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Ron Robinson

Assumptions, Arts & Crafts


Over the years, radio has been making three main assumptions.

The first of these I have covered and am sure I will be doing so again and again. That being the assumption that radio is a one-to-one medium. Nonsense. Never was. Isnt now. Wont ever be. Ill remind again: Its about being personable, not personal.

The second is that radio is a demand medium. That is to say, a medium through which we can tell people what to do without consequences to ourselves. Even those (listeners) who might be more responsive to authority than others can often figure out situations where there is no authority. Radio disc jockeys and radio pitchmen are definitely in this category. Those presenters who do make the attempt, run the risk of having me reach out and throttling them if only I were there in the same environment.

The third assumption is that we can motivate or influence an audience with the most crude and basic linguistic and presentation applications. We so dumb down our on-air and commercial presentations often without even being aware of our own transgressions until even the stations cat can only fake an inkling of interest.

The first two assumptions, to change to more useful strategies, require a decision and some training. The third assumption requires some new understandings and a fairly substantial amount of training to execute the alternatives properly. The assumptions that follow and that I have not articulated do, however, fall neatly into place.

Radio addressing these issues is no longer an option for casual consideration. Our current state is one which demands immediate attention! Our position of dead last in the plethora of major media requires we get educated and get active as if the building was on fire! We must power up.

We are in such a sorry condition that the other major media dont even bother to launch campaigns against us. As in rating books of other days, we show up as other. We are not a threat to their business. We are unworthy of any particular wariness. (The 5 percent of advertising revenue that radio does enjoy(?) is, to other media, an inconsequential matter of spilled beer.)

Meanwhile, I am obliged to confirm that the vast majority of broadcasters accept the above situation as, if not acceptable, then one which is not subject to change. This should not come as much of a surprise to some as we humans have a marvelous, but still spooky, propensity to justify anything so long as it matches our already-existing beliefs and values. And self-propelled challenges to our own beliefs and values are extremely rare phenomena, indeed.

Of the hundreds of people with whom I have worked in radio, there have been few who I would elevate to the highest levels as performers. I have worked with many bright, witty, and clever folks who, when it came time to flash those chops on-the-air, the best they could do was to demonstrate the mechanics the basic skills that every presenter picks up, as much through a process of osmosis as through any formal training.

Extremely talented and effective folks, meanwhile, are still cleared as targets to marauding management desperate to cut costs. That audiences and advertisers are being scammed in the process seems not to be a matter for any serious contemplation. The easily expected results loss of ratings, loss of revenue, loss of advertiser credibility through an inability to produce effective advertising at the local level, and dropping rates all come with a cacophony of wails and whining that are claimed to be viable and justified.

In the years that radio was one of the top three advertising media print/outdoor, television, radio we could (and did) get away with just about anything. Reach and frequency seemed to be more than enough. This just in: Its not 1985 any more.

Years ago, one of the owners of a chain of stations blew into town to stroke the plebes and count the profits. At the time, I was enjoying unprecedented 19 percent shares in afternoon drive with bigger quarters than the morning show. (By then, I had been applying the techniques and strategies to which I have been alluding for a few years. But, at this station, I did so covertly, in order to stay under the radar.)

Anyway, I was called into the PDs office for my personal McHappy chat and re-introduced to the owner. In the well-rehearsed, patronizing, and arrogant manner that only uninvolved, uninformed, senior management can muster, he asked me, What do you have to do, Ron, to be the best afternoon guy in the market? Without puking on his shoes, I brought up some righteous indignation of my own and answered, Show up.

Radio did well for a time based on the talents abilities to reach and maintain an audience. It had to be that way because we were subjecting our audiences to, and providing our advertisers with, highly questionable products otherwise. Our advantage was in that there were no other sources of tunes or talk than the local radio stations.

Audiences and advertisers have, since then, broken out of the chains in which we held them. They are now free to take their attention and their resources elsewhere. And they wont be enticed back with fewer crumbs of bread or smaller crumbles of cheese. Audiences and advertisers have morphed into bigger, hairier, smarter, more cynical, ravenous rats. We are going to have to provide real meat and lots of it with a choice of condiments. And thats going to take some serious training.

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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