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Monday, August 25, 2014

(TALENT) Harsher Realities


In recent editorials, respected Radio Ink publisher Eric Rhoads offered a pair of admonitions about radio needing a massive PR campaign in order to ?tell the story.? He also suggested radio cut back on its now-common practice of airing large numbers of commercials in single clusters. Even as I contribute at the pleasure of Eric and editor Ed Ryan, I am obliged to submit a ?not yet? to the former and a ?not enough? to the latter.

Eric is, indeed, a well-known and appreciated cheerleader for radio. Yet, even the worst team in the NFL can field a squad of attractive and highly skilled cheerleaders and the team can still get waxed during play ? often on national TV ? in front of everybody. That has been radio?s experience. Great PR and marketing will not change the score. Nor will tinkering with the design of the uniforms put any more points on the board.

Trying to cajole radio?s ownership and management into taking on new behaviors is like applying ?reason? to dissuading crack-heads. They aren?t listening; they don?t care and they will consider only those changes that suit them. Cutting back a smidge on that ?crack thingie? is a concept that only moves the tragedy a little further into the future.

Yes, when the planets do align, radio can be extraordinary for audiences and advertisers. However, since aligned ?planets? are made up of a properly targeted and loyal audience, superior presentations of content, an effective time-buy, and exceptional commercial messaging, the chances of planet-synchronicity on any regular basis are slim indeed. In fact, were it not for the innate, embedded power of the electronic nature of radio, and given the incompetence regularly demonstrated by programmers, commercial developers and on-air presenters, we wouldn?t have audiences to under-serve or clients to mercilessly abuse and exploit. We get lucky every day despite our best attempts at sabotage.

Our friend Roy H. Williams contends that everything that needs to be said about how to generate more-listenable and effective commercials has already been said. He is mostly correct. However, all of that ? and more ? needs to be said again and again. Maybe Roy is just tired of saying it. He could base any fatigue on the tawdry ignorance (as in ?ignore?) of the people to whom he has been constantly and enthusiastically addressing.

I mention that as a precursor to the notion that no matter how fewer spots get loaded into phusterclucks of commercials, the results and subtle retaliatory responses from audiences and advertisers will not be encouraging. Poop can be piled and it can be spread out. Either way, it?s still crap. We (trainers and coaches) are going to have to thoroughly, expertly, and quickly educate, train, and demand demonstrations of abilities from a staff on how, specifically, to generate more listenable and more effective commercial and on-air content. Any radio organization providing extraordinary and consistent results from those efforts will, only then, be able to start piecing together a legitimate ?story.?

In the meantime, I urge Eric, and others who participate as the influential personalities who make up the cadre of radio?s leadership, to consider and respond to different, more important, and harsher realities ? none of which have anything to do with distribution platforms, lipstick placement, whiz-bang technologies. or more content.

Radio has become little more than just another (relatively) easily available distribution platform ? one with extremely questionable content. No surprise here, as radio has systematically and cynically eliminated from its ranks ? with extreme prejudice ? those very folk who used to generate much of the programming and commercial content.

This is not to suggest that those writers and presenters who are now among our departed, discarded, performing brothers and sisters could be re-engaged, and be able to thwart the downward trending of radio as a desirable advertising medium. Nor could they operate as generators of enthusiasm and loyalty from audiences. They do not have the knowledge or skills required for today?s viciously competitive radio environments.

With respect, I suggest that to follow through on the suggestions provided by Eric (and others) is to ignore the more critical and fundamental issues. Like metastasizing tumors seething under the surface, gradually corrupting the capacity of radio to attract and hold audiences, and to influence those audiences on behalf of advertisers, these are issues that cannot be ignored.

If radio is to rise and prosper again, fundamental changes are going to have to be implemented. Unfortunately, there are very few of us who can fully demonstrate, educate, train, and coach a staff to inject these new and necessary strategies and methodologies into their behaviors. This means there are radio organizations who will discount, disregard, and delay introducing that which is required, fiddle around with already-failed approaches and, in due course, suffer the consequences of their reticence and inactivity.

I believe firmly that managers refuse to have this conversation with me (or others who might also be in a position to perform the required interventions) for but one reason: If I am convincing enough after an intense and lengthy discussion, it would be incumbent on management to go, ?Oh, s***! Now we have to do something!?

Unless definitive steps are taken ? things will only get worse. No change in the color scheme of team uniforms is going to change that. Nor is any big-city PR firm going to be able to pimp radio out as a legitimate and powerful, self-generating, self-sustaining entertainment/informational and advertising medium. Today, it is not.

As there are numbers of people in radio?s leadership who are astute and thoughtful individuals, I strongly urge them to think hard and long on these matters, with an understanding that a useful ?reality? is one that is more than just perceived. It is demonstrated! Harsh, but true.

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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