(By Ronald Robinson) Radio has yet to acknowledge or appreciate that superior forms of communicating to audiences – both for on-air and in the writing of copy – exist and are readily available. And when I say superior, I mean more listenable, more appealing, and more effective. Radio has made no shifts in how it communicates, especially with “direct response” ads. Those chaotic, corporate consolidations of yore crippled any chance of that.
I remember I did promise some further explanations of the methods I have been buffing in this space for quite some time.
The alternate to dropping the “you” from our on-air and copywriting approaches accomplishes a few worthwhile, important, and more influential results.
— Dropping the “you” eliminates the overt insistence that an unknown individual listener has been contacted directly – a deeply insulting and counter-productive piece of communicative business.
— The “you,” the use of which is so pervasive in radio as to never have been identified or challenged, requires other forms of the communicative process as more effective replacements.
To anyone willing to seriously consider the alternatives, a world of options opens up. Not only are there more choices, every one of them is more listenable and powerful. This then, is an invitation to “the willing” to strap in and hang on – as things are about to get weird.
The relief from using the second person (“you”) is in the application of the “third person.” Those of us who can still dredge up our book-larnin’ days in grade school will remember “third person” as a person, place, or thing – specified or unspecified – singular or plural.
Here is a very simple second person-based (“you”) sentence:
“You can easily think of a tasty cat.”
A third-person alternate that eliminates the “you” could be:
“Anyone (someone, a person, a listener, an individual etc.) can easily think of a tasty cat.”
Now, for a reader or a listener to understand and derive some meaning from both of those sentences, they are required to go through a language-processing behavior that is automatic and accomplished at the unconscious level.
The high falutin’ term for this process is “transderivational search.” The (TDS) process is also understood by transformational grammarians, in the field of psycholinguitics, clinical hypnosis, by the neuro linguistic-gang, and by some high-end ad agencies.
A reader/listener, in order to begin understanding the sentence, is, first, compelled to generate some internal representation of a “cat.” When no other contexts or modifying or descriptive words are supplied, the possibilities for each individual listener/reader are endless – and likely unique for each person.
But then, there is that pesky ambiguity “tasty.” Is that a reference to a cat with “class” or is it about a cat that is delicious coming off a fork? Unless more information is provided, that determination will come only from the individual who is processing the sentence.
And it gets stranger still. I could have said: “Even a cabbage can easily think of a tasty cat.”
While ridiculous as a real-life prospect, a listener/reader will still have to go through the TDS process to get their unique, internal representation of some particular cat. And it will be a different cat from others generated by different individuals.
While the examples could continue, this TDS process eliminates any need or practical use of the pervasive, unconnected, intrusive, and resented application of second person (“you”). People will process the sentences!
Please appreciate: This process – now labeled as a “TDS” – is not a matter of choice. There are no options. We all run it – all the time. Speakers, listeners, and readers are compelled by how they endeavor to understand our language, to apply this wholly unconscious behavior.
In his most recent article, Roy H. (“The Wiz”) Williams demonstrates, along with other elements, another facet of the potential of radio communications. This one takes advantage of listeners’ capacity to engage in developing subjective, momentary realities for themselves. Those who appreciate, understand, and can generate examples of this phenomenon will have opportunities to render extraordinarily influential material for radio audiences.
I presume the prime directive of radio advertising remains: To influence listeners to buy the products and services of our advertisers that they would not otherwise purchase without the influence of advertising.
To accomplish that – to a more powerful and effective degree – radio is going to engage in some significant re-thinking, and effective retooling on our part.
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the ’60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. E-mail him at [email protected]