fundamental levels, radio’s core approach to audiences – on-air and ad creation - must be improved, and drastically so. The following can serve as, at least, a few thought-starters.

1. Is radio a “one-to-one experience” or is it something else? As a preliminary but still substantial clue: Everything in life is experienced as an individual. Radio, however, makes no actual or intimate “connection” to any “One”, specifically.
2. Do speakers on the air (“live”, V/T’ed or in the spots) have any actual authority over anyone in the audience?
3. Do human beings experience their lives – including this medium - through their full sensory functions, as well as their cognitive and unconscious processes?

Considering the (above) fully is, I believe, necessary - before any more meaningful discussions on other improvements can take place. Thoughtful approaches to these matters will also determine if radio is still a potential “theatre-of-the-mind” medium or just another, shabbily-presented, electronic conduit for delivering (mainly) content. My experience, so far, has been that very, very few in the leadership will even trot through this requested process. “Theatre-of-the-mind” has become, essentially, no more than a handy, but vacant phrase for someone in sales to toss out like it was a huge, magic pumpkin.

Further, the standard-issue model of radio communications has never been questioned, considered or probed. This, as I suspect, is because broadcasters have never considered the (audience) filtering that goes on when radio - an electronic medium - is being applied to listeners. Plus, the acceptance of the premise that naturally occurring and intuitive language presentations are “good enough” - has been a major hindrance to researching available alternatives. Any model-of-communication – until demonstrated to be effective - should be considered as being tentatively “carved in soap”. Radio, however, has chosen “stone”. (Audiences, meanwhile, would prefer being gently washed rather than brutally pummeled.)

There is little point in repeating many of the other available, compelling and effective strategies and methodologies – some obvious and many more which are nuanced and subtle – until there are a few acceptances made on these 3 foundational points.

I was mightily impressed when Radio Ink Chairman/CEO, Eric Rhoads, postulated that there was a “one thing” possibly available to radio that would pave the road to further prosperity. I was even more impressed when he candidly admitted to not knowing what that “one thing” might be.

There are few arguments against it being incumbent on radio to make its presentations – on-air and in the creation of local ads – more interesting, more entertaining and more influential. This is necessary, even though general, audience participation remains somewhat consistent and steadfast – even as they may be populated by “dummies”.

Plus and oh, by the way, sales-folks would benefit from taking much higher quality materials to the street. Blaming the audience for having “the attention span of a gnat”, meanwhile, is not only generally untrue – it is a poisoned premise from which to begin.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu Jun 09, 2016 6:28 pm

From Second To Third
After a year of tidying up around my local radio station, being the jock “go-fer” and riding the board during remotes, I was going to be allowed to pull some weekend fill-in shifts. Although I had already determined I was going to be a professional, radio smart-ass – surrounded by the Hits – when I thought of it, I was terrified. My mouth would become Burning Man-dry, and felt like it was full of kitty litter.

Prior to hitting the air for the first time, I was invited into my PD’s office for a partial reading of the radio liturgy – a liturgy that is still in effect with full force today. Unquestioning compliance required. “Program Director” was an actual management position at the time, as it entailed shepherding a dozen or more on-air personnel, an eight-person newsroom, 4 copywriters, 2 on-air operator/producers, two more prod guys, and me, the part-time board-op and jock-slave.

This meeting had some gravitas. Plus, I assumed the information about to be injected had credibility and was backed up by useful knowledge – based on experience. Even as this was my first approach to the throne, I had already heard some tidbits of what was to come. The atmosphere was cordial. What I didn’t know – and had no way of knowing – was that what I was about to accept as “gospel” would, to some degree, cripple part of my approach to being on the air for the better part of the next dozen years.

The PD intoned: “Even though there are many people listening to the radio when you are on-the-air, you need to understand you are talking to only one person. I suggest you choose a good friend of yours as your ‘personal listener’.” He explained further. “Another way of thinking about this is that you are speaking to that one person. This also means: You do not talk at them!” I accepted the advice as the factual piece of information it was intended to be, thanked my boss, shook his offered hand and blissfully wandered out of the meeting – wondering who would be that “one person” to whom I was going to be talking. (I was, even so, a little confused as a few of our guys were performing as cranked-out manics. To? At? Huh?)

For the next dozen years or so, I worked a few thousand air shifts getting my chops together, completely confident in the value in what I had been instructed years before, as if the information was an enlightening loaf of manna from heaven. I was secure in the “fact” that my performances were precisely directed, and effective, as well as being accepted by “my fantasy-friend” in the audience. Like every other jock in the world, I had been inoculated and indoctrinated. I had blindly accepted untested “dogma” without question or challenge - and without prior knowledge. The sermon was delivered with oh, such secure sincerity. Of course, the surrounding congregation and choir were tuned-up and available to chime in at all times. It was all way too easy.

Given that, I respectfully submit: The greatest delivery-error electronic media and radio particularly - because of its one-only sensory access - has made, is in the insistence that presenters (on air and commercials) are communicating to] a single individual. Radio refuses to accept the fact, the glaring reality and the obvious circumstance that all radio communications are directed at unknown and unspecified members of an audience!

This premise is offered here as an undeniable, absolute, working “fact”: The only place in the practice of radio where the “one-to-one” principle is still in effect is exclusively and entirely in the minds of broadcasters! That this spectacularly important element of radio communications has never been challenged, is, I think, fair testimony to the abject and awful power of any accepted dogma.

Now, does accepting that radio presenters are not speaking to anybody in particular and are, literally, talking at unknown individuals in the audience also mean that we lose our capacity to be effective in our communications? Not at all. Making this one shift will begin elevating a presenter’s credibility - as they refrain from constantly challenging every listener – unidentified, unconnected listeners - who are being continuously compelled to accept they are at the other end of a “one-to-one” communication.

We have always used the Second Person “You” as an (assumed) heat seeking, radio dart that (presumably) hits directly on target every time. Too bad the on-air presenter is blindfolded, and has no operating evidence that will demonstrate the target is being hit. Intel on whether the dart further generates worthwhile responses is also not available.

The process of instituting the necessary shift, while profound, is still fairly simple. Any second person “you” presentation can be replaced with a third person reference. Plus, third person references are unending where the “you” is a singular, stand-alone element.

People, when processing language, are continuously going through an experience called “tranderivational search”. It is how someone relates their own understandings of whatever is being said to their own total histories. This, in order to unconsciously make sense of whatever processes and content are being delivered – in our case – on the air.

Further, applying this strategy eliminates the harshness and many of the tuning-out behaviours, which are generated by the use of “you”, Instead, with “third person” references, a gentler and more acceptable communication is provided that also allows the listener to consider whatever is being presented in a more permissive manner.

An example of “transderivational search” is supplied in the title of this piece. Some readers would have understood the title referred to a loss in ranking. Others might have assumed a baseball analogy. Very few would have immediately picked up on the connection to a linguistic element. It is an individual thing. Readers were not forced into an understanding. Rather, “choice” was implied. Meanwhile, it might be worthwhile to consider this single communicative distinction – to start moving radio to third… base.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:55 pm

Reprised: The “You” Factor
Based on some fairly terse emails, there is some grumbling in the ranks about the “you” thing. Many years back, the French Foreign Legion had a harsh, but useful strategy to put unacceptable complaints to rest. They would openly execute the loudest of the malcontents and declare the reason as follows: “Pour encourages les autres.” This translates as: “To encourage the others”. Radio, so far as I know, has yet to pick up the method. But, I’ll wager it has been considered. Fortunately, I offer my criticisms and alternatives from well out of range.

For some time I have been insisting there exist a completely new (to radio) “model-of-communication” that is available to radio presenters – on air and in the creation of local commercials. In the past I have gone into some detail about many of the planks that make up the complete training platform, “Advanced Communications For Broadcast Professionals”.

The most difficult portion of my experience of introducing this model has been in successfully encouraging radio-folk to take the first step – challenging the entrenched status quo of how we communicate to audiences.

The “you” factor is the primary element and an extremely powerful portion – without which the rest of my program would have one less solid leg on which to stand. I accept, again, I am obliged to provide some form of explanation.

I have mentioned often that radio is not the asserted, direct “one-to-one” medium. No presenter, whether “live” V/T’ed or through commercials has any idea who might be listening. As such, there is no contact and certainly no connection with anyone in particular – implied or otherwise. Radio, rather, is an indirect medium – wide open to (unidentified) audience interpretation.

The first reflex argument from those who are unwilling to consider this matter fully, falls along the lines of: “Each person listening is doing so as an individual and so this (unspecified) individual is the “one” in the one-to-one premise.” While this is the go-to and default argument, it fails because of the following example – offered here as a rhetorical question: Is there anything in life that is not experienced as an individual? Indeed, all our experiences are, so to speak, of a subjective nature. The argument, while traditional, sincere and dogmatic is illogical – and fails immediately.

The hardly-ever presented, but more worthy challenge is: When a listener hears the word “you” there is, without question, a moment where their unconscious experience is one of: “I just heard a ‘you’ on the radio and that must be me!” I have no disagreement that listeners go through that exact process – even as it is mostly, I repeat - an unconscious process. It would be just a tad outside of full-blown conscious awareness and, more importantly – acceptance.

The so far, unperceived and unacknowledged but still catastrophic, radio-wreck occurs when the presented material surrounding or attached to the “you” has no demonstrated validity, interest or connection for an overwhelming majority of any real-time audience. A subtle example would be: A presenter says, “I’m Bolter Upright on Bullmoose 98.9 - and I’m really glad you’re listening.” Momentarily, a listener would process that the “you” is they, and accept the communication as (possibly) valid. But then, that other sneaky process mentioned before as a “transderivational search” immediately kicks in. The listener’s unconscious process would verify that the speaker has no knowledge of that listener’s existence and, therefore, it would be impossible for the speaker to be glad the unknown individual is even listening. Given that, the message is rendered as a bogus communication. The speaker, as a result, is instantly saddled with yet another subtle but certain loss of credibility.

I invite astute, regular readers to entertain their own thought experiments, and to produce other examples where the presentation of a “you” in a broadcast communication challenges and scrambles the ongoing experience of almost every single listener. Perhaps it is little wonder that radio dogma has cancelled any consideration of the issue – as common and ubiquitous a practice as it is. Objective measurement of listeners’ experience is impossible. Plus, applying the “you” just seems so intuitively right!

Nevertheless, I will provide another commonly heard utterance that thrashes listener-realities: “Your Midtown Dodge Chrysler dealer.” Let’s say a hundred people hear that message. Of those hundred, how many have claimed this dealership as their own - really?

- First of all, the dealership belongs to the dealer principal – not anyone in the audience. Audiences get that.
- Stating that single “you”-listener-person has already claimed or is willing to claim ownership is a ludicrous expectation. Instead, the dealership is being forced on the listener. (It’s not even offered as an invitation.)
- When a listener is being compelled to accept a ridiculous presumption as accurate, or that listener is being lied to – which is the case here - or when the listener’s reality is being challenged, there will be emotional and occasionally – intellectual – rejections of the statement. Whatever consequences are developed from that experience can be easily speculated – and none of this represents good news for the station or the advertiser.
- Safe to say, the largest majority of listeners (plural) have never darkened the doors of “Your Midtown Dodge Chrysler dealer”. As such, the statement is rejected immediately – and done so in a foul mood. The emotional shift in the listener is generated by the language presented right there - on the radio.
- The radio station and the dealership are, of course, in cahoots with such statements. It is done so with the frequency of the time buy – over and over and over. The cumulative effect of such messaging is a matter for serious thought.

I enthusiasticlly assert how this “’You’ Factor” is applied to on-air presentations and commercial copy - everywhere and all the time. The examples (above) might be enough to warrant considerations of more compelling, less debillitating choices. Meanwhile, I am fortunate and grateful for not being a French Legionnaire.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Jun 28, 2016 8:02 pm

Talent: Care And Feeding
Recent articles were provided by a number of well-known coaches and consultants - guys who enjoy some serious credibility. A number of principles and suggestions were offered on how to approach and treat radio’s talent – those who are slaving over hot microphones at local stations. The hyperbole-hacks in the creative departments, glaring out from their 10 year-old iMacs, were also included. “Kid gloves” and “tough love” elements were among those mentioned.

Now, I do hope it is understood that the efforts of these experienced and knowledgeable practitioners are useful and necessary – sometimes to advance improvements in a station’s on-air staff’s performance, and sometimes as an intervention to quell impending mutinies. Under whatever circumstances, these professionals know they will likely be meeting with, at least some, shall I say, “mild resistance”.

For those of us who have been at this radio dodge for a number of decades, the standard-issue “do’s & don’ts” are part of the traditions that have been formed over a very long time. Although many of the missives have been around for quite a while, this does not presume that all of them have been introduced to the talent-corps, or that they have been applied – either by senior presenters or a newer generation of on-air folks.

Indeed, the majority of on-air people already know that immersing the Neumann in a bucket of water will not produce that cool “gurgly”-sound, That’s one that would, then, be in the “don’t” category. Calling an audience vile names in the hallways would be another.

I do not envy those coaches and consultants who are obliged to work with an already-surly group of performers. A lot of those staffs are pre-primed and suspicious – bobbing, weaving and undulating to avoid predators like a flock of American Goldfinches.

Our friend, Randy Lane, in order to avoid most situations where “tough love” may be required, urges management to consider the following: “Establish and nurture a relationship (with talent) based on trust, safety in taking risks, and fun.” While a noble and worthwhile undertaking, reality-geeks can appreciate the odds of that taking place – the rare and glorious radio environments notwithstanding.

Practically, most stations have, over the last 25 years, been gutted of a talent-base and are running on what would, some years ago, be considered a skeleton crew. Those presenters that do remain have also been subjugated by a different set of priorities, none of which have much to do with trust, safety in taking risks, or fun. For the most part, the folks are manacled and dragging around ankle cuffs. They could be instantly typecast as extras for a B-movie, “Jocks In Chains”.

As most astute, regular readers are already aware, my position is one that states: On-air people have yet to be trained in the fundamentals of broadcast communications! They are not yet “tactical”. Although many are, certainly, talented, they enter the radio arena without swords, lances or shields. Instead their chains are staked to the ground; they are denied any free movement and are armed only with a milkshake McStraw and tiny, damp, rolled-up balls of toilet paper. “Thrust and Parry” is not in the on-air, behavioural lexicon. (It might, however, be a terrific name for a morning show.) Other gladiators from different media, meanwhile, roll around in the sand – snorting and wheezing from laughter, and regaling at their own good fortune.

In my last article, I explained in some detail how applying the “you” factor is a disastrous strategy - tuning out almost every single listener at almost all times – to some degree. One can only speculate how the cumulative effect of that practice generates the exact opposite of the intentions of the speaker, the copywriter and management.

I can add another wrinkle to the concept in the form of a very important distinction. For our culture, being exposed to a multitude of radio signals is ongoing and normal – as normal as breathing. But, and this is the distinction: It isn’t natural! A person-to-person conversation with each person being in close proximity to the other – that’s natural. There is nothing natural about generating or hearing sounds that come out of an electronic device. That is a non-organic experience – unnatural.

Humans are processing electronic signals through different aspects of our neurology compared to when we speak to each other in real life and in real time. Indeed, the language we use on the street or with other individuals has a different impact than the language we apply on the radio.

Now, I appreciate how making these and many more distinctions about language on the radio is a very difficult chore, especially when one is not versed in those distinctions in the first place. We (radio-people) have gone about the business of communicating on the air as if there were no particular and different elements of any consequence about which to become aware.

The realization of the significance of the “you”-factor came like a bolt out of the blue for me in the early ‘80’s. It was, indeed, an epiphany, an “aha” experience or, as Randy Lane describes it, my “Come to Jesus” moment. Everything else – all the other broadcast communication materials – were compiled through long research and testing over the next many years. My task was to collate these important elements into a form that could be taught, learned, delivered and replicated.

Of late, our friend, Bob McCurdy, has been delivering exceptionally valuable materials for assisting sales people in presenting radio. Solid information about the continued, real efficacy of radio advertising has also been included. But, nothing similar has been prepared for or presented to the on-air and creative people. Certainly not beyond the standard-issue clichés and required radio dogma. This represents an incredibly fantastic loss of opportunities.

Radio can be far more influential and prosper to an even greater degree by addressing the fundamentals of broadcast communications. Talent everywhere needs immediate care and feeding. Talent needs to be re-educated. They may not be open to new information. Still, instead of spitballs, cornmeal and cardboard, talent needs meat!
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:46 am

The Unknown Listener
I may never understand. But, I do appreciate how radio folks can go into the “Oh, s***!” mode when they are confronted with information that challenges their traditions, dogma and radio “truths”. The revelation of the “one-to-one” approach being a toxic and disastrous approach is one of those. Leadership at all levels insists the “you” approach as the holy grail of radio. More appealing and more effective alternatives are available.

I can also appreciate how some practitioners would consider these materials, including the introduction of the “you” factor, as being superficial - unworthy of any serious consideration. A recent commentator referred to the information as mere “semantics” – code for “word-stuff with no value”.

The semantics and overall presentation of spoken-word communications, however, represent the only elements over which radio stations have real control. Further, these elements are fundamental, primary; base and so important that radio’s failing to address them cannot be overstated.

Meanwhile, the lengths to which defenders of the status quo will go are quite staggering. So ingrained are the wholly accepted tenets of radio communications, one could make a comparison to the dynamics of other “faith-based” phenomena with which we are all familiar. This is not my own opinion, as I believe it would be much easier, by providing information and evidence, to bring radio practitioners to more rational and useful positions. But, as I have also learned: It’s still an uncomfortable stroll off the pier.

In a career of more than five decades, over 35 of those years have been in researching, practicing and assessing the results that have come from the applications of these alternate models-of-radio communications. While applying the principles on-air and in the creation of ad copy, I was also studying to deliver counseling services – a special environment that requires extraordinarily precise communications.

Any psychologist worth their sheepskin, when dealing with fractured, couple relationships, will instruct their clients to begin by dropping the “you” from their speech patterns when communicating with each other. Even in real-life, real-time, organic, one-to-one communicative circumstances, the “you” can be debilitating to reasonable understanding.

Of course, the “you” is not a single word being dangled out there without being wrapped by the rest of a sentence. But, readers may agree how the “you” is too often understood, first, as a challenge. Discourse is shattered before it can begin. Likewise, radio has similar dynamics. And radio also is replete with other distinctions beyond and separate from organic one-to-one situations.

Meanwhile, over these last decades I have, pretty much, heard all the justifications for maintaining the “you” status quo. A recent and quite interesting example was provided. It referenced the past popularity of the McD’s slogan “You deserve a break today.” On surface, that could be a compelling argument. Fortunately, the argument breaks downs – instantly. That line was not spoken – it was a jingle tag!

Radio forces a neurological response as listeners access it. Spoken words have a certain influence. Songs have a deeper, yet separate access and influence. A song writer can go wild with the “you” elements as there is not one listener in Dog Fart, Montana, or anywhere else, who hears that “you” and concludes it is directed exclusively at them – the delusional notwithstanding.

When, however, a listener is having visceral, emotional responses to the tune – good for the listener and good for the artist! By the way, this phenomenon speaks extremely well to the efficacies of jingles – misunderstood and discounted tools that they have been. I understand the standard radio rationale for avoiding jingles: “Who the hell is going to be influenced by some rinky-dink jingle tag when there are products to be rammed?” Tough sell.

Interested parties might wonder if there are any exceptions to the “You Rule”. Sure. But, they are few and a little more complex. That’s fodder for another cannon – to be fired off at another time.

Other concerns from radio practitioners that come up have to do with the assumptions that eliminating the “you” will have the results of: 1. Disconnecting the listener from the speaker (on-air or ad copy). 2. Limit the speaker from being “personal”. These objections may be sincere, but they are invalid.

As to the former: Listeners are not, in any way, connected to the speakers in the first place. They are listeners and that’s all. A listener’s experience is based on his or her own interests, enjoyment, and emotional responses and (often unconsciously) accepted influence. As to the latter: Broadcasters have made a grave assumption over the years – holding the practice of being “personal” as a priority. Can’t be done. Not without excluding almost everybody else almost all of the time and at the same time.

The desirable position is that of: being personable! Dropping the “you” and replacing it with third-person references will only aid a presenter in being more personable. That, and all the other capacities and potentials available to a broadcaster – congruencies, words, tonality, pace, volume, pauses, tempo and the rest – only enhance the effect a speaker can have. Like The Unknown Comic, all listeners have a paper bag over their heads. They are The Unknown Listeners.

I know! I was applying this and other techniques for over 10 years and not one single individual ever figured it out or challenged me! My ratings were uniquely off the charts. And my out-of-station ad copy generated demonstrable and significant results. Radio’s model-of-communication is, indeed, hallowed and protected ground. But, it is no longer uncharted territory. I am willing to provide maps.

It’s true. Nobody ever, ever caught on to the devious techniques I was applying. When I (mistakenly) revealed some of the material, management’s heads started detonating. They went directly into the “Oh, s***!” mode. Plus, I got myself blown up and out. That’s what happens when “dogma control” is more important than “effect”. I should have shut up, worn a paper bag, become The Unknown Jock and hid under the board. Then, as now, I had to be the smart-ass.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 11, 2016 4:30 am

Problem? No Problem.
One of my enthusiastic detractors wrote something in a comment following my last piece that might, possibly, represent the crux of contemporary radio’s position on its own communicative strategies. His missive included the following: “…wonderment on why you obsess over such small s***!..."

From my perch, referring to radio’s entire set of weak, boorish and banal communications output as “small s***” is akin to a bull crashing through an owner’s china shop and having them calling that an “annoyance”. Further, since herds are being driven through town on a regular basis, the trashing of stores happens with some regularity. It’s as if, while those events add to the cost of doing business, merchants ought to expect little else.

I am often accused of being obsessive about these matters of radio communication. No more obsessive, I suggest, than any GSM who is constantly trying to find better ways to increase sales. Are professional sales trainers and consultants as equally obsessive? Maybe. Sometimes. They are, however, extremely focused.

Now, it is not that this individual is expressing anything either unique or groundbreaking. I have been satisfied for over 30 years that his is the prevalent opinion. I have yet to meet anyone in radio management who has the slightest interest – never mind an appreciation – of the debilitating communicative burdens under which radio is operating.

Questions of my own intellectual, emotional and psychological well-being notwithstanding, there has been no argument that the ways in which radio speaks to its audiences, and produces commercial content for its advertisers, has made the idea of a “lowest common denominator” a benchmark of excellence.

I remind interested readers that no contradictory arguments have ever been provided that are well formed, reasoned or cogent. That is spectacularly amazing! Many are quick to be dismissive of the materials and to address me personally as a flawed individual. Still, they have yet to successfully combat the principles. They just know they don’t like them!

From time to time, I try to make sense of this phenomenon – radio’s refusal to address the only elements over which we have the most influence – the “talkie” bits. Part of the reason could be because of the influence that programmers have lost over the decades. “Sales” has become something it wasn’t always – the only driving force of radio that deserves and gets the greatest attention. Programming responsibilities have been shuffled off into a closet and programmers are being told to keep the door shut, and to feel their ways in the dark.

“Everything – every station problem or challenge – can be addressed by increasing sales!” could be served up as the overriding position. I can’t argue that such a strategy is, at least, partially functional. But, I also appreciate when no other options and alternatives have been brought forward, increased sales becomes more than the default position, it is the only position.

For a number of years – in this space – I have been weaving in and out of the subject matter of radio communications – on air and in the delivery of commercial messages. I have made the case that radio is not a direct medium, but an indirect medium. I have postulated and demonstrated how radio cannot be an authoritarian or demanding medium, but that the opportunities lie, instead, in being more influential. I have demonstrated how sensory references are more powerful than just (alleged or otherwise) “facts”.

Now, given these blogs are delivered through the internet – with ample opportunities for others to comment – I accept how some sincere, well-meaning individuals are quick to respond. Of course, I cannot be expected to accept their positions or defer to any of it. Trolls and inarticulate responses from uninformed participants, I can tolerate. Sometimes they are a source of thought-starters. While these are occasionally irritating, I have other, greater concerns.

What does trouble me is an overriding indifference. This indifference is overwhelmingly and continuously demonstrated by, otherwise, smart people in radio who refuse to address the very elements over which we have the most influence. Those are: What we say and how we say it, specifically. These specifics, I speculate, have never, ever, been addressed in any useful or meaningful ways. And yet, this is what we do! Or rather, to put it more succinctly, this is what we are supposed to be doing!

Granted, “sales” has been established as the element of the highest, if not only, priority. “Programming” was, literally, exiled into the desert decades ago. So none of my own revelations, and the lack of them being indulged or considered would come as no surprise. But, shocked and surprised, I confess, I am.

The opportunities are still, however, plump, ripe and ready for the picking. Sweet fruit and the marvelous benefits of adding them to the menu are available. Before any of that can take place, though, what is required is an “awareness” of the problem. Radio is reluctant. Actually, the evidence demonstrates that radio refuses to consider anything other than that which is already in play.

I have few delusions about radio-in-general accepting some or any of my materials. That concept has never been on my agenda. My real fantasy is that I might meet an imaginative and courageous, corporate manager who has come to understand the severe limitations under which radio is being self-forced to operate, and who is willing to discuss the many, available alternatives. We could make magic – and bring on the rains.

Meanwhile, I often use the term “dogma” as it applies to the already-accepted, traditional, communicative tenets under which almost all of us have been operating. “Dogma”, as such, requires no evidence that demonstrates efficacy, and severely penalizes all those who would challenge the edicts – including myself. That has been and remains an apt description of our approaches to radio communications. Indeed, this is the way the premise works: If we refuse to accept that we have a problem – there is no problem. But, we do refuse – and there is a problem. It is all encompassing and crippling. None of that can constitute or be described as “the small s***”.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:42 am

Indifference Makes A Difference
“People tend to get accustomed to their circumstances.” This was a general observation provided by my H/R trainer. He added, “Even when some situations become extremely uncomfortable or even intolerable, we are likely to accept those, as well.” Radio is in one of those very states - and radio tolerates it. Radio also does so without much internal awareness, grumbling or angst.

Recently, I satirized radio sales departments by sardonically offering the following as those departments’ over-riding and default position: “Everything – every station problem or challenge – can be addressed by increasing sales!”

While not even close to a categorically true statement, there is enough there to justify it. The outfits that do accept the premise – and act on it – are, for the most part, doing quite nicely. Steps are taken to re-motivate, re-train or replace sales people on a regular basis. Effective GSM’s are gold. Sales does rule!

Given that, I still retain the right to get my shorts in a knot. My tribe, consisting of the boys and girls in programming, on-air and the creative departments, teeters on extinction. Considered to be a tenuous expense, and identified as people of little consequence, we have come to be treated with a patronizing tolerance, but mostly - indifference!

It is the case that, particularly in the years after the consolidation fiasco, radio has become a platform that has generally declined as a source of high quality entertainment, information and, most importantly, as a source of dependable and consistently effective advertising. Primarily from the efforts of aggressive sales departments has radio been maintained as, at best, a still viable medium. (That, and the inherent “magic” of radio.)

Now, I do get it that, so long as radio can carry on as, essentially, a sales-driven enterprise, the likelihood that cries from the programming wilderness will be heeded or acted upon is subdued. This just happens to relegate me – and the education and training I provide – to the back burner of the stand-by, emergency, backup stove.

There is another weird irony in play here. While I might easily be perceived as a champion of the programming side of the business, I really am not – certainly not as it is being practiced today! Even as ownership and management, responsible for the emasculation of the departments over the years, can be faulted, another dysfunctional reality remains: In the majority of cases around every market, the departments are completely unaware of their illiterate and incompetent conditions. They run on traditions and intuitions.

The blame for this (arguably) all-encompassing incompetence can be placed at the feet of any number of the usual suspects. But, this time, it would have to include the programmers, on-air folks and those toiling in the creative departments themselves - as much as any others. What efforts has my own clan made - on its own - to advance the need for better, more effective, radio communications? Very few have ever done the research or made any attempt. Purposed activities – sanctioned or not - that would make any real or lasting differences have not been undertaken.

Claiming a “victim” status, while understandable, does not relieve our own crew from responsibilities. It has been my position for years that the talent corps is made up (mostly) of uneducated, untrained, uninformed, disinterested and poorly rehearsed individuals – as all that applies and is relative to broadcast communications. Of course, I acknowledge and tip my hat to the exceptions - those strong but rare personalities who are appealing to their audiences and assets to their organizations.

Given that the programming and creative side of the business is met with the amount of indifference it does – from sales, senior management and each other, I have to wonder about the chances of someone like myself being engaged. Or arrested. This, as I am one who insists that re-training, beginning at the most fundamental levels of radio communications, must take place before any additional staff gets hired. Turning loose the staff that are still hanging around and inviting them to do more of what they do is a recipe for disaster.

“Live and local” may be an interesting concept – and one with which I agree. But, not yet. Who are the new hires going to be if not newbies and retreads – performers who cannot demonstrate any particularly useful skills? I may, and this is troublesome for me, be barking up a tree that has no ‘coons in the branches.

A substantial course of study, understanding and rehearsal is required. But, given the alternatives (of which there are none) radio still has this last, wholly ignored element to address. That is, if there is a desire on the part of ownership and recognition of the need to drastically improve their lot. I am not one who can force anybody.

Our friend, Bob McCurdy, has recently accepted the important task of working with the sales departments of The Beasley Media Group. Bob has demonstrated significant experience and knowledge. He has credibility with me. I believe he is also a sales executive who does not consider programming - including the production of local, commercials - to be matters approached with indifference. Beasley engaged a sales professional – and nobody is surprised. Communications training? Whatever…

My chore remains: Find someone who cares. There is much to be done – methodologies and strategies to be learned and techniques to be rehearsed before my gang can generate massive results and be credible to our associates. My experience has been that of the “double whammy”. I provide training in an area of the business that is continuously met with indifference. Now, this indifference is not, necessarily, an intentional or cruel piece of business. But, it still crushes any lingering motivation. I have an artist friend who is drawing a cartoon of the rear end of a rat with its ratty tail, ratty ears, a ratty nose and beady, ratty eyes peering back. The caption on the t-shirt reads: “This is a rat’s ass. I still give one!”
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:24 am

The “Miracle” Of Reach & Frequency
Apparently, the reach/frequency discussions have not stopped. Those having them, however, have been over-medicated and put to bed with the resultant hallucinations of fruit, candy and cash that are part of the experience. I also note, with some alarm, how radio folks dive into the argument as if: These were the most important elements of an advertiser’s campaign. (More on that expected shortly.)

For many years, I have been satisfied that a simple hierarchy exists in the reach-frequency dichotomy. It is as follows: Frequency, first. Reach, if lucky. This, practically, is, indeed and still, a dichotomy. Most AE’s hardly ever get to book a campaign that includes both. It’s usually one or the other. That too many campaigns are relatively short-term is another matter. But, it is also a very real condition of radio sales – and advertisers’ successes and fails.

Beyond some weak, but still completely and blindly accepted generalizations about the reach/frequency situation, I believe: Most radio folks have yet to be educated in the audience-access dynamics of radio and, as a result, the amazing power of both of these components. The influence can be extraordinary, and the potentials are enormous. In fact, the potentials are blow-minding, so to speak.

As to the reach/frequency discussion, allow me to add another consideration: If an advertiser’s deal or offer is so spectacular – enough to generate interest and (hopefully) immediate buying behaviours from the audience – “reach” is the way to go. But, I repeat: It had better be a sensational offer! Everything and I mean, everything else falls into the “frequency” realm. (All of this is based on available budget, of course.)

I also accept the premise that it is more useful to communicate to a select audience many times than it is to reach a larger audience a few times – again, depending on the advertisers’ offers – and budget. Another factor is significantly in play, as well, and I shall address that now.

I read a comment recently from a radio-person who stated: “Radio – when done properly – works!” I am no one to argue that! This is a categorically true statement and an overall sentiment promoted within the business. It’s almost a mantra. Fair enough – except for that one niggling “yahbut” within the claim.

“…When done properly…” becomes the closed bottle of bleach thrown into the aquarium. If that cap ever comes off….! There are too many people toiling in every department of a station who have yet to discover what “if done properly” actually means – never mind what it entails to deliver on the promise to do so.

Regular readers may have noticed that, every time I trod down this path, there are those who will discount the working facts and apply slanders in attempts to discount the material and, more importantly, defend a defenseless turf. This is a turf made up of gross misunderstandings of broadcast dynamics. I suggest very few have even made the attempt to become educated in these matters. Unfortunately, this is also a position that is rife in the industry.

Meanwhile, and I am always compelled to acknowledge this: Radio continues to be – more or less – a semi-functional but still functioning medium. Hard charging, motivated and unrelenting sales departments are, in my view, almost exclusively responsible for maintaining any status quo.

I have an open – but still almost rhetorical - question about the sales-folks from the local stations. These are the people who are hitting the bricks every day to represent their medium, generally, and their outfits specifically: How is it, I wonder, that the sales staffs are not outside the GMs’ offices, brandishing the obligatory torches and pitchforks – ranting and demanding the most important elements of all be supplied instantly – much better Messaging!?

For the last three years in this space, and with the indulgence and patience of the management, and for a couple of decades prior, I have continuously made the claim that radio copy has been a representation of the lowest caliber of professional communications being supplied to and foisted on otherwise uninformed advertisers. That audiences have also been cruelly subjected to this drivel is part of this awful, incredible circumstance.

Yet, during this passage of time, has anyone ever provided a single, cogent counter-argument to the claim? No, they have not. This is, of course, more than extraordinary – it is spectacularly mind numbing and without explanation. By comparison, lemmings could be held up as a species that is accessing “choices”.

As a V/O-ho’, myself, I am aware of my own hypocrisy. Every day, I voice unmitigated crap! But, when I do, I rest assured, knowing that I have delivered the material with all the almost solid and tangible credibility I can muster - as it drops from my lips with goodness, wholesomeness and sincerity. (Invoices are forwarded summarily.)

Still, the counter-arguments dry and shrivel on the vine – unpicked, untasted and un-enjoyed. So far as I know, even the professional developers-of-talent have not been addressing this most significant issue. I say “most” because, particularly those stations who are bereft of any significant input from “live & local” talent anyway are still, in my view, obliged to supply at least some form of influential ad copy for their clients.

Meanwhile, I am also unaware of any shift in radio where these issues are being put on the table as a #1 priority – if they get discussed at all. However, as radio enjoys a unique neurological access to its audiences, and as a result, a special form of influence, the status quo is maintained. Still, I submit: The “miracle” of radio’s reach and frequency is still that more campaigns don’t fall flat on their ass because of atrocious messaging.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:16 am

“One Thing” - Revisited
Some months ago, Eric Rhoads, Chairman of Radio Ink, was openly pondering. What, he wondered, would constitute “one thing” that, by its application, would launch commercial radio into higher vistas than those currently enjoyed by some in the industry? I found it admirable that Eric would broach the topic, especially given that so many managers claim how a boosting of the efforts of sales departments is really all that is required.

Eric’s bringing the matter to readers’ attention also implied that, indeed, something was missing! I surmise very few of his colleagues and associates were speculating or even bringing the matter up as anything worthy of discussion, or of having much consequence. One commentator went so far as to declare this material "the small stuff". (It's a pervasive but still subjective observation. It's also a component of many "realities".)

More recently, our friend, sales trainer and consultant, Wayne Ens, made some interesting observations and rather bold suggestions. Briefly, Wayne pointed out how it was the innovators who were making the significant contributions in every field of endeavor. He noted how the primary drive was to increase services or the quality of products. This overrode any secondary desire for profits.

More to my point, Wayne also opened the door to hiring the “eccentric weirdo’s”. Part of his premise was in the suggestion that hiring the wack-jobs and innovators would match the requirements of Eric’s “one thing”. Of course, since many readers would be eager to stick me with the monikers, I guess I am also expected to respond to the offered strategy with a hearty “ Oh, yeah! Pick me!

Firstly, I reject the “eccentric weirdo” label outright. In the field of radio communications, I am well educated, extremely experienced and, most importantly – thoroughly tested. The only weirdness about that which I have been professing is made up of my own subjective dismay at so many readers’ unwillingness to consider these matters, or to think them through. I suggest this as a simple representation of human beings’ general reluctance to address or face the strange and/or the unknown. (We all own some of that one.)

Radio, I submit, has been squirming around for decades with chronic and painful cases of severely strained sphincters - a muscle the industry has been, for a very long time, terrified to relax – even slightly. The consequences of the (assumed) disaster that would follow any release of tensions are simply too awful to contemplate. A further irony is that we are also supposedly engaged in “show business”. We really should loosen up.

Wayne’s admonition to hire on a few weirdo’s would, I am afraid, be as unlikely as hearing a GM saying to his board, “Let’s bring in some flakes and head cases – just to see if anything neat happens.” Besides, any additional fantasy that the nut-jobs could be taught to dress nicely; show the proper deference to all the right people and toe the corporate line while being exceptionally innovative and effective, is just this – a delusion.

Management will not tolerate such circumstances. And there are popular, accepted rationales for such debilitating positions. Before I earned my H/R cap, I was instructed to go into the world and find examples of the following edict: “Most people value ‘control’ much, much more than they do ‘results’.” I hardly had to leave the building. Through casual observation, I found so many examples of managers working the BIATB (“Because I Am The Boss”) strategy. Many worthwhile effects were lost in the power struggles. This principle has, too often, been affirmed and reinforced throughout my radio career. Radio is not being singled out here, either. This stuff is everywhere.

It has been my position for decades, that radio’s overall approach to the manner in which we communicate to our audiences and prepare commercial messaging for our advertisers is broken – practically fractured and shattered. Most on-air presenters and copywriters have been suppressed to the point where they are compelled to utter only those guttural grunts consistent with that of cave dwellers of many millennia ago. (“Your chance to win – comin’ up.” “See car. See deal. Buy now!”) Radio is akin to the elephants’ graveyard, where the potentials of the language and the medium – go to die.

While I accept and often enjoy the rude, crude and sometimes offensive content that gets out over the air from time-to-time, I do recoil at being insulted. And I am being insulted by radio at the very deepest of levels – constantly. As are the rest of the audiences. They are being assaulted and insulted by, among others, a continuous barrage of innocuous pronouncements, direct demands for behaviours and the awful practice of having their minds read – inaccurately.

Audiences are expected to tolerate drivel and spew that are bereft of meaning, engagement or intrigue. Imaginations of audience members are being ignored or under-utilized by presenters who have yet to even begin to learn how to be engaging, influential and personable. Instead, presenters (and copywriters) vainly attempt to be “personal” - through crude attempts to connect with someone they don’t even know exists.

The wreckage of radio’s communicative processes has been piling up and rusting along our collective road for decades. So prevalent for so long has it been that hardly anyone notices anymore. (Truth is: Radio has never noticed.) The scrap heaps are considered part of the accepted landscape – the scenery. Survivors of crashes have difficulty in explaining what happened as, typically, they don’t remember much before waking up – injured and in pain.

This, to my mind, is radio’s missing “one thing”. The wacko’s, eccentrics, head cases and flakes may be invited in – at some point – to accelerate creative processes. But, until we engage in the transformation of the fundamentals (and nuances) of radio’s communications processes, we will still be marking time, ankle-deep in mud, beside the carnage along our dreary, boring highways, shivering in the wet. Pitiful and fifth-rate we will remain, while still claiming no incidents actually occurred. With respect for the merit of Wayne’s suggestions, this rather, is the “one thing” that, if addressed, will break radio out of our self-made, debilitating, but still unacknowledged-by-the-industry experiences.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Sep 06, 2016 4:30 am

State Of The Radio Onion
Dr. Fritz Perls, acknowledged as the daddy of Gestalt Therapy, often used the analogy of “peeling the onion” as a description for examining the human psyche and resultant behaviours. Many in the psychological community still accept this to be a useful premise or approach - as the structure of an onion is that of multiple layers. And so…

Elsewhere, as we know, some very effective politicians get the majority of their coverage from and place their campaign messaging with electronic media. When politicians promote “values” through those media, they tend to get more satisfying results. There are two reasons: 1.) Audiences/voters respond more powerfully to electronic media at an emotional level. 2.) People quickly lose interest when presented with content – information – supplied through the same media. “Policies be damned!” say the consultants. Reasoned call.

This phenomenon, although demonstrated continuously, has not yet filtered down to radio’s executive and programming leadership. There are those in some creative departments who are quite aware and they mutter to themselves, “There’s something vewy scwewy going on heyuh.” The evidence is bold and on the air – everywhere, and all the time.

As to on air folks: “Presenters” are, for the most part, limited to providing raw information, and at the most base levels of communication - faked enthusiasms included. Locally produced commercials are, essentially, made up of lists of content – the ever-present “direct response” ads.

Electronic media – and that also includes the online form in which this material is being presented - are substantially weaker and are, at best, secondary platforms for delivering pure content. I do myself no favours anytime I launch into technical descriptions of this or that linguistic concept – no matter the advertised, exciting benefits. Readers’ attention spans collapse; eyes glaze over, and dribbles of drool begin pooling on their laps. This is an unfortunate, almost pathetic circumstance for anyone like myself who is toiling to disseminate knowledge – content. But, as I am unlikely to be distributing pamphlets, either, I do appreciate this forum as the only outlet in town that still allows me a seat at the table and a cup of coffee.

I have a relative in North Carolina who supplies new and used textbooks to university students. For the better part of 10 years, the business prospered and life was good. However, they now have to close the doors as the bookstore has been losing money for the last year. More and more students are downloading the texts for their tablets - avoiding the significantly higher costs of hard copy volumes.

Meanwhile, the following might seem ever so slightly conspiratorial. If not, then it is about a well-kept industry secret: Those “in the know” have concluded that accessing information through electronic media guarantees less comprehension and less retention of content than does the studying of “hard copy”. We aren’t dummies, necessarily – we just have yet to adapt to electronic inputs. (Evolutionary wheels turn slowly.)

This may come as no surprise to some ad agency executives and television leadership – especially those in charge of “news” departments. Were it not for the emotionalism of the talking heads bobbing all over the networks, audiences would be zoning out on just the content. (See: “pooling drool”.) Arguments can be made that because broadcast pundits of The Right are (generally) so much more animated, emotional and forceful, the more sedate and content-conscious purveyors of The Left don’t stand a chance at relative audience interest - or impact. Bernie Sanders, however, broke the stereotype – long enough to scare the hell out of – almost everybody. Senator Sanders had it covered across the board – presentation, animation, emotionalism and content. What an electronic ride!

Radio’s leadership, on the other hand, is still operating like they were delivering newspaper-of-the-air – a scenario where “information” carries the day. Yes, I realize the direct-response, content-laden spots and on-air breaks are the easiest to produce. But, over time, the approach has become much more than a path of least resistance. Rather, it has become the only rutted, cratered and un-policed road into town.

In the meantime, radio’s most respected pundits, practitioners, consultants and coaches continue to call out for an age of on-air and commercial “story-telling” - engaging audience imaginations and emotions. The start date for these revolutionary and transformational practices has come and gone many times over the years. In fact, the startup never really happened, and the instructional manuals seem to have been discarded.

At a loss to make many pervasive improvements or changes in the talent-base, a number of coaches and trainers have fallen into patterns of simply repeating old dogma. To be fair, some of the materials being taught do have some practical value, but, given the amount of on-air time most presenters are allowed in which to attempt to learn and ply their trade, the results are hardly satisfying, meaningful or practically useful.

I was viewing a YouTube presentation of a well-known radio trainer who was rote-reciting the standard litany of useful tips for on-air folks. The most important element was put forward as a requirement to be “personal”. Accomplishing that desirable state, the coach insisted, entails applying the second person “You” - and at every available opportunity. Unbeknownst to this coach, that is precisely when the whole proposition of “personal” collapses! In practice, the technique is also rude, crude, simple, simplistic - and completely counter-productive!

The liturgies continue – with all the sincerity and certainty years of constant repetition produces. I have to presume this trainer has seldom been directly challenged. There may not have been any perceived need, either, to question the standard edicts. It may have never occurred to this individual that, by initiating and promoting the “personal” mantra, broadcasters’ on-air communicative effectiveness is being poisoned – while tainting audiences’ listening experiences!

Philosophers suggest (and I paraphrase) that any life (or enterprise) not thoroughly examined, may hardly be worth experiencing. “Peeling the onion” remains an unlikely process to be applied by radio’s leaders anytime soon. Maybe it’s because: To do so is likely to make them cry.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:15 am

Radio’s “Sweet Spot”
Any broadcaster, unwilling to agree the general condition of radio’s locally-produced, advertising creative is remorsefully inadequate, has not been or refuses to pay attention to their products – the spots. That commercials have the impact they often do is, to my mind, a startling representation of (mostly) one thing – the innate “power” of radio.

Yes, I have been plying my wares from out here where even the cops don’t patrol. And yet, to my delighted surprise and also great relief, I find there are some who are very much aware of this innate “power”. Others are more intuitively suspicious that “Sumthin’s up – and it’s weird”. Still, minus an acceptable explanation, those radio folks are wise to keep such suspicions to themselves.

Occasionally, I feel obliged to rehearse that explanation, and I will briefly do so now: This all has to do with how humans mentally access and process different segments of their experiences. Conversations being held in a real-time and natural circumstance - the only true, “one-to-one” situation - are processed, primarily, as dominant hemisphere (“left brain”) activities. The same goes for reading any “hard copy” – books, magazines, documents etc.

When any electronic medium, however, is introduced as the source, the sub-dominant hemisphere (“right brain”) provides the primary processing functions. Electronic media includes televisions, phones, computer screens and – radio.

Here then, is where this information is critical to delivering effective radio from the on-air presenters and through commercial content. The dominant (left brain) aspects include those of understanding what is being said or read - only in natural environments – and deriving comprehension and “meaning”, as well. This is also the part of the brain that internally generates language. Plus, the capacity to better retain information is another dominant hemisphere function.

Irony #1. Since radio commercials and much of the “live” on-air product is made up (mostly) of content information, much of this material is lost on an audience that, is processing, primarily, with the opposite hemisphere – the sub-dominant (right brain) hemisphere. The “right brain” also deals with emotions, and completes patterns. It attempts to make sense of large generalizations, gross deletions or wild distortions – the “meat & taters” of entertainment, comedy, fear, anger - and influence! It is not a “lie detector”, either. “Facts”, in this hemisphere, just muddy the waters.

Irony #2. When we radio-people are listening to our own medium, more often than not, we are listening cognitively and rationally – that is to say, with our left brain (dominant hemispheres) snapping, crackling and popping. We listen critically. Audiences don’t – at least not in the same way.

Irony #3. I have just provided this content-heavy explanation through an electronic medium. Drat! Readers would have a far better and useful experience by considering this material after printing and re-reading it as hard copy. PET scans (positron emission tomography) have been demonstrating these (above) phenomena for decades.

This brings me to another thoroughly contentious, but related matter: “Must Ads Be Creative?” My first, default answer is: “Sometimes, maybe and depends.” Would I, nevertheless, suggest every spot be an entrant for a Creative Award? No. Does radio need most of its spot production to be, at least, somewhat creative and entertaining? Nice, but not necessarily. Lucky for us, too, as the chances of commercial creativity becoming a #1 priority – even on an experimental “skunk works” basis – are zero. No matter how hard those who campaign for a full-blown effort to moving aggressively towards more “creativity”, it is still not going to happen. Not in this dereliction-cycle.

Now, here is some thrilling news concerning taking advantage of these extraordinary neurological distinctions.

There exists a “sweet spot” for radio. It is magical and it lies within and in between the two hemispheres, which are, after all, biologically connected. Speech can be directed into either one or both - easily and elegantly. It’s natural! This is a sweet spot where a communicator can, with purpose and precision, dance among and in between listeners’ two hemispheres and do so without impaling them on the spears of annoyance, insult and the limitations of meaning and/or interest. (There is no known cure for the inevitable events of people who insist on taking “offense”.)

Learning to be a formidable and influential radio communicator/writer is a serious process. There are the basics, and there are the nuances – all of which can be learned and applied. However, as every traveler knows: To go somewhere else means they can’t stay here! So, to risk the trip, the destination had better be a lot more appealing than the current location. Radio quit and dug in decades ago. The adventure - is out here.

“Letting go” of a few of radio’s carved-in-stone tenets, is the first step. Dedicated and motivated-to-learn communicators will have to, among others, re-consider the following two, traditional edicts: 1.) Radio is an indirect medium – not a direct, one-to-one or a medium of personal connectivity. 2.) Speakers on the radio have no authority to demand behaviors of any one at any time – ever. “Calls to action”? That’s agency ad-speak. No. Those are explicit demands for behaviors! Playful splashing, free swims and serious learning begin only after those two sacks of rotting fish are chucked overboard.

Besides developing more skilled, listenable and adept on-air talent, applying the new, communicative practices I have been promoting allows for content-heavy (direct response) ads to be delivered in a more cogent, acceptable and influential manner. I expect most readers would agree: If there were to be any significant improvements in spots, they would have to be transformational, and genuinely enhance this most common genre of info-dumping ads.

The “sweet spot” is often a reference to the ideal striking location on a baseball bat, tennis racquet or hockey stick. (Golf clubs have no sweet spot.) At the risk of being ambiguous, “sweet spot” might also describe a terrific radio ad. And now, radio has been respectfully reintroduced to a gorgeous, luscious, delightful, sonorous, exceptionally powerful and magical “sweet spot” of its own. Whether we exploit that is up to us.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:20 am

Radio’s Better Case Scenario
A question open for debate is as follows: Is radio operating (generally) under a “worst case” scenario? I have been hearing that bantered about in the affirmative for some decades – more vigorously in the last ten years or so. I do not, however, believe that proposition to be categorically true. This, because I also believe radio’s situation can get worse – much worse.

Radio’s “best case scenario”, then, would have to include stations that are presenting first-class “live & local” personalities, through all day parts, who are continuously demonstrating their abilities to attract and hold large audiences over extended periods. To qualify, these stations would also be required to offer commercial content in the form of locally produced spots that are achieving marvelous ROI for the advertisers while being exceptionally listenable to an audience.

In my most recent, “Radio’s Sweet Spot”, I reintroduced readers to the distinctions of the neurological aspects of how audiences and radio professionals are brain-accessing the medium – and that they are different! I also insisted that making the linguistic distinctions that are consistent with this neurological component makes a massive difference when exploiting the potentials of the medium.

Marvelous and unique, but also rare personalities are still enjoying wonderful impacts on their audiences. Yet, individuals like them are not readily available as take-out orders or from a cookie-cutter provider. Too often, they are actually feared by their management because of the probabilities they might also be found as “offensive” by segments of the audience. My position: If they are not offending somebody, some of the time – they’re not doing it properly!

Those few exceptional performers aside, most other presenters are just this side of being mechano-jocks – robotic, anemic facsimiles of actual, talented and skilled performers. An accepted fact of one of the realities of the business is that eager, young people are not being trained as they sign on to toil for donut-money in the small and medium markets. Senior talent, including those working large markets, are not being re-trained. At the risk of seeming a little harsh, I suggest an enormous number of people who are cracking microphones open around the country would not be suited for pulling a shift at a local taxi stand.

I have always been struck by the nonchalance of the industry when it comes to considering the communicative aspects of the medium. There has never, to my knowledge, been a concerted effort to research the impact of the English language on listeners. Assumptions have always been made that the language is what it is, and that some people are just better at delivering it than others. The sermons end with assumptions that all lessons have been learned. (No questions or challenges are being accepted at this time.)

To be fair: Most of the numb-bummed staff, fidgeting on their hardwood pews, won’t even bother (or are unable) to come up with some challenges or questions. Considerations of the serious consequences of failing to become adept at delivering their own language expressly for an electronic medium audience has occurred to almost no one. The liturgies have all been delivered; bowings, scrapings and propitiations rendered, and then it’s back to, “Stones comin’ up. You’re gonna love it! On your Ferret 96.9 – Buffalo Groin’s Best Classic Rock!” (That's an example of a radio communication that melts the brains of anybody who graduated grade 5.)

Many reasonable people – some of them programmers, coaches, pundits, talent and a couple guys in ownership have been suggesting a modest-scale return to the strategy of “live and local”. I suspect they figure supplying more “touchstones” – references to the local market – is supposed to influence an audience to support the station.

I might agree, but only to the degree where “live & local” is a future goal-state, a destination – an end game. As a pre-emptive move - to be implemented as soon as possible – it would be a disastrous strategy. The new, “live” talent would be doing what, specifically? How, specifically? How often, specifically? And under whose guidelines, specifically? Dropping local references on the air a couple times an hour would be patronizing to any audience. They would be delivered by amateur communicators – those on-air staffers who are unprepared and uneducated in the skills of addressing a broadcast audience.

If radio is to move to a “better case scenario”, a number of serious issues are going to have to be addressed. A two-pronged approach is in order - the writing and production of local ads and the on-air presentations of the “live & local” talent. The structures of the languaging methodologies, techniques and strategies I provide are consistent for both the activities of on air presentations and ad creative.

The very best performers and the very best ad creators are doing what they can to support their own enterprises and, by some form of osmosis, to (possibly) move radio towards a “best case scenario”. Perhaps this is having some effect here or there. But as an overall expectation for there to be large scale improvements in the industry in general, too much would be expected from too few on a never-never time frame.

Indeed, suggesting that radio can move from teetering on a worst case to a best case situation, without experiencing the intermediate interventions that make up the middle ground, and therefore, providing transitional opportunities, is to launch into a rescue without going through the planning process. The inevitable result of a poorly planned, poorly executed exercise would be rife with destruction, angst and disappointment.

Many in radio will be, if not content with, then, accepting of the status quo. Yes, it means participating in an industry that has no intention of improving its products or services – so long as a buck can be made by doing the same things tomorrow as are being done today. Besides, sales departments can always be flogged, coerced or bribed into generating more bookings. Some of them – the fortunate few – may also have the cooperation of the creative departments. Radio, meanwhile, could still move to a “better case” scenario.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby crs » Mon Sep 19, 2016 9:26 am

What happened is radio's failure to evolve with technological change. At a time when Internet radio stations, online streaming, Skype, etc were becoming a new way of life, radio should've re-branded and gone with stations casting live with cameras on their website. So many possibilities (i.e.: interacting with Skype callers on a 7 second delay; viewers actually seeing the dj's as more than just a voice; maybe cutting away to a video clip of something a listener sent in, etc). Second mistake was deciding doing less "local" was a good thing (epic fail by the corporates). There are stations without a newsroom now. WTF is gonna happen when there's a major disaster and they can't reach anybody at the local station, much less have anyone qualified to report regular updates. When local banter was replaced by "water cooler talk" (i.e.: who was sent packing on Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, etc), local radio lost me. The third mistake (and this might brand me as an old fogey but so be it), when the AM format died with the switch to FM. I LOVED listening to my favorite morning DJs kibbitzing on the air, doing "bits" or telling me the name of the song/artist we're hearing/just heard after every song. That's been replaced by the annoying canned voice that reminds me I'm listening to CRAP-FM after every song?? Or the pre-recorded track by the announcer who's reading off a recipe card coz he/she needs to VT for a cluster of stations. And don't get me going on the 5-7 minute commercial cluster after hearing nothing but tunes and the annoying canned voice for 50 mins. The most annoying part of all is it seems every single radio station on the dial decides to play their 5-7 commercial cluster at the same time. :towel: *CLICK* That's me tuning out and playing tunes from my SmartPhone.
Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby radioman » Mon Sep 19, 2016 9:42 am

Anybody interested in this topic--have a listen to WLNG-FM out of Long Island, New York. They are doing local radio like it should be done.

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