Which Is More Effective – Content Or Process? 


(By Ronald Robinson) As memory serves (my addled-by-radio mind) the following has never been the subject of a conversation, a serious discussion, or a knock down, drag ‘em out argument in the parking lot. It wasn’t until several pennies and a couple of quarters dropped that I began paying attention to the particulars of how, specifically, we were communicating to our audience.

Now, before anyone gets a little antsy while expecting a test and a requirement to make a decision, please appreciate that obviously both elements — content and process — are necessary. Only, one usually gets left at the side of a lonely road with its thumb out.

Years ago, and I mean many years ago, radio’s position on advertising was spelled out to me. Of course, based on my months of experience, I accepted it fully and for the years that followed, I held it close to my bosom. This, more or less, was it: “We (radio) produce commercials that list products, services, benefits, and prices. After that, it is up to consumers to decide which businesses they want to support.” Nifty, huh?

I submit that very premise continues to this day — usually unarticulated, but still ingrained in the radio culture. If only that’s all there was to it.

In the meantime, other far more sophisticated producers of advertising had figured out decades ago that, to be effective, they had to produce advertising that contained much more than “content.” They had to provide advertising that was influential! And that required paying attention to “process” — those elements of communication that go far beyond generating a list of products/services/benefits and pricing.

Astute readers will have, by now, noticed that sophisticated producers of advertising spend a minimal amount of time and/or space on the advertiser’s content elements. And yes, clients do tend to go ape-snake crazy when their product/price info is hardly mentioned in a creative spot.

“Where’s the product list?” hollers the frustrated advertiser. “I want the price points hammered!” they blurt. The more aggressive auto dealers demand, “I want them (customers) to know if they don’t buy, they die!” They sometimes add, “I pay for yelling and selling!” 

Stations’ sales reps serving local markets are in vulnerable circumstances and, by and large, are forced to defer to the whims and demands of local advertisers. Most of the reps take this to be standard operating procedure, and really, don’t mind at all. This is because most station reps are completely unaware of any alternatives. Besides, who needs the hassle?

The process is about generating influential advertising, and the process is multi-faceted. Learning, understanding, and applying process is no instant undertaking. Nor is it a plug-and-play gizmo that can be downloaded.

It only makes sense to begin appreciating how a combination of content and process is required to take radio advertising to the next, necessary level. I emphasize “necessary” because to do otherwise will only serve to keep radio in the position it currently occupies — last in advertiser desirability and, for too many advertisers, a nuisance buy.

I acknowledge the many professionals in radio, particularly those in sales management, who recognize and bemoan the astonishing lack of dynamic and more effective spots available to them at the local level.

The first and, granted, simplistic approach to more effective radio can be shown as:

  • Gain audience attention.
  • Generate and maintain an emotional response.
  • Introduce product or service.
  • Influence an audience to make the purchase.

The process, therefore, is about how to, specifically, construct the communications elements that will deliver on those four (above) elements.

Content and process work in concert. The more accurate and useful representation would be:

Content + PROCESS = Influence. (Accept no substitutes.)

Given that radio, almost pervasively, is missing one of those elements, it should come as no shock that radio, generally, is also missing out on the opportunities to generate even greater Influence. And revenues.

Further, it might be reasonable to consider how the ROI’s radio does enjoy from time to time are, simply, not enough to generate greater prosperity!

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]


  1. I believe, “Will B”, that’s how Howard Stern took it in the ear – a number of times.
    By the way, I claim no expertise in the sales field. I defer to other rock-solid professionals who are far more proficient than I.
    I do, however, rely on my education and experience in psychological counselling, communications, programming, along with significant successes on-air and in copywriting. Remember either of those?
    Meanwhile, I do find myself quickly tiring of arguing with any anonymous troll – even as it can be quite entertaining. But, not for long.

  2. “Will B” comes off like the Trump-voter who will not consider any challenging evidence because it contradicts an already-existing belief.
    Owners and managers have been waving their “Radio Does Not Suck” freak flags for so long, I believe they have forgotten they are being used as a marketing dodge.

    As to being too old to change: Change what, or to what, specifically? Would that include an acceptance of the sorry status quo?
    The working, generalized reality, however, is, and may remain: Radio, verily, doeth sucketh – large.
    Besides, it’s in all the papers. 🙂

    • Robinson reminds every radio boss of the nasty little DJ that he took pleasure in firing.

      “That was it. I dragged him into my office, looked him in his weasel eyes, my rectum tightened up, and I fired him!”

  3. Mr. Robinson,

    It’s a pity that you’ve never worked as a full-time advertising salesman for a station that is not a “nuisance buy” for advertisers. Unknown to you, there are plenty of local (and national) advertisers who assign the majority of their ad dollars to radio. They don’t consider it to be “a nuisance”-they view it as essential, and willingly point to radio as a vital partner in the success of their business.

    You appear to suffer from RDS..Radio Derangement Syndrome. Symptoms include the incessant critique of radio’s every advertising move, a neurotic display of media inferiority complex, a paranoia towards radio salesmen and stations who run a lot of price/item advertising, and an arrogance (unwarranted) directed at radio people who have been far more successful than you have.

    We are in the midst of some changes in how various media will command media dollars, but that doesn’t mean bad things ahead for terrestrial radio if the service plays it’s strong suits well.

    Instead of mocking advertisers and what they demand, try to realize that those copy requests are made from witnessing events, and how well they worked. The production tricks that entertain your sort have nothing to do with ROI–paid for by the advertisers. You simply like “atta boys” from your peers, most of whom have never owned a business or paid for a radio ad. But, maybe you’re too old to change.


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