I recently saw the latest Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi.” It was powerful in many ways, not the least of which was because it was the final film for actress Carrie Fisher, who was excellent.
In film, the way to connect with the theater goer is with close-ups of the faces of the actors. It’s powerful and we respond, as human beings, to another person’s face.
When radio was born, people could not see faces, and the connection radio listeners would make would be with people’s voices.
Radio People’s Memories
I belong to a bunch of radio groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. One of the things these groups have in common is a desire to have things be the way they used to be, like they were when they were growing up. (Spoiler Alert: Ain’t gonna happen)
The other thing that they share, is that the memories everyone has that are the most vivid about radio, are about the people’s voices they listened to.
What made their favorite radio station(s) so loved, were the personalities.
What Makes a Voice Attractive?
In the early days of radio, microphones and everything they were connected up to, to transmit the human voice, were by today’s standards, pretty crude. Men with deep, strong, resonating voices were preferred for traveling through the ether.
As technology improved, other voices entered.
Listeners would now find themselves attracted to people who sounded more like they sounded. Research shows that the reason apparently is because it makes us feel like we’re part of a certain social group.
“The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says Dr. Molly Babel, a linguistics professor at the University of British Columbia.
Is a Pleasing Voice More Attractive than a Pleasing Face?
When we hear an appealing voice, our feelings of attraction are heightened. Attractive voices cause us to perceive those individuals with more pleasing personalities.
So, while the real emotion in movies is transmitted via close-ups of the face, on the radio it is the human voice.
So, which is more dominate? A face or a voice?
Turns out, researchers tell us, that “the effects of vocal attractiveness can actually be stronger than the effects of physical attractiveness when each dimension appears alone” (Zuckerman et al., 1991).
Alexa, Siri, Cortana
I’m sure the power of the human voice was not lost on Amazon, Apple or Microsoft as they developed their AI digital voice assistants.
My fiancé Susan gifted me an Echo Dot for Christmas. (I already have been using Siri on my iPhone.) The ease with which it sets up and you begin using it, is remarkable. It quickly becomes a member of the family.
When going to bed our first evening with Alexa in our home, Sue said “Alexa, Good Night.” And Alexa responded with “Good Night, Sweet Dreams.”
Sue came into the bed room walking a cloud beaming how real, how sweet, how comforting it made her feel.
And I knew exactly what she meant.
Anyone who has one of the devices will too.
The power of the personalities on your airwaves are critical to your station’s future success in 2018. How do their voices make your listeners feel?
It can happen in many different ways.
Let me offer a couple of examples: It can be via stationality like the JACK format, (done very well in Nashville) or it can be like the voices and style cultivated by NPR.
It just doesn’t happen by accident.
It takes planning and continuous execution of the plan.
The Battle for Attention
In the end, every form of media is battling for attention.
And to paraphrase the lesson taught in “The Last Jedi,” radio needs to stop trying to defeat what it hates about the competition and save what it loves about radio.