Nerd Alert II: This Is Not A Drill


(By Ronald Robinson) While a number of readers who were considering my most recent, Nerd Alert: Intensifying Tenses, were kind in their emailed responses, I am wondering why none of them went so far as to suggest they were committing to applying the technique right away. Drastic transformations in radio’s communications models are the first necessities.

I have been told – through their emails – that their station’s main priority is maintaining sales. While an understandable and reluctantly taken position, I am compelled to assert the most this strategy will be accomplishing is delaying an inevitable decline in revenues.

One of my respondents was particularly candid and volunteered that station managers were “distracted” so much they were unable to deal with any other clearly advantageous opportunities. He also speculated there was a lot of “laziness” within the ranks. Again, as those are reasonably accurate comments, the situation in which radio finds itself is still not alleviated.

To be candid, I am still unconvinced that ownership has even begun to accept the responsibility – the need – to start making drastic improvements in the processes of actually communicating more effectively to a radio audience. The available strategies, to be worthwhile, must apply to both on-air presentations and the writing of commercials, especially locally produced spots.

(Enter: Nerd Alert From Alert Nerd.)

As demonstrated before in this space, and from other credible sources, people, including radio listeners, are constantly processing externally provided, sensory input. From this, we derive meanings. We do this unconsciously and by applying those processes in the form of another set of internally generated, sensory representations. It is entirely subjective and everybody’s doing it – all the time. Anybody who is not processing the inputs is of no concern to radio’s management. This would be mostly because that individual would be dead!

That process actually has a technical name: “Doug.” Okay, that’s not it. The real name is Transderivational Search. Another name that is far less expensive is “Thinking.” Every communicator in every medium has the opportunity to influence the one receiving the messaging to think different, like, y’know?

Every message we receive from the outside world arrives in a sensual modality. That is, we hear something, see something, something physically touches us, we smell something, and/or we taste something. Only after processing that information do we also generate feelings – depending on how we execute the transderivational search. Since that thinking thingy is pervasive, it would behoove on-air presenters and copywriters to a.) become aware of the processes, and b.) apply the information to their vocations.

As a broad but useful generalization, very few on-air presenters and radio copywriters ever meet adjectives or adverbs they shouldn’t avoid. I mean, supplying those kinds of descriptives in copy only takes time away for one more piece of product, or puts a jock over their on-air time limit.

Meanwhile, since Linguistic Rocketologists are, and have been, demonstrating the principle all day for years, I think I’ll take a poke at it, too. We begin with the word “dog.”

  • For a person to derive any meaning from the word, they are automatically compelled to do a TDS, and establish an internal, subjective visual of some or other cur.
  • Next, adding the word “snarling” generates a further audio portion and adjusts any original internal image. Some internal feelings are developing.
  • Throwing in the adverb “viciously” starts generating more intense feelings in the individual hearing the communication.
  • Expanding the description, a communicator adds: “… with damp, matted, foul-smelling fur” – another modifying and enhancing visual and an aromatically splendid (olfactory) addition.
  • Might as well get crazy… “The enraged, wild-eyed animal is drooling over titanium-capped fangs.”

This description is a subjectively unique process to anyone who is exposed to the messaging. What is significant is how the feelings of a listener would be intensifying with each additional element. I am satisfied that only a few radio operators acknowledge how feelings are the prime motivators for buying, especially when delivered through electronic media. 

By the way, the dog I was describing was a cute, but still crazed, little Shih Tzu named “Muffy.” Other readers were (likely) forming, in their imaginations, a different breed altogether. (The Nerd Alert is now suspended.)

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. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to talent and creative, have yet to be addressed.


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