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Ron Robinson

As The Clutter Sputters


The most important thing that radio, especially corporate radio, has not become over the last 20 years is: better. Were public safety and air travel services to be directed by corporate radio, few of us – particularly the knowing group of radio’s own ownership and management – would ever fly again!

Corporate radio swapping responsibilities with the FAA could result in aircraft heading for Duluth being controlled from a mainframe in Tampa with automated, voice-tracked pilot instructions originating from Delhi, India. Aircraft would be guided to taxi and offload in the Wal-Mart parking lot across the highway. Minnesota-bound passengers might be alarmed to hear a heavily-accented, lilting, pre-recorded voice come over the cabin intercom saying, “We are most pleased to inform you we are coming down rapidly into the city of Alboo-queer-cue. In order to service our debt and lower costs, we will be skillfully landing on only two wheels.”

Further, well-trained, professional cabin attendants would be replaced with grocery clerks on a part-time, minimum-wage basis. Passengers would be welcomed aboard, herded to their seats with the aid of cattle prods, and invited to text the name of their favorite song to the flight crew.

Meanwhile, a number of radio folk have communicated to me that my criticisms might just be a tad too harsh. They point to talented folk who are typing (mostly) the hype, but who, occasionally – given the chance – can come up with some interesting and entertaining spots. I remind those who take this position, as an overall defense of the trade, that the exceptions are called “exceptions” because they are so few. Sometimes, it’s all I can do to avoid becoming hysterical in my criticisms. Fortunately, I have a couple of editors – one who can calm me down by chanting for solemnity. The other has skills in hacking my rhetoric to a point where I can avoid most slanders.

Now, I do understand my spot-scribing peers have yet to be exposed to far superior, communicative alternatives for the creation of the tripe we type. As such, it would be cruel of me to criticize my colleagues for not yet knowing what they need to know to enhance their skills and their careers. And yes, it would be a practical impossibility to expect radio writers to immediately begin generating nothing but gut-busting, explosive, award-winning spots that regale an audience while moving advertiser’s products off the shelves and out of the showrooms in record numbers. “How would I do that?” they could ask. I submit we are obliged to immediately begin a significant transformation of the ways we create those spots. As I have suggested before: Management and Programming have yet to conclude it is the commercials that represent our (radio's) product. Everything else is for attracting audience.

I stridently suggest paying attention to commercial production is the first priority for any radio station – private or corporately owned. This is where the money is – more so than in generating a large, expensive audience and registering killer hours-tuned, quarter-hours, and/or cumes. Even a second-rate, 15th-place station could deliver miracles for their advertisers if the commercial messages they were producing were powerful, stimulating, effectively written, and appropriately delivered. There is nothing more pleasing to a station’s sales rep than hearing those magic words: “How did you guys do that!? Can we do it again, please!?”

It matters little to me which department gets addressed first. It could be on-air, creative, or both. The techniques and strategies I propose are consistent in their application to both programming and spot generation. My first intuition leads me, however, to where the dollars reside.

Since radio management will not be allowed to run the airlines or air traffic control, they might consider returning to their own knitting. I have proposed before that a generally accurate mission statement for commercial radio could be rendered as: “We intend to make the most money possible in the shortest time possible by delivering the least expensive products and services possible while avoiding being tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail – if possible.”

When I was originally being trained to do counseling and coaching work, I was also taught to accommodate my clients’ well-formed outcomes by sometimes introducing hypnotic techniques in the coaching environments. At first, I was expecting to be learning to behave like Reveen or Svengali. What I got were techniques to assist individuals in altering, transforming, or otherwise adjusting their own internal states. I was impressed by how respectful of the client the strategies were. I was also amazed at how easy, after some serious, dedicated learning and practice, the techniques were to apply.

As we continue to consider the current state of radio, I urge anyone in a position of authority or influence to realize how over 90 percent of the commercials that will be cut tomorrow will be exactly the same as those produced in 1964. Same approaches. Same phrases. Same deals from the advertisers. Same concepts. Same vocal deliveries. The only differences will be in the price points. By the way, those same spots weren’t all that compelling or effective in 1964, either.

Maintaining our status quo will only reinforce the position that radio has, indeed, topped off and tapped out. The only way up and out of these intolerable doldrums, to my mind, is in the application of new knowledge and the acquisition of new (to radio) skills.

During one of my training sessions, I remember my trainer saying, “The most appropriate and useful purpose of applying hypnotic techniques is not to put you into a trance – but to get you out of the one you have been in for far, far too long.”

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 counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website

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