(By Ronald Robinson) Mine has been a long, and only occasionally arduous, radio journey. For the 16 years before my unexpected Really Big Epiphany, I had been talkin’ dirty an’ playin’ the hits with an acceptably loose set of performance guidelines. The following 30 years started with a crossing-the-Rubicon experience that generated a new set of personal intentions re: radio.
These were threefold: Identify the internal aspects of radio that have continuously been sabotaging the medium; provide the alternatives that provide greater effectiveness with audiences; and enhance the results for advertisers by providing more influential commercial copy.
For decades, I had held out the hope that radio’s leaders would consider the materials, apply some critical thinking, and proceed to make the necessary adjustments. There has always been the possibility that a few leaders would do a little independent research and begin applying some of the principles.
Based on my ongoing education and my direct radio experience in on-air and copywriting activities, I was compelled to come to many conclusions that were absolutely contrary to so many of the traditional aspects of communicating to a radio audience. The linguistic distinctions I have been making along the way have all been tested on the air and in copy, and are also reinforced by scientific researchers including neurology and other related fields. Any forms of “woo-woo” have been rejected.
I admit to having continuously been stymied and aghast at the wholesale reluctance of radio’s leadership to even consider the alternative approaches that have been laid out for them – for so long. I did realize, at some point early on, that I had chosen an amazingly strenuous task in the attempt to hoe this row. I thought I was bringing these new methodologies into lush and fertile valleys featuring rich meadows of adoring acceptance. However, I was chagrined by gradually coming to understand I had entered the valley only to find an abandoned gravel pit. Yet, I chose to scrape into barren rock anyway. (Besides, it’s what all the smart people would do.)
So, throwing myself a meager, self-serving pity party with flat Cokes and stale chips becomes a worthless gesture. I could, however, drag out the ol’ Stomach Steinway and play the Woe Is Me Polka. But, I won’t. This is because there is no utility in doing so.
Meanwhile, assuming that confession is, if not good for the soul then an aid to digestion, I am obliging myself to being aware of my continuous and harsh criticisms of the communicative, or rather, the lack of useful communicative aspects that have been pervasive in commercial radio for decades.
My criticisms, to be more precise, have been targeted at those who have been – even if unknowingly – participating in the perpetuation of tragically limiting ideologies and attendant dogmas that are still being driven into radio’s leadership and rank-and-file employees. So ubiquitous have these commandments-from-the-radio-ether become, almost no one within the industry even bothers to offer up a question, never mind a challenge.
Further, a number of radio professionals – people who have credibility with me – have suggested that my comments, but mostly my approach, have been “wayyy too negative.” As a courtesy to them, and with the possibility they may actually be supplying wise counsel, I have paused to consider their contentions.
Now, if I hadn’t been providing alternative strategies and methodologies to move the communicative aspects of the industry forward, I am satisfied I would be compelled to reconsider my approach.
A Chief Petty Officer barges past bridge security and hollers, “Torpedo off the port bow!” Does the officer of the deck, instead of lunging to take immediate evasive action, pause to write the Chief up for “insubordination”?
Therefore, my resolution for the New Year – assuming continued management and editor tolerance – is: To continue chirping at radio’s leadership in the hope that one of them, with their capacity for objective, critical thinking intact, will consider the alternatives. Vague attempts at satire will also continue.
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]