Radio’s Unrealized Power And Glory 


(By Ronald Robinson) Radio slinks into the Media Arena Maximus with only two things in mind: staying alive and charging the exits. The second thing is useful contingent on pulling off the first thing. No assurances. Coaches in the underground holding pens encourage combatants to: “Keep your heads up – unless keeping them down works better.”

Radio has been slurping on the hind one for so long, most participants have little memory of circumstances being any different. Radio has also been scrounging for scraps and leftovers for an equal amount of time and is still resentful of those small mercies. “It’s no sumptuous buffet,” whimpers the industry leadership. “But at least we get to keep body and soul together.”

Further, radio has gone to extreme lengths in molding perfectly fitting cement sneakers for itself, and then wonders “What’s happening?” as it launches itself into the deeper parts of the river – where the piranha are leisurely lurking. This, while the practiced groupthink of the razor-toothed predators is, “Not to worry, darling. Dinner will be along directly.” 

Radio, meanwhile, implements a strategy of, “Well, maybe because we look so emaciated we might appear particularly unappetizing and they will ignore us.” But wouldn’t you just know it? The piranha tribes maintain their enviable positions by eating, uh, everything!

Okay, that was fun, but only for me – although reluctantly so. Radio operators, however, could swipe a line from my sainted, Scottish mother-in-law: “That’s no funny.” Nobody enjoys having an already cracked mirror held up, especially when people are in their ugly mode.

But hark! There is, in all of this, a ray of sunshine that doesn’t have to be pounded up any particular orifice, but that can be enjoyed for the benefits of its light, heat, and radioactive nourishment. So, here is the good news: Radio has an innate power!

Harnessing and directing this amazing power can lead to extraordinary amounts of even greater influence than that which it is currently experiencing. Even better ROI? Yes indeedy!

The following are holdovers from the most recent surge of “Nerd Alerts.” Again, these are broader generalizations — to avoid arguments about a few exceptions and any sniveling that might crop up. 

So. All electronic media impact on human beings in similar fashions. Radio has delivery and production advantages because it is an audio only electronic medium. Electronic media are impacting, literally, as emotion-generating sources. Credible neuro rocketologists have also been demonstrating for an embarrassing (for radio) amount of time that radio messaging, primarily, bypasses the critical thinking (rational) capacities of our brains and zeros in on our emotion-processing capacities. 

That’s how, when delivered through electronic media, truth can take an extended holiday and facts have only to schlep the luggage. That may sound somewhat sinister, but many exploiters are being sinister with their electronically delivered messaging. Radio doesn’t help the exploiters all that much because radio doesn’t yet know how to do it!

Radio, generally and practically, only wants to attract and hold bigger audiences and to have those listeners buying more stuff — demonstrating greater effectiveness for advertisers. Radio only has two elements on which to concentrate: We have been trained to talk to a single member of the audience. We would be far better served to talk at the obviously unknown and unspecified members of that audience; and, the included noises (sfx & bg tunes) to support the spoken messaging.

Operators who have yet to become aware of, and implement, these principles are missing extraordinary opportunities. It is incumbent on them to become aware of, learn, embrace, and then, apply the principles of more effective communications. Radio – both on-air and in ad production – is (comparatively) so incredibly inexpensive to present! There are NO acceptable justifications for walking away from such opportunities or responsibilities.

The way advertisers, and the ad world in general, consider radio, reminds me of those exciting, thoroughly entertaining centuries when the Roman Empire took such gore-splashing glee while sacrificing members of despised Christian cults — at the time, labeled by the Romans as “atheists” — as a murderous form of pro sports, where beer, pizza, cavorting slaves, unimagined cruelties and wagering kiosks were also provided. The Caesars knew how to keep the throngs thoroughly engaged. Radio, unfortunately, enjoys no such knowledge and, therefore, makes no such valuable and motivating distinctions.

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.


  1. Besides HOW, specifically, we talk AT, not TO our audiences, the only other things about which to be concerned are the included noises (sfx & bg tunes) to support the spoken messaging.
    So, The Mission can be put quite simplistically: To begin generating much better communications.

  2. Few could argue with Sanford’s contention that more creative would be, uh, more better.
    While a terrific approach anyway, this has never been my main contention.

    My contention has always been: Radio MUST learn to be more EFFECTIVE in the delivery of all spoken messaging. Creative would also be nice, too. The latter without the former would be lacklustre in its impact.

    There is Power in the wording – but that’s only a potential – until those words, phrases and sentences are are chosen with knowledge, skills and forethought.
    In other words: It ain’t all that easy. A small, but still useful, change in the attitude towards creative “creative” will not deliver the needed results.

  3. In the world of fashion there’s a saying “everything old is new again”. While station owners like me can whistfully long for the days when stations sold for 3x gross the truth is no matter how good we do nobody’s buying. However, using Ron’s advice you can still have a really good business if you practice the art of stimulating Commerce with the ads you create for your clients. Teenagers and 20 somethings may not care but there’s still plenty of 40+ adults that do. Don’t bore the audience with your lifeless ads and repetitive programming and you can still make it profitable.


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