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Ron Robinson

Strange Use Of Time

I grew up in this business surrounded, no, inundated by dogma. Of course, it wasnt called that. Nor did I recognize it as such. It was presented more as an introduction to radio traditions. What follows, then, is a consideration of one of those traditions that was foisted, mainly, on salespeople and those who were vociferously plotting exit strategies the folks in the creative departments. This condition continues in full force today.
Sales and creative department staffs those that remain are still obliged to meet with a prospective client in order to gather as much information about the clients business as can be stuffed into a sturdy briefcase. This practice is observed because it a.) Generates the kind of information that will be turned into riveting commercial content; b.) Gets the salesperson and the writer out of the station for many hours; c.) Leaves a very distinct impression with the client that this station is one that really cares; and, d.) Strokes the client as being someone who is important and can provide critical input.
Other than getting out of the station for a reprieve, these practices might be complete wastes of everybodys time. While I can, but only to a degree, appreciate the sucking up portion of the strategy, these behaviors go a long way to guaranteeing the campaign and the spots are going to suffer. The ROI for the station will be questionable. The same could be said for the clients participation.
I know of too many situations where salespeople and writers have camped out at some retailers location. They follow the principal around like puppies waiting for treats, taking notes and hoping for intricate and enlightening details to drop like sweet manna. If only, the reps muse, we could get that nugget of information that difference that makes the difference, we could cobble together a spectacular, long-term campaign, making of our client and ourselves Big-Time Winners!
And on it goes grocery shopping for the dealers spouse, taking their kids to school, picking up the dry cleaning and getting back to the distribution depot in time to spend a few hours getting a feel for that part of the business. All this, I remind, to make an advertising campaign that, uhhh stands out, gets through the clutter, moves product and, uhhhstuff  like that there. None of this exercise is particularly efficient or useful. All of it could be avoided.
I stress could because I aint no dummy, neither. Real life at real or semi-real radio stations dictates that any viable alternative is, practically, unavailable. The alternative is conditional on one thing: The abilities to effectively communicate to a broadcast audience. From my perspective radio has yet to even begin the process of learning how to do that not precisely, effectively, and with an audience-retaining appeal. To put it another way: At generating superior, advertising messaging, radio continues as the benchmark for how to pooch it all up. It is no overstatement to say that radio advertising messaging ranks among the worst examples of communications relative to other, professional, electronic media. Rare exceptions of some terrific spots notwithstanding, radio has a very long row to hoe before we can provide our salespeople with the products and services they need to back up any claims they may be itching to make.
An article by a respected member of the radio clan urges salespeople to (I paraphrase): Get their confidence on. Of course, that is hardly a debating point made with bells clanging to mark the occasion. Most individuals will be operating under some personally perceived or demonstrated limitation or other, and if mustering up a useful batch of enthusiasm and confidence is part of their own requirements, they are welcome to apply any philosophy or technique that might be of some assistance in acquiring such a desired state. What would also be very nice is if the salesperson had some confidence-inducing, effective messaging to take to the street.
Meanwhile, back to the massive info-gathering portion of sales presentations. This process should take no more than five minutes and include only these questions:
1.)   What is it about your business that makes it unique or outstanding?
2.)   What, specifically, do you want to advertise?

Everything that would be useful to a salesperson and a writer will be revealed through the answers to those two questions. Everything.
Unless the requested information to the first question is immediately available, the correct answer is, Nuthin much. For example: There is no point trying to manufacture unique benefits or values for the automotive dealer principal when those unique, superior benefits or values relative to competitors do not exist.
If the answer to the second question is not readily available, there is always the necessary, default position of getting something On Sale! Practically, thats often all there ever is, anyway.
Radio has this belief that getting inside the clients business is a worthy exercise. Again, it may impress the client (not something to be disregarded altogether), but still no more than a social, albeit somewhat of a manipulative exercise. The Radio Waltz.
These would/could be useful and applicable points, but only if skilled and knowledgeable writers are available. The answer to the first question leaves but one approach: branding. Going the on sale route requires spots that are both appealing as well as effective. Straight yell & sell cripples everything within hearing distance. Yes, the approach can and does work to some degree. But, man, everybody pays a heavy price for it client, radio station, audience. Too bad that salespeople who are writing their own spots cant be taught effective writing and an understanding of the medium over a weekend. Too bad reps spend so much time gathering information they cant use.

Best to keep the camping gear handy.

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