Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Why We Do Radio - some thoughts

"The Really, Truly Basics" by Jay Trachman

To my understanding, people turn on the radio for two primary reasons:
1. to provide some stimulus to brains which are not totally occupied with what they're doing, and
2. to sense some kind of connection.

Let's look at each of these a little deeper...

When people choose a music station for their "stimulus," it means (among other things) they don't want to be constantly involved. Talk radio is much more demanding; you have to pay attention to get any satisfaction out of it.

With music, your attention can be anywhere from oblivious to totally focused and singing along.

For most people, it wanders between these extremes, depending on what's going on in their lives (when the phone rings, the radio recedes into mental background), and the particular music on the radio.

Presumably, most will pay more attention to a song they know and love, than to one they don't care for, especially if it's unfamiliar.

We offer other stimuli, from informational features like news, weather and traffic, to DJ raps, contests, right down to the commercials.

How effective are they? It varies, of course; sometimes we invite our listeners to pay total attention; at others we bore them or offend them so much that they tune out -- mentally or physically. Naturally, we should be looking for ways to maximize the former while minimizing the latter.

I'll leave it to you to figure out which is what...

The area of connection fascinates me.

There are two main divisions: first, connecting people to the world-at-large. Much of this occurs by implication: if a 9-11 happens again, or worse, listeners know we won't keep playing music and commercials, doing business as usual. When the clock radio comes on in the morning and they hear a song playing, or a coupla' zany jocks bantering, one knows the world is still solid. Most adult listeners want some real information too -- traffic, weather, news -- but it can wait a few minutes.

The other aspect of connection is -- not with the world, but -- to an individual. I hear it again and again: "There are a lot of lonely people out there..." John Naisbitt said it in "Megatrends": the growth of "high tech" generates the need for "high touch." And this is, in my opinion, our most important function.

We are the companion; the connection to another human; the thing that keeps the listener from feeling alone... Provided we take the trouble to achieve it. Our mere presence isn't enough. People aren't likely to feel connected to someone who mainly spews liners cards. It's the Sharing of our lives, our responses to events such as the music and happenings of the day, that make us sound "real," and it's the intimacy generated when *we* believe we're talking to one person, that enables us to play on people's emotions; to help them feel less alone, cared for, secure.

It's an illusion, to be sure. But it's one which works when we offer it, because it's satisfying to the listener. In the theater, they call it "the willing suspension of disbelief"; that is, if the listener takes the trouble to think about it rationally, he or she knows you can't possibly be talking only to him or her, just as the movie goer knows the actors aren't being blown up or rocketing into space. We buy into the illusion *because it's satisfying to us*. Because that's how we can lose ourselves in what's being offered.

That's what entertainment is -- making others *feel* something... In our case, that something is primarily "being with a friend."

It doesn't come from liner cards; it doesn't come from slogans or promos. Those may be necessary, but I hope that we can put things in perspective: in a universe where everybody is playing the "right music" and plenty of it, where listeners keep telling us that radio is boring, where new technologies keep siphoning off our listeners, where average time spent listening continues to slide... it would seem that what's really important is not the jingles, not the positioning statements, not the promos, but the actual human contact you make with another individual.

It's time to start devoting our energies to it, to making sure that this One to One contact with our listeners is the most effective it can be."

"Relate to your listeners and their "family" or "patriotic" values, but I'd also add my belief in not just reflecting values on-air, but in becoming directly involved in listener's lives. Creating situations wherein you can share and experience those values with them - and wherein you can help them to do the things they want to do. Things like being with their families, helping others, participating in the events they participate in, creating new events to participate in (both on-air and off), and just plain old having fun. That kind of involvement creates a new kind of loyalty and commitment to the station, and substantial top-of-the-mind awareness. You'll go from being a source of music and fun to becoming "friends and family" with your listeners."

Am I Good Enough?

Insecurity plagues us all. And, who hasn't stepped on a vocal, rambled on too long about something you knew was going nowhere and ended a shift saying, "that was the worst show of my life!"?

Later that same day, a listener recognizes you at the grocery store and tells you how terrific today's show was .. because you just happened to play their favorite song right when they got to work and turned the radio on. They wanted to know who sang it and you related the title and artist right after it ended, precisely when they wanted that info.

This is a lesson in expectations and perspectives. What we expect from ourselves is not the same thing as the average listener expects.

Take it easy on yourself as you critique your work. Get on base every time to come up to bat and stop trying to swing for home runs. Make it sound effortless and have fun. Give listeners what they come to radio for.

Once you can do that consistently, you're "good enough." Relax and live there.

However, to build a "better than good enough" reputation, the next step is to be occasionally great. Meeting and also exceeding expectations is what makes a talent stand out from the crowd and drives consistently great levels of daily listening occasions.

"... Your speaking voice is the least important tool you have in becoming a successful radio personality. The airwaves are full of people with average voices who are successful, not because they soothe mass audiences with their dulcet tones, but because they reach lonely listeners -- *one at a time* -- with their sincerity and warmth."

"... (Why do some radio presenters seem to 'stay the distance') while others just pass through? Part of it must be talent -- the best of us eventually reach a point where we can make enough money at it to live comfortably. Some of us just never grow up; but that's not the whole story...

"I think the critical difference is commitment. It not only allows us to put up with the daily disappointments and aggravation, being overworked and under-appreciated; it opens our eyes, soon or late, to the things we have to do for *ourselves* to be successful in radio.

What it all comes down to is that this willingness to grow, to change, to advance, to become better tomorrow than we are today. It reflects -- as I see it -- not just a commitment to radio, but to ourselves."

Source :

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