What's It Going To Take...?

General Radio News and Comments, Satellite & Internet Radio and LPFM

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

Postby pave » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:50 am

Live & Local Does Not Provide “Companionship”
As an aural illusion, voice tracking is a sorry attempt at providing what radio listeners hardly ever articulate as an element for which they still seem to yearn. Although an inaccurate representation, otherwise astute pundits have labeled this dynamic “companionship”. Though poorly defined, radio people have accepted the interpretation – with few challenges.

“Companionship”. Now, there’s a term, rife with all the warm, fuzzy and comfy qualities that, if it were a Dairy Queen treat, would be “gushing with goodness in each rich, creamy and satisfying mouthful.” I mean, interacting with a companion can deliver a wonderful and valuable experience. It could be with a family member, a good friend, a dog or a cat. But, not a turtle. If someone considering this material does have a turtle that is a special and valued companion, I don’t want to hear from him or her - ever.

In “real life” – a wholly subjective state that many of us seem to assume we share with others - every experience of identifiable companionship comes with a feedback loop, and it’s in real time! Often, it is a full sensory experience. Each of the participants has some combination of visual, auditory, kinesthetics (feelings) and ongoing thoughts about what is happening. Sometimes there are also olfactory (smells) and gustatory (taste) elements in the experience. (Those who regularly lick their cats can appreciate that – if they are willing. Should the cat comply with kitty-kisses of its own, then we got ourselves a fine example of a connected feedback loop!)

A phone call, although limited to only one sensory modality, still qualifies as a completed sensory loop. Those then, are the components that are necessary for any form of verifiable “companionship” to exist.

A radio performer, whether voice-tracked, live or bleating out innocuous, pre-recorded commercial content, is not participating in any audience feedback loop and therefore, is not generating anything close to “companionship”. Radio’s pros still ignore the evidence and accept the illusion. What is actually happening is akin to ingesting continuously popping up, toxic mushrooms – the ol’ “one-to-one, up close and personal” radio delusion.

So, if not “companionship”, then what? Articulating the alternative is easy: Learn and strive to be listenable and appealing. “Hooray! Let’s do that”, some might say. “If only”, sez me.

While acknowledging the small number of on-air superstars, the talent base’s inability to be listenable, appealing or as importantly, effective, are the demonstrations of radio’s main hindrances to becoming a superior, audience-pleasing and effective advertising medium.

Operators’ limited understandings of the work necessary to bring radio’s presenters up to a level where they can exploit their on-air situation are significant. I have no other choice than to urge those that are considering some form of “live & local” to: Hit the binders and cease whatever attempts they are making to adhere to, or try on the concept. Better, I suggest, allowing for better informed reconsiderations.

The next inquiries would be about what, specifically, are they reconsidering and how, specifically, would they be addressing the matter. Those issues are toughies, particularly since music-radio is still married to long music sweeps and (certifiably) insane, interminable phusterclucks of generally shoddy spots.

Given that, I wonder how often, and for what duration, would these aforementioned, newly minted and exemplary examples of “companionship” be taking place. Radio’s working reality is one in which the skill levels of whatever number of “live” talents that are already on-the-air are highly suspect.

It is no stretch to speculate that most radio owners have no intention of bringing in more unskilled and communicatively illiterate talents. I concur and appreciate that. To do so would be an abjectly irresponsible piece of business. Management, I suggest, has had a pretty good set of intuitions about this. A suggested default position could be offered as an encouragement to keep the voice tracking and whatever live talents are still cowering in the hallways as what they are – barely functional. Instead, begin the necessary improvement of the spots.

Throwing some doe-eyed neophyte on the air with instructions to make references to local events and local geographical locations is like heaving an unsuspecting turkey into traffic as the first step in dinner preparation. Hardly appetizing as a mooshed entrée imprinted with tire tracks.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sun Apr 21, 2019 2:51 am

“Branding” Is A Dangerous Gig
Any discussion of “branding” can quickly turn into a wild scurrying to radio operators’ panic-burrows – places of security and where pertinent challenges can be avoided. “Branding”, indeed, is a mean, ugly term.

In the early ‘90’s, a couple of astute ad-guys penned the book, “’Positioning’ – The Battle For Your Mind.” One of the many contentions of the piece was the responsibility of advertisers to manipulate the minds of their current and potential customers.

Years later, “Positioning”, as a term, was usurped by “Branding”. The challenges for understanding and applying either are similar. One of the more common uses of the word is as a static noun. AE’s and advertisers talk about the client’s brand – as if it existed and could be identified. “Now,” they agree. “Since that branding-thingy is done, we can go flog some cars!”

“Branding” is a process verb (present progressive) – an ongoing process. And, indeed, brand positions of some kind already do exist in the minds of listeners. The questions are about clarity of the messages, the emotional impact of the advertising, the acceptance being held in the minds of listeners and any resulting buying behaviours demonstrated by customers.

Practically, based on the majority of radio spots produced and airing locally, the concept of branding has been, essentially, ignored. Perhaps that is because of the belief that the branding part is over or, more dangerously, that the direct ads being produced are part of the branding! And yes, to a degree, these direct ads are part of the branding – just not the especially useful, satisfactory part.

Now, I readily admit standard-issue direct spots are the lifeblood of every local radio station. That most of them are atrocious examples of appropriate and more effective radio communication seems to be lost on the operators. It need not be this way as there are many, many alternatives available that would instantly spruce up these shoddy demonstrations of banal, maudlin, annoying, unlistenable but desperately needed examples of radio advertising messaging.

While ignoring, for a moment, the intricacies and requirements for producing effective branding materials, I wonder: Does anybody else notice when managers return from their semi-annual “slurp & burp” confabs, nobody is carrying a laminated, agreed-upon edict to: “Make every effort to improve the quality of our commercial and on-air content that we would generate greater loyalty from our audiences while providing more prosperity for our advertisers - and ourselves.”? No? Drat.

The premise of the branding exercise is to: Influence the mind of the consumer. This becomes a situation akin to handling sensitive explosives – dangerous at all times and only functional when that which is supposed to be, shall I say, “adjusted”, gets blowed up - real good. When local producers make the attempt to create some branding content, what happens too often is that somebody hollers out “Fire in the hole!” well before the hole has been dug and the explosives placed.

When AE’s are out touting “top of mind awareness” to their clients, they fail to mention how that conscious awareness lasts about as long as it takes to drive a block and a half or to take a phone call. People who realize they are actually in the market in that moment will be more likely to respond to a direct ad. The working reality is about unconscious retention that may last a tad longer, but with no assurances of desired audience responses. Generating that takes work.

For decades, extremely well educated, supremely sophisticated folks who toil for major ad-producing agencies had, long ago, left the rest of radio’s (mostly) amateurs in the shade – after having kicked them to the side of the road. Let no one take the position that such ads are being produced only to win awards. They are, instead, being produced to mold, warp and influence our minds to the degree where we can be bamboozled into accepting and believing claims about almost any idea, product or service with few challenges coming from us, the consumers.

Television constantly provides just such ads. We all would be the ripe rubes who, after exposures to these incredibly expensive and effective spots, might haughtily pontificate, “That don’ make no sense at all.” Nevertheless, that’s branding! And that takes skills.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Fri May 03, 2019 8:24 am

Radio Reads Minds. Really?
While I was studying to certify as a personal counsellor, I was being introduced to many concepts about human behaviours that, at the time, were revelations. One of those was the reality that: Nobody can read minds! Of course, people do respond to body language, voice tonality and other sensory experiences that do generate intuitions about meaning, but in doing so, any assumptions about accuracy are poorly founded. Besides, all the best mind readers are already making very nice livings – in Las Vegas!

Learned and esteemed consultants have been and continue to tout the idea that consumers’/listeners’ psyches can be probed - to the degree where wants and needs can be determined and, as a result, precise targeting and messaging can then proceed. These become the assumptions that drive the invasive targeting of audience members – often as single individuals. This activity also helps account for radio’s #5 position as a desirable advertising medium. At #6 - Laundromat bulletin boards.

Advertisers and radio AE’s have been running on just such assumptions about the makeup of “target audiences”. Those that figure they have that part figured also assume that messaging can then be produced that is right down Goldilocks Lane. This hardly matters anyway. Most commercials, especially locally produced spots, are targeted directly to an unknown, purely fantasized member of the audience about which they have no personal information, and include demands for behaviors. A technical term for this strategy is: “Kinda weird.” (I looked it up.)

Because commercials are targeted so directly, there must be another assumption that the message will also have a bleed over effect. Good for radio it is that such is occasionally the case. But the writers and buyers of these commercials do themselves a radical disservice by participating in the practice.

Meanwhile, when researchers, writers or AE’s and their clients engage in invasive mind reading, they ignore the responsibility to produce commercials that are tolerable, maintain some level of listener-interest, are emotionally strong and – more effective.

Plus, I submit, there is no pressing need for a station to attempt identifying the psychographics of listeners. The choice of format is the element that quickly establishes some of the useful psychographics. Not most. Some. Beyond that, other frenzied stabs at establishing what is going on in the minds of the listeners result in banishment down the rabbit hole. Huge generalizations, for now, can suffice.

I am reminded of a scrambled driver careening down the highway in a busted up beater. Tires are balding, tie rods are shuddering and the brakes are metal-to-metal screeching. But the operator, being brain dead, bullet proof, and having assumed an ability to read minds, believes all the other motorists will be alert enough to get out of the way. Presumably, that is no attitude for any local radio station to be adopting. Further, passengers spend too much energy engaging in panicked screaming.

I am thoroughly unconvinced that most radio operators will be accepting that their responsibilities include: To make every effort to influence and motivate listeners. This would be about attracting and holding listeners, and providing more efficient commercial messaging for the advertisers. Commercials that supply a laundry list of products and services along with orders to “Hurry down and take advantage today!” will hardly accomplish that trick. Not if any improvements in radio’s status are to be expected.

Meanwhile, and by a very circuitous route, we are lead back to “branding”. Branding, by definition, is understood to be a process by which consumers’ minds are influenced (some would say, “manipulated”) to develop a satisfactory/positive feeling, opinion or belief about a product, service or advertiser.

In other words: Producers of advertising are not compelled to know the minds of consumers. They are required to massage, cajole, trick or otherwise manipulate the minds of consumers. If all of this seems a tad Orwellian, Big Brother, 1984-ish, well, there it is.

Radio owners could consider and adopt the premise. Operators unwilling to address this matter may be in the wrong business. Consumers are there – more or less - to be tricked! Now may be a tremendously advantageous time to begin learning how, specifically, to do just that. The default position is: Stay at #5.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sun May 12, 2019 3:33 am

Radio: Still Refusing To Get With It
Fine. Let’s just acknowledge there are a couple of hundred fantastic radio stations operating around the country. These outfits are sporting superior staffs, generating terrific numbers and have eager advertisers lined out the door, partly due to excellence being demonstrated by the AE’s. Then there are the rest of the ten thousand outfits, a substantial number of which are doing just alright – at least, fewer complaints. (With the serious exception of the CRTC limiting the number of signals, here in Canada, the model of radio is still the same.)

I will be generous and suggest that leaves over 9000 radio stations that are, practically, running on lies, delusions and rotgut whiskey. Audiences are being ignored, advertisers are being tragically under-served and employees suppressed, exploited or eliminated. Some of these organizations are the robber barons of modern media. The FCC has become no more than another corrupted, government agency – well aware of who provides the cream cheese for their bagels.

Many of us retain a heartfelt affection and a respect for radio – some because of our histories of doing well participating in the medium and others because we are impressed by what can be accomplished when radio is punching far above its weight. I believe that radio still has the potential to be the most efficient and effective platform on the planet.

I will also mention the still-available opportunities for writers and performers to dabble in radio’s Dark Arts. These allow for the production of incredible, emotionally charged and creative bits of advertising wizardry at costs that shame the invoices emanating from producers of print and video-based projects. We can elegantly dodge, weave and soar through the advertising firmament unlike other pitiful, flightless birds.

And so, there it is: the rather pathetic and ongoing status quo for radio. I understand that “status quo” is applied to a situation that is also unchallenged by most people. Plus, there would also be expectations for the status quo to continue. Radio participants who are unaware of the applicable options would have to be included, as well.

If, meanwhile, the FCC/CRTC allows for more stations to be owned by fewer organizations, that would serve as a fantastic improvement to their status quo, and that will cement it in with rebar supports. But, that’s another head-hanging story for another time.

The larger corporate radio organizations, fairly obviously, are depending on a questionable, tilted and distorted government agency to accomplish what it seems they cannot do for themselves – the crushing of smaller ownership groups and stand-alone outfits.

While such an unfair, cruel and arbitrary outcome is likely, I put it to reasonable readers: No matter what happens in the interim, there is only one functional and necessary strategy for radio to apply. That would be a massive upgrading in the on-air and commercial writing capacities – opportunities still available.

To be sure, ongoing attempts to revitalize and educate sales departments are necessary for any business, radio being but one of them. Other businesses do have a bit of a leg up, but only if their outfits are supplying superior products and services. Radio cannot include itself in such a category. I am guessing - No. I am suggesting - that 90% of radio stations are foisting some forms of pure, tepid junk on audiences and advertisers.

This speculation may also be overly generous. I also opine the remaining 10% of successful stations would not recognize themselves in any of these descriptions and criticisms. “We’re doing just fine, thank you very much,” they may be bleating. They might also add, “If it ain’t broke, we shan’t be fixing it.” This is based on a supposition that these folks know what “broke” sounds like.

When I speak of the necessity for radio to drastically improve its methods of communication, I include, from time to time, a requirement for the application of newer forms of language patterning, but a deeper understanding of how, specifically, to appreciate what strategies will motivate an audience.

Meanwhile, a few successful radio writers are demonstrating the value of creative metaphor, fantasy, sensory descriptives, distorted patterns and emotion-generating copy to influence listeners. Other writers are invited to take a poke at the concepts – with permission, of course. For the many presenters and writers, however and before the creative whiz-bangery, an education in producing precise and effective Clean Language is required.

Ronald T. Robinson
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pave
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu May 23, 2019 2:22 am

Radio’s Low Volume Lament
Even as online advertising is fraught with allegations of shoddy ad placements, questionable reports on reach and undemonstrated claims of efficiencies, radio clings to its “reach” numbers like they were water-logged ring buoys tossed to panicked survivors of a sinking cruise ship. Sincerity is high - confidence levels are low.

Recently, a credible and (deservedly) highly lauded executive in the iHeart organization wondered: “How can we have 93% audience penetration and 7% revenue share? It is a paradoxical and confusing dynamic.” This was a lament.

I suggest there are no paradoxical elementsin the scenario. The injurious elements have been obvious to some – for decades. Radio is guilty of serial crimes against audiences, advertisers and, to a large extent, employees. Inept, lazy programming, criminally shoddy commercial writing and, of course, the excruciatingly painful phusterclucking of spots are all openly being displayed on most radio stations around the country. Conclusion: Radio does not even sound like it could be effective!

Radio executives have been disemboweling themselves for so long, hardly anybody notices the steaming pile of guts at their feet. Nobody comments, “What’s that horrible, putrid stink?” To further run another analogy into the ground, the priests of radio still insist that “bleeding” is the appropriate approach for getting rid of diseases, demons and disgruntled employees. Even a disinterested passer-by could go, “You do realize a jar of leeches might just do the trick. Get rid of that stank, too.”

When astute Canadians, having been fully acclimatized to the vagaries of winter, get their vehicles stuck in the snow, they have already been taught that flooring the gas pedal in an attempt to get out blows the tires and makes the drivers look incredibly foolish. Only two methods work: Rock the vehicle in reverse, then drive, in quick succession, or, get some mechanical advantage (sand, gravel, chains, onlookers etc.) and continue rocking back & forth - until May.

Radio has been spinning its wheels, burning fuel and popping tires with no discernible change in position for far too long. These events could be learning experiences, as well. Perhaps expectations are too high. Instead, this worthless activity has only created bigger and deeper ruts. Over time, I have had many conversations where radio’s apologists absolutely come down in favor of bigger, deeper ruts. Some, perhaps out of frustration, insist theirs are the bigger, better ruts.

I am reminded of a saying from a reasonably intelligent, formerly handsome and still congenial individual. “When the learning stops, so, too, will the earning.” (Although likely plagiarized, and from numerous sources, I am so delighted with myself to have jotted that down.)

While I appreciate how some radio sales groups are attempting to better understand their own medium, and to take that info to the street, the same can’t be said for the Programmers. These are the people who, under duress or not, have brought us to a state where the “live” on-air presenters, if not eliminated, have been bludgeoned into submission. Unless completely usurped by the AE’s, the programmers may also be responsible for advertising copy.

The results of such shifts in power to a group who have, literally, no competence in the arts and sciences of broadcast advertising have left radio in a situation similar to a group of children frolicking at a community swimming pool – first, relegated and then, commanded to: “Stay in the shallow end! No splashing!”

In an earlier article, I proposed that fully 90% of all radio stations are grossly underperforming, and have, nevertheless, relinquished any responsibilities to fully serve their audiences, their advertisers and their employees. Given the contemporary dynamics of much of the culture, it may not even be much of a stretch to suggest a conspiratorial element might also be in play. Another almost acceptable justification is that these are a group of broadcasters that are either unaware or completely indifferent.

Newer, better and more effective strategies on all of these fronts are required.
I can only imagine what Hartley Adkins, the iHeart executive mentioned earlier, could accomplish were these factors to be considered and acted upon – seriously. Among the elements that have been ignored by corporate and local station management include: What, specifically, we say, and how, specifically, we say it.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:09 am

Robo-Radio Doesn’t Cut It
My radio career, which began soon after Marconi pounded out, “And The Hits… Just Keep On Coming”, has, for the most part, been about performing on the air – and getting away with it. My friends and I always read spots and a few of us took an interest in the creative elements of copywriting, as well.

With so many quality role models available around the dial, there were always different aspects of being on the air that were constantly being demonstrated – “live”. These were the jocks whose styles and techniques we studied, applied and plagiarized – ripped ‘em off. No shame.

If I were to write a pamphlet of my first 30 years on the air, it would be akin to another story of the kid who ran away and joined the circus. It would be a tale of a youngster who started out shoveling elephant poop, but who was still treated well by the feature performers. It would be a yarn about studying how the performers trained, and asking them innumerable questions.

In due course, the kid was invited to play bit parts during the sawdust show, sometimes wore the clown suit, and was encouraged to begin training with some of the feature acts. Fifteen years later, he found he had been elevated to being a star of the trapeze. That’s right. He became a fully-fledged member of the radio equivalent of The Flying Zucchinis!

Near the close of that personal on-air epoch (early ‘90’s) none of we, the Primetime Players, had to don our Sherlock Holmes deerstalker caps or fire up our Sherlock Holmes Meerschaum pipes to discern a dark skullduggery was afoot. Even before the deregulation fiasco of the mid-‘90’s, owners and programmers began chiseling away at the talent base. It wasn’t difficult. All they had to do was drastically increase the music sweeps and suppress or otherwise limit the on-air participation of the jocks.

It didn’t seem to matter that I was consistently delivering boxcar numbers. I, too, was on the “hit” list - destined to become a part of ownership’s “scorched earth” policy. Pricey talent was being hunted into extinction. The strategy, of course, was based on the premise that by devaluing the services provided to audiences, costs would be cut substantially, the bucks would continue to roll in and there would be no consequences for, otherwise, under-serving audiences and advertisers. In the last two years of this on-air stretch, I hired on to a couple of other stations. But, it was too late. The virus had traveled, and the managers were sporting pus-oozing sores.

Fortunately, I was not a One Trick Pony. I was more than ten years into a study and application of linguistic patterns that, when applied, worked wonders in providing personal therapeutic results, and went gangbusters when turned towards unsuspecting radio audiences. I also had the smarts and/or anxiety not to tell anybody about what I was up to. That’s not completely true. In an extremely loose moment, I did tell my PD over an enjoyable Italian lunch about just one of the principles. He freaked out, and spit up spaghetti. Two days later, I was stuffed into and shot out the second story window from the station’s cannon – an ironic reminder of former, jollier circus days.

Radio periodicals are rife with materials intended to develop AE’s into becoming more proficient in motivating potential clients to invest in their stations. Examples of the efficacy of radio as an advertising medium are included. This is noble and necessary work, indeed. Still, AE’s have to contend with other, competing AE’s who may not be as suitably trained, and that, like caged ferrets, are eager to chew each other’s legs off.

Meanwhile, I read a plaintiff comment from a serious and credible iHeart executive. I repeat his lament: “How can we have 93% audience penetration and 7% revenue share? It is a paradoxical and confusing dynamic.” Confusing? Maybe. Paradoxical? Not at all. After all these years of witnessing radio’s decline, I repeat my own response: We do not attract more ad dollars because 90% of radio stations do not even sound like they could be effective! Dead, doll-eyes are not fetching. Robo-radio is not appealing.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jun 17, 2019 2:26 am

Radio’s Dead Birdies (RIP)
All the canaries, once ensconced in radio’s coal mines, are gone. Talent was inserted instead. We had to reluctantly accept our own poisoned demises like those brave, martyred birdies that had gone off to whatever similar rewards preached to faithful and obedient Canarians. (We never heard back.)

Even before the Great Deregulation Apocalypse of the mid-‘90’s, radio’s ownership and leadership had stopped paying any attention to the canaries that were passing out, dropping off their perches and piling up on unswept floors.

Management, instead, had, by the beginning of the ‘90’s, stopped looking for early warnings and was diligently engaged in going right to the source of their perceived challenges. They accomplished this by first, demonizing, and then, knocking off the group they had already decided were limiting revenues. On air and writing talent were getting kicked in the slats and summarily heaved into the street. Juicy and easy targets of opportunity they (we) were, too.

That represents thousands of, at least semi-skilled individuals in a talent base that was wished “good luck in your future endeavors.”

This was a foolish strategy that began diminishing radio as an entertainment, informational and advertising medium. There is another, more significant aspect to this whole fiasco. A whole body of knowledge was systematically wiped out - leaving only charred remains. This cache of knowledge has not been replaced, and no attempts to replicate it are being made.

Examples: Before the talent-base was jettisoned, I had already learned a great deal about communicating to a radio audience, including:

• How to apply different vocal tonalities, timbre, volumes, intensities, speeds, tempos and separate microphone-distant techniques.
• How to reconstruct demands-for-behaviors into more influential suggestions or inferences.
• How to attract and hold an audience member’s attention without violating their personal space.
• How to adjust an audience member’s subjective, internal experience from whatever they were experiencing into what I wanted them to be experiencing.
• How to intensify or diminish audience member’s feelings to something other that what they were experiencing before the communication.
• How to influence buying behaviors from audience members – especially when they had no such buying intentions before the communication.
• How to generate audience members from subjective, internal, associated processing to different, internal, dissociated states.
• How to design comedic and/or satirical materials for an electronic medium, of which radio is one.
• How to make the distinctions necessary when speaking to an in-studio or on-the-phone guest as opposed to speaking to an unidentified and, therefore, unknown audience member at the other end of the radio.
• Also lost was the concept of treating audiences as, at least, semi-sophisticated members of the culture. Today, they are treated like just so many breeding, consuming slugs.
• At the time of radio’s Great Toxic Leavening, Neuro-science was delivering materials that made significant distinctions between the affect of information being processed by audience members’ dominant and subdominant brain hemispheres. With the exception of a very few other individuals who have attained the knowledge of this data and who have also brought it to the industry, radio, generally, has disregarded these elements. Science continues to demonstrate that radio listeners are, primarily, processing the signal through subdominant (right brain) filters.

It is fair to say a great deal of the (above) information was acquired by performers and writers, not by formal education, but through a process of osmosis. Hanging out with competent peers assured absorbing of the material. While some techniques were being unconsciously applied, only a few practitioners could actually articulate what they were doing. No matter, as most of it has already been wiped out.

Whether large corporate organizations, smaller groups or a few stand-alone clusters, almost every radio station is now in a position where they are stuck with superficial, banal and unappealing services and products. Another generation of radio people has been involved since after Radio’s Great Flood, and they have yet to learn how to make a successful comeback.

The acknowledgements or admissions of radio’s crippling deficits are not being made. Desires to make improvements have not been articulated. Even the modern EPA – on a lax day – would label the radio environment as “Toxic”. Any new canaries still don’t stand a chance.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:29 am

Will Radio Ever Be More Effective?
So many of the radio clichés, those promoted by radio’s stalwart apologists keep coming back. The one that has been getting my attention lately is usually phrased by AE’s, as much as by uninformed advertisers: “I don’t want spots that are award winners. I want spots that move product!” This is stated as if one had nothing to do with the other.

This asserted position also comes with widely held, but unarticulated assumptions that there is no middle ground. It is implied as an either/or position. Direct, content-heavy, grinding spots or artsy-fartsy commercials that only satisfy those who appreciate such materials, get hung out at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Meanwhile, the title reference is to the conclusion to which most radio operators have come. That being: Radio commercials are as effective as they have ever been, and as effective as they need to be. This, to me, demonstrates how radio has collectively shoved its head up a dark and toxic place.

Somewhere between the psychologically disturbing, but wonderfully creative radio commercials most often produced by agencies – with strenuously pumped invoices in hand - and the grinding, annoying and questionably effective spate of direct, content-laden and poorly written, local, station-produced (or agency-produced) clunkers, there lies a vast territory of unexplored communicative opportunities.

Again, there is no need or utility to approach this as a dichotomy. Radio is not being forced to play at only the shallow end of the communicative pool. Radio did this to itself. But, it wasn’t a conscious choice – certainly not one that included an awareness of the consequences of taking the tack it has. Radio did its version of a 180 by knocking off the talent, both on-air and in the creative departments in order to limit the overhead. And, by gawd, it shows.

Apologists don’t seem to notice the status quo is the same one that keeps radio mired in the #5 position of desirable entertainment and advertising media. Sure, some forms of robo-radio are doing quite well in their markets, So, what? For those owners that are quite content with that situation, nothing will be changing. The opportunity is for the guys down the street to: make enquiries, decide to take affirmative action, and to reap the rewards of ripping up the terra firma and plowing the competition completely under.

“When I grow up, more than anything else, I want to write effective and sometimes entertaining radio spots for fun and profit. And I want to wear a deflated rubber chicken in my trousers.” That’s not something radio owners and management are likely to hear from prospective employees anytime soon, at least, not the spot-writing part. It’s still worth knowing that a rubber chicken down the pants is a great icebreaker or conversation starter.

Meanwhile and from time to time, I have to remind myself that, for decades, I have been promoting on-air and copywriting communicative strategies and methodologies that, to be even more effective, require that radio present itself in new (for radio), and different ways. Occasionally, some pundit or other will get up on their haunches and start demanding evidence of stations that are applying the materials I have been providing.

Let me be forthcoming. Beyond my own anecdotal and subjective experience that suggests and demonstrates tremendous potentials for the approaches, there is no objective evidence available. How could there be? No owners or managers are willing to make the inquiries or take the risk of applying the information. I am also aware that, for many people, even an overwhelming supply of evidence will do nothing to pull those individuals off their already-existing beliefs – even while their own positions remain questionable, distorted and shabby.

In terms of radio overhauling its communicative approaches, we are still wandering behind the starting blocks while potential participants reject signing on. We are still at the beginning of the beginning. So far, pundits are satisfied to defend robo-radio like it was a real thing of value with a real future. And, with the very rare exceptions, radio stations that do feature actual, “live” personalities from time to time, are still suffering because of the lack of acquired skills by talent. Weak justifications are unacceptable.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:10 am

Radio’s Fantasy Approaches
So many programming executives are basing the prerequisites for their on-air performers on a set of manufactured fantasies that just don’t hold up. I am thinking of a more recent chunk of quite sincere ramblings emanating from an otherwise professional guy who enjoys a lot of credibility.

Some of the comments from this executive include an explanation that the relationship between a performer and some unknown, unspecified audience member(s) is about the necessity for a “connection”. How that so-called connection can be identified – what it sounds like, what it feels like and what it might look like is left unspoken. Plus, how, specifically, this connection is to be developed is also left unaddressed.

Then, the programmer admonishes the talent-base to identify and establish “touch points” with the audience. Again, what constitutes a “touch point” for what audience member, under what circumstances and in what context is, again, left unexplained. The strategy for developing such “touch points” – after and if they have been identified – is left up to anyone who might want to approach the matter.

I have to assume that one of the methods is to exhaust the talent by running them all over town, pressin’ the flesh, kissin’ babies and participating as a celebrity judge during local bake-off competitions. Yeah. That might just do the trick. The personal touch.

Not to load on to any one pundit in particular, I am reading another, supposedly, professional broadcaster that is recommending the on-air talent also become a source of advice to callers-in. Now, this is stretching the threshold where we’re getting crazy and maudlin. Why programmers continue to insist that talent and audience members must be personally bonded – one to another, one-at-a-time – I am finding to be quite disturbing.

Again, the whole point of the exercise is not only being glossed over, it is being ignored entirely. And that point is: Radio requires talent that is proficient at any number of communicative skills. There is a tragic irony in all this, as well. Programmers just can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that the very best way to “connect” with any audiences is to present them with superior on-air performers. It is totally unnecessary that audience members “pal up” with the presenters outside of the on-air process, and certainly not as some distorted fantasy.

Any presenter with the skills to do so, will, in practice and because of their abilities, be appealing to large numbers of any given audience. That capacity, alone, will be more than enough to accomplish what any station wants – more long-term listeners.

But then, here I am, touting another, different, equally concocted product of the imagination. In this case, however, worthwhile results can be generated. This can only be accomplished by applying the specific and distinct knowledge and skills of an educated and practiced communicator. Of course, since these skills are currently left unavailable to the greatest majority of presenters, these desirable outcomes cannot become a broadcasting reality.

The challenge to re-educate presenters is, to be sure, a formidable task. But the need is greater. Most radio owners and management will continue to deny that need, and will continue to bluster about non-specific ideals and attributes that have yet to be demonstrated as effective in any way, even as they do sound somewhat lofty in their pronouncements in meeting rooms and from a dais.

A whole industry will not be enjoying a revolution in their communicative approaches. The combination of denials and disregard for available materials guarantees that. But for the very few – the imaginative, the courageously valiant and, perhaps, the cautiously inquisitive – opportunities to rapidly evolve a stagnant business to a vibrant and satisfying mode of continuous improvements still remain.

For decades, radio has been, consciously and/or unconsciously, destroying its own medium. It undertakes so many behaviors that are not in its own best interests. One could speculate, with only a little rage landing on the page, that there is a self-destructive virus that has embedded itself at radio’s core and is continuing to do what it does naturally and efficiently – tear down and destroy what is already a staggering medium. There may yet be a happy prognosis. But, for now, that prognosis is grim.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sat Jul 13, 2019 2:49 am

Radio’s Fantastic And Creepy Influence

“Generating top-of-mind-awareness”, say the radio pundits, “is the key element in and the key benefit of almost all radio commercials.” The premise enjoys an almost universal acceptance by radio executives and is certainly a primary selling point when being introduced to potential clients. It is legend, and it is part of the dogma of commercial radio. It is also – pure hogwash. This is nonsense being produced and distributed by radio on an industrial scale.

But, wait! There’s more! Following along quite nicely, and in lock-step, is the corollary promise that audience members will, at some point, be experiencing that mighty and marvelous phenomenon we like to label as: Recall. This old chestnut gets plopped like it was a free cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. What a bonus. What a treat. What a lie!

To be more specific, my argument runs against the pervasive claims of conscious, top-of-mind recall. You know. That’s what happens when the heart surgeon hears a commercial on the operating room’s transistor radio, and blasts out of the surgery, roaring off to the car lot to make her best deal. That’s what has to happen for everyone whose top-of-mind, conscious awareness won’t last much longer than it takes to juice up a stick of chewing gum, or until something else bangs into awareness. Something else always does. It always has, and it always will.

Granted, the top-of-mind awareness event has been known to generate a sale here and there. But, unless the advertised offer is so incredibly fantastic that an audience member’s imagination is lit up, detonated and a buying behavior is generated, the likelihood of such an event occurring in numbers is hardly worthy of comment. An advertiser would have to drop their pants on the price and learn to tolerate the cold, unprofitable winds that ensue. Bulking up on spot buys would result in similar circumstances – right up until the “Going Out Of Business Sale” gets hung.

Radio’s apologists like to point to the example, if it really happened, of the AE who went to an advertiser and dared them to take a one hundred dollar retail item, slash the price to ten dollars, and announce that deal on the radio. In under an hour – so the story goes – the store had sold out of the item. That’s the tale that was supposed to demonstrate “the power of radio”. Hardly. All it really demonstrates is such a deal is a top-of-mind “gimme”. Then, it’s back to the real world.

In the real world of radio, the opportunities to advertise absolutely phenomenal, cut-rate, bottom dollar, chopped to the bone, rock bottom, never-to-be-repeated low, low prices that are not just part of the hype, but that are legitimate and can be proven? Well, those are rare indeed. “Extinction” is a word being bandied about in some spheres of influence.

Everybody involved in radio advertising accepts that longer-term time buys with laudable and influential creative is the gold standard for radio campaigns. Too bad it is that most stations are operating on the copper standard and will take any time-buy they can pick up and will be providing sub-standard copy.

Meanwhile, as to even a limited top-of-mind-awareness over the longer term – and by that I mean, an awareness that might last beyond the next set of traffic lights: Expecting a listener/consumer to remain consciously aware of what they heard on a spot is, simply, a ridiculous notion. To demonstrate that, here is an easy quiz to put to any radio listener/consumer: “What,” they are to be asked, “Are the last three radio commercials you heard where you went and bought the product?”

The responses have always been horribly unsatisfying and even downright grim. Consumers can’t recall much of anything, let alone a non-motivating and vacuous radio spot. There is, however, a silver lining to these bad tidings, and it has to do with the expectations of the value of recall. This is also the “creepy influence” part advanced in the title.

Although an element of the field of Neuro-Rocketology, what has continuously been proven is this: Recall is not required to generate a desirable behaviour! Well-crafted spots aired over time will do the job quite nicely.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:36 am

My 7-Minute Shock Block
As a critic of the methods in which contemporary radio is being programmed in the areas of Talent performances and commercial writing processes, I am compelled to regularly monitor stations around the country. This is the grunge part of the exercise. Any potential masochistic tendencies of my own require that these be painful/pleasurable experiences. And they are.

Practically, what all these efforts do is to reconfirm my forever-held position that radio has been doing squat-diddly, or if you prefer, diddly-squat, about its communicative approaches. This has been the case for, like, forever.

Regular readers will appreciate that my condemnations are based on my own model of “how things really oughta be” and, as such, is open to disparaging remarks. I hardly ever get any organized retorts that include counter-explanations. I am accustomed to little more than contrary assertions from folks that are freaked out by even the possibility of there being alternate, more useful strategies available.

I was going to do bullet points on the sins and transgression committed by the station during my 7-minute shock block. Suffice to say, however, the litany of poor communication moments and failures to exploit so many other (albeit: relatively unknown) opportunities were, as is typical in my experience – disappointingly overwhelming.

I do these monitoring sessions and, typically, I get palpitations followed by some form of gasping and/or wheezing. To put it a little more succinctly: I’m relieved I never gave up drinking. Or smoking. Or cussing.

So, here is the encapsulated, depressing rundown of my most recent 7-minute radio shock block:

The presenter jumps in and begins to ramble on about some weak, patronizing, local station promo. He is obviously reading a scripted portion and he’s going very, very quickly. He uses one tonality, one volume and he sounds like he’s forgotten how to breathe – generally, a good idea. He assumes he has my attention, as he is communicating on an intended one-to-one basis. He fails. Next, he reads an unanimated little story about a man on the other side of the country winning a lottery and blowing it all. The punch line: “That’s too bad. It takes all kinds.”

Then came the spot onslaught – seemingly unending, annoying and insulting attempts to get me to buy stuff and do stuff – for no particularly compelling reasons. All the spots were of the direct, content-heavy variety, and every one of them was sporting some or other noxious cliché. I am not kidding. In this particular phustercluck, I was regaled by advertisers that had “the best in service and selection”, were “conveniently located”, had been “serving the community” before ‘Saul’ was “Paul’, offered “plenty o’ free parking”, one that had “all your storm door, tire and kitty litter needs” and the ubiquitous “Don’t miss it!”

I was whimpering by then, but the onslaught continued with more of the same - only the same. There was no respite from this radio ad carnage. (Nor is there any immediate relief in the offing.) None of the ads were providing any especially exciting deals either – not for those “real-time-top-of-mind-awareness” claims that are so often supposed to kick in. That includes the grocery chain that had a six-pack of Coke on sale for “2.97, if I was willing to drive across town to take advantage. Besides, the drug store across the road had the same deal. Then, after what felt like longer, the exercise was over, and I began my recovery period.

In my last piece I noted how “conscious recall of radio advertising is not required to generate behaviours”. How fortunate for radio it is that such a phenomenon is in play. We have to thank the unconscious processing of our audiences is such that listeners can and are, indeed, subtly influenced by the spots – as poor and shabby as they are. Were it not for that bizarre element of our psyches, we wouldn’t have an industry to further degrade.

My position has always been only partially about how horrible radio presentations and ads are as representations of professional, broadcast communications, but more about all the available but still lost opportunities to make radio advertising – and talent presentations – more tolerable, appealing and, most importantly, more effective. I cling to the position.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:42 am

Radio: Swaggering Or Staggering

Radio’ great pal, supporter, mentor and student-of-the-medium, Beasley’s Bob McCurdy, recently penned a piece urging radio organizations to start demonstrating more swagger.

In his opening remarks, Bob quotes Pizza Hut’s Chief Brand Officer, Marianne Radley. She stated, “We needed to be more confident, we needed to have a little bolder presence, not be so apologetic, take more chances, be a little bit riskier.”

I had a couple of knee-jerk reactions to that comment – some of them visceral. A compelling argument can be made for Ms. Radley’s position for one primary reason: Pizza Hut was already producing a quality, competitive product! There was no need for the company to go back into their kitchens in order to re-invent the pizza. Her comments were more about brand and store presentations to the public.

Radio, however, enjoys no such distinction. Radio, desperately and absolutely, needs to get back into the kitchen. Even when radio delivers some fairly decent ROI’s, it does so because, so often, the actual investment on the part of advertisers is so shamelessly low – just enough, in many cases, I am told, to keep the stations’ doors open.

I have to wonder: Where is the swagger opportunity in that? Radio has been burdened, generally, with a weak set of products and services for years – the weakest of all major, electronic media. Radio has boarded up the kitchen. Besides, those that do know about the galley also realize there are so few supplies available, that preparing a simple, but unsatisfying and non-nutritious PB&J sandwich becomes a major undertaking.

Indeed, if radio’s much-vaunted 93% reach is taken as a given, and if one includes the dollar-a-holler reach plans, it’s a surprise that stations do not guarantee a predetermined ROI for the advertiser. The elements, however, that must also be considered are: 1. Is the advertiser making a legitimate and competitive offer? 2. Does the copy and production represent interesting and effective advertising? Actually, it’s no surprise at all that guarantees, never mind mild assurances are not provided. This, as stations would be terrified to supply such a guarantee. No “swagger” opportunity there, either.

Bob also goes on to make a huge distinction between “swagger” and “bluster”. I have heard it said on a regular basis that radio is still in a position where bluster is the main ingredient and that there are crates of that stacked up somewhere in a back room. In circumstances where such is not the case and a station or cluster is delivering consistently, then I am more than willing to defer to the Walt Whitman adage. “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” In such a situation, swagger would definitely be posted in the orders-of-the-day.

Some years ago, my dad sincerely assured me that, to the best of his recollection, he had never dropped me on my head. So, since I ain’t no dummy, I am not advocating the practice of AE’s making any grand guarantees for advertising success. Plus, if that were ever to get out, advertisers would be clamoring, en masse, for similar treatment. Things would get real ugly – real fast.

Still, I am uneasy with the admonition for AE’s to Swagger like Jagger. This is because The Stones have made their bones. Too many AE’s have yet to wander back from their safe houses. It’s only partially their fault in that they are also forced to be the Creative Departments. Useful, effective copy “that writes itself” doesn’t. Ineffective, shabby and annoying copy writes itself. For that kind of advertising trash, required supplies are a functional ballpoint pen and a dinner napkin.

Bob also brought in the comments of a very senior agency executive who said that many in the radio industry with whom she interacted were defensive about the medium and suffered from an inferiority complex, often spending more time knocking down other media channels rather than building up their own. Maybe that is because any defenses sound worn, tired and fall on deaf ears. Inferiority issues are not complexes at all, but accurate representations of the situation. Radio remains “Number Five Inferior” for all the known, substantial reasons. Bob may be aware of some individuals or groups addressing these matters. I am not.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:42 am

Strange Similarities

Although originally prepared for an American audience, the premise and the analogy of the article are about the industry's pervasive mind-set.

Over the decades of promoting alternative strategies and methods for addressing the flaws and foibles of commercial radio’s incredibly feeble communication processes, I have always been flummoxed by the reticence to consider, and outright rejection of the principles on the part of owners and managers. And when I suggest rejection, I mean: Rejection with extreme prejudice.

However, and this may be a clue, instead of requested, reasoned counter-arguments, I get bold assertions on my mental capacities, suspicious qualities of character and overall ill humour. What I find bizarre about this is how people will hammer rusty spikes through their feet and into their own positions, while failing to notice they have been unable to articulate a rationale for those positions. Or move.

Still, I had been staggering around musing on what else in the culture would serve as an analogy to demonstrate the special reluctance that radio has been displaying about improving its communications models. What else, I was wondering, might serve as an example of the fear of facts, “expertise” and the fears of any number of new concepts-in-general that are available and being promoted?

My pick is the assumed, evil spectre of an American Universal Health Care System.

• Of the leading 33 industrialized nations, only one has a “For Sale” sign on its medical system.
• Only one nation has the highest medical insurance costs in the world.
• Only one has the highest pharmaceutical costs.
• Only one has the highest delivery costs of medical services.
• Only one nation has the most system inefficiencies, replete with fraudulent and corrupt practices.

On top of all that, vested interests continue to generate (alleged) socialist plagues of red herrings, welling up from sewers and falling from weirdly darkened skies. Any ridiculous assertions will suffice – so long as they keep a befuddled public confused, in the dark and afraid. Some people counter with nebulous “freedom of choice” issues. For those presenting that argument, the choice points are mostly about which insurance company is going to screw them over more than another.

Apologists for the pharmaceutical industry make claims that only American-made medicines are up to par and it is for that reason the costs are so outrageous. The same companies are manufacturing in other countries, as well, and they are not pumping out placebos or poisons. Plus, the vaunted stories of enormous costs of R&D have, after a number of decades, become tiresome and insulting. Insulin was discovered and processed in Canada a hundred years ago.

As a Canadian who enjoys a universal health care system (number 10 on some lists), I can only feel sorry for those folks who have gulped the Kool-Aid on this matter. There is no pressing need to continue being gouged and mistreated. I have American relatives who are staring down the barrel of bankruptcy because of not having enough insurance.

That radio’s apologists have been maintaining a similar stranglehold on the dogma of the very systems that support the status quo should, I suppose, not come as a complete surprise. Certainly, it’s not a surprise anymore. But a huge disappointment it does remain.

Commercial radio, generally, is gassed out. There really isn’t much more to cut from the budgets, particularly as they apply to on-air talent and commercial creative. New AE’s can be buffaloed only for so long. New Talent comes in with visions of creativity, stardom and quick prosperity. It doesn’t take long for them to realize they are wearing paper hats and being trained in the correct operation of a gravy dipper.

Another clue that all is not well over to the radio corral lies in the hoopla that is generated when this or that advertiser gets a big win out of radio. Bugles blare and banners fly. It is no coincidence when, to get the results, it is the advertiser him/her self that takes control of the creative and the placements.

Although a loose analogy, radio still can’t be accused of gouging and pillaging. Under performing, certainly.

Meanwhile, should there be any readers who would appreciate or need to be buying their insulin for ten cents on the dollar, I know some guys just over the border. They’re called Pharmacists. Just ask Bernie.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Fri Aug 23, 2019 8:52 am

It’s About The Mind Set

Many of radio’s professional AE’s are falling all over themselves to develop or discover new and better ways to influence traditional advertisers and new prospects to continue engaging in and taking advantage of the special influence that radio truly does offer. These are important activities even as so many AE’s are unable to articulate what those influential elements actually are.

Although the evidence surrounds us and is pervasive in our societies, very, very few of our associates will consider and grasp this reality: Electronic media, because of its impact on our (generally unprotected) psyches, has been, emotionally and intellectually, plowing us under ever since Marconi first hollered out, “And the Hits – just keep on comin’!”

Print media does a far better job of educating and it encourages us to think. Retention levels are significantly higher, as well. Electronic media, by primarily engaging us at emotional levels, influences us to react. By rights, it would make sense to have all electronic media – including this one – provide a warning for audiences: "Participate with this medium at your own risk!" Indeed, electronic media has the greatest propensity to twist, thwart, influence and/or reinforce those beliefs and values that the providers of the messaging have determined to be in their own best interests.

When the print media delivers bonafide and demonstrated facts, readers have, at least, an opportunity to understand and consider the materials. Electronic media blasts past those intellectual filters and hammers us with another set of predetermined priorities. Add to that our own (people’s) propensities to consider only those materials that support any of our own already-existing beliefs and – it’s on. Yes, friends, our own Bungle in the Jungle.

I submit that, rather than just another paranoid rant from a guy that experiences way too much of the Winter season, the (above) positions are held by pundits, observers and researchers of the media, and are corroborated by astute observations and numerous neurological and psychological studies. Indeed, this is a great deal more annoying than a 60-cycle hum.

With but a few exceptions, radio gets a pass on these premises. The exceptions would be those broadcasts from the raving, alt-right political gangs, not a lot of which is being blasted out on our (Canadian) airwaves, particularly when compare to the American onslaughts. Then, we can include any religious programming. Those folks are pouring the coals to the capacities of radio to influence by, primarily and perhaps solely, working the emotions of the audiences – arbitrarily and with intent. That they all make “truth” claims is but another sad commentary.

Meanwhile, where radio has been failing utterly is in its outright refusal to accept how poorly it has been serving both its audiences and its advertisers. To be sure, it is extremely difficult to get even a feeble “A-men” on this issue. This leaves me befuddled and buffaloed. What dynamics, I wonder, are in play here? Is radio suffering from a form of Premature Closure? Has radio dug in on its shabby positions of non-participation, and is doubling down? Perhaps radio is so closed to outside information that it is completely unaware of the wolves at the door and the huge gaps in the walls.

It’s also possible that owners and management are figuring that radio is already as good as it’s going to get, making the most important issue that of increasing sales. Again, the core aspects of presenter-communications and advertising copy have been permanently stored in a dark closet at the back of the station, but still put on a “someday-maybe” list.

While all these elements are being left unaddressed by radio, big league ad agencies, working for the highest of high-end advertisers, are consistently grinding our minds with sweetness, light, humor, and passive images of joy, recovery and prosperity. These would include the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, car companies, purveyors of beers, liquors and wines and others.

Further, quite a bit of motivational, self-help materials has been floating around the industry lately which may be of some value, but only to those that are open to applying the ideas. Many years ago, I picked up this little nugget from some self-help book or other: “If you think you can – you might. If you think you can’t – you’re right. But, if you stop thinking altogether – wrap it up and say, ‘good night’.” It really is all about the Mind Set. In other words: It depends on how, specifically, we think about it.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:17 am

Why Does Radio Have Flat Feet?
When I consider the overall behaviours (and lack of them) of the ownership and management group of both American and Canadian radio, I can’t help but draw a parallel with the Republican Senate. This is an outfit that is breaking its own back in its efforts to curtail any improvements for the majority of the American public. These scoundrels know who their masters are and they know what groups they actually serve. Further, if the hypocrisy isn’t obvious, it still comes with a foul and toxic odour.

Radio, perhaps because of its own ignorance of its need to attend to (apparently) unknown matters of extreme consequence, cannot be tagged with the same hypocrisy label – not that the distinction makes much difference. Still, radio has been breaking its own back by doing everything it can to avoid anything more than the known issues with which it has been dealing for decades – with limited headway being made, I would add.

When we were in grade school, well before any testosterone started boiling up, we delighted ourselves by playing games, squelching out armpit farts – and giggling. It was about this time, as our senses of (relative) humour were being developed, that we were introduced to Elephant Jokes. With no appreciation for satire being required, we started responding to over generalizations, obvious deletions and radical distortions. Hence:
Q: Why do elephants have flat feet?
A: For stamping out burning ducks!

The first time my buddies and I heard that one, we “got it” and were rolling out of our school desks onto the aisles and immediately commenced to guffawing hysterically and projecting snot – until it hurt. After that, everything in life took on new nuances while suggesting exciting new possibilities. Making each other laugh became, for some of us, an important priority. It sure was a lot better and less dangerous than looking for guys we could beat up.

Given all that, I suggest radio is also flat-footed in that it is in the business of stamping out burning jocks and stomping out burning copywriters. In the process, it is making no progress whatsoever. Rather, it is marking time and staying right where it has been for decades. Oh, sure. The elephants’ trumpeting and all that duck squawking along with the smoke and the dust being kicked up and wafting through the scene does make for one fine, grand display. What it also does is keep the elephants away from any prior destinations, goals and aspirations.

For the last three decades, I have been compelled to tolerate a spectacular irony with radio. It has been the ongoing refusal of radio’s owners and management to address the only element over which, nationally and locally, it has the exclusive capacity to become involved. This element is the construction and delivery of the language we use and as is presented by current on-air performers and advertising copywriters.

For over 45 years, linguistic distinctions and alternative patterns of language have been researched, developed, tested and successfully applied in many other fields including sales, teaching, corporate communications, therapy and yes, advertising.

Radio has ignored all of it. Some in radio even deny the existence of such material. And it shows!

• When radio can be shown to be anything but a one-to-one medium, radio staunchly insists it is. Practically, applying the one-to-one assumption can be shown to be an extreme hindrance to effective, on-air communications.

• Radio’s presenters continue to tell the audiences what to do – demands for behaviours. Audiences, I submit, tolerate those approaches, at least unconsciously, extremely poorly. A few do so with disdain in their hearts and vitriol on their lips.

• Radio’s presenters are unable to make many informed, nuanced distinctions about how some patterns-of-language have greater impact than others. Generally, it can be argued, on-air folks and copywriters are operating with only a small base of communicative approaches. Plus and for the moment, we can disregard the maudlin clichés that are continuously being tossed into the bunny hutch like so much chicken feed.

While most of us were disregarding the lessons taught in school on grammar, it turned out the rules of grammar aren’t even the half of it. Nor are the rules of grammar the most important elements of verbal communications. Add to that the other distinctions that can be made because we are communicating through an electronic medium (radio), and we gots ou’selves a whole other package of powerful, but still unused communicative goodies. The most difficult challenge is in finding some inquisitive people who may find the whole premise to be of some significant value. Good luck to us all. But mostly, good luck to me.

Ronald T. Robinson
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