A Radio Communication Combo


(By Ronald Robinson) Here is a portion of a discussion I have been enjoying with a former station owner:

Hi Steve,

Before providing some of the distinctions I promised — a little pre-ramble.

There are many radio guys who would wholeheartedly agree with your staffing and content suggestions. It seems reasonable to presume that audiences would appreciate and support a radio station that was providing such fuller services.

But, would they really? The speculative, but still correct answer has to be: “Sometimes. Maybe and depends.” The final crunch, however, would include: “But, not likely.”

Additional staff providing informational content, as you know, comes with a fairly hefty load on the overhead. Senior managers are constantly arguing for such services to be returned to the airwaves along with “live & local” presenters across all day-parts.

Please note: While such an environment would be desirable, especially to a manager with significant tenure, there is no evidence whatsoever that demonstrates the strategy would actually pay off.

Further, programming coaches and consultants have been trying to figure out the kinds of content and the placement of those elements in order to be more appealing to their target audiences. Getting into music selection, meanwhile, has always been about being sucked into a vortex from which there is no escape. Of course, all those factors need to be addressed, but my assertion has always been that those elements are, practically, of a secondary nature. 

Essentially, those discussions are about CONTENT. That is to say, WHAT, specifically, will be going on the air. And WHEN.

What radio has been ignoring, overlooking or refusing to address for decades is: The PROCESS. In other words, HOW, specifically, is the content to be delivered.

We can consider the implications of the following. Every mechanic at every local auto dealership is better trained in his or her specialty than any on-air presenter or hype-typer in the copy stall. That’s extraordinary! And it is also the case.

During the first 16 years of my on-air career, I was running on raw talent, acquired experience and the traditions of the industry that I had integrated into my understandings and performances.

If quizzed, there was no way I could explain or demonstrate the impact of the spoken word emanating from an electronic medium. Nor did I have educated options on how to render certain information in more powerful, influential, and acceptable manners.

I had no idea, never mind educated understandings, of the impact on listeners of:

  • tonalities
  • timbres
  • differing speeds of delivery
  • the influence of adjectives
  • the power of adverbs
  • the sneaky effects of using different verb tenses
  • the impact of using sensory modalities and descriptives
  • the fact that radio, rather than being a direct medium, is an INdirect medium
  • that radio has no authority and is in no position to make any demands for behaviors
  • that radio never has, isn’t now, and never can be a “one-to-one” experience
  • that audiences understand complex linguistic patterns far better and more than they can reproduce
  • that inferences and subtle implications are more effective than direct instructions.

Each of those points deserve further explanations and working examples which, if to be rendered as useful, applied strategies would need to be addressed in a seminar setting —  with ongoing coaching and a requirement that students demonstrate their abilities.

Any local, music-oriented station, I believe, would literally KILL in their market; would hold audience for longer periods and generate significant return listening, to the point of loyalty. Copywriters employing the same techniques and strategies would be getting gangbuster results for the station’s local advertisers.

All of these techniques and more that have gone unlisted, Steve, are completely foreign to radio; they do not depend on any “creativity” in the presenters. They supply alternative approaches for bread-and-butter on-air deliveries and bread-and-butter spot production. These techniques are about solid, new communicative SKILLS. Anything else of a creative nature would be the bonus, woven in to a presentation.

Adding additional staff for specialty presentations — news, sports, community events etc. — can be considered after the results of training an on-air and writing staff make the exercise viable.

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. Contact Ron at [email protected]


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