by Tracy Johnson
The key to winning fans is getting attention. And getting attention happens when you create brain-craving content. So understanding a little more about how the brain works could come in handy.
Human beings naturally want things to make sense. When we don’t understand it, we get frustrated. And when frustrated, we run away from that which confuses us.
And today, your listeners are more confused than ever because life is coming at them faster than ever.
Not to mention that everyone is overwhelmed with messages competing for attention. Every minute, more than 4 million new posts appear on Facebook. There are 347,272 tweets (not all of them by Donald Trump) and 1,400 new blog posts.
This is just part of the traffic that targets your listener’s limited brain-space. Each day, more than 5,000 messages attack each audience member, trying to get noticed. That’s an average of a competitor hammering on your target listener every six seconds.
And you? You’re their soundtrack, on in the background to set a mood and come along while they live life in the foreground. That’s a big challenge for radio personalities.
That’s why you must design content to be simple. If it’s not easy to understand and digest, you just don’t have a chance to produce that brain-craving content.
Not sure about that? Here’s proof, from psychologists, behaviorists and others in the sciences, with some important consequences for air personalities.
How you choose words makes a huge difference in how effective you’ll be in retaining listeners, and there are three important aspects of choosing words:
Simplicity: First, the brain really doesn’t like to work hard. When you hear complicated words, it is an invitation to tune out because the human brain wiil take any shortcut it can. On the radio, that shortcut is often punching the button.
On-air performance is not the time to impress your listeners with your huge vocabulary. Keep it simple and clear.
Power Words: One of the goals for personalities should be to drive reaction. If you’re not able to inspire a response (physical or simply engaging their imagination), you’ll never build a fan base.
It’s amazing how audiences respond to the way words are constructued.Some words count more than others. Power words cause the brain to react. Here are three to put in your arsenal:
NEW: Studies of the brain show that the word new releases a shot of dopamine. We’re constantly looking for something new, the next thing. Other words that have the same effect are now, soon and recent.
FREE: Act the fore, everyone is a prize pig. Kind of. Free, or a great deal, provides an emotional charge. An offer of “free” produces a strong response. We feel that we’re getting an advantage, and it makes us feel good. Tests prove that “free” is twice as powerful as “complementary”. It’s also simpler!
SECRETS: Whatever you’re communication is more persuasive if your audience believes it’s not widely available. There are many ways to use this to your advantage, especially in teasing and promoting. You could use terms like, insider, The Confessions of, a sneak peek, behind the scenes or the real story. All of these terms cause us to feel that we’re getting access to something scarce.
One of the reasons I encourage personalities to develop a Character Profile is to find ways to turn up the volume on personality traits. When you do this, you’re usually able to tell more provocative and interesting stories.
Colorful descriptions have a profound effect on how a story is heard. Psychological studies prove this:
Exhibit A: Two groups of people were shown the exact same video fo a car accident. Both were asked how fast they thought one of the cars was going when the cars collided. However the question was phrased differently. One group was asked, “How fast do you think the car was going when they crashed?” Responses averaged 40.8 miles per hour. The other group was asked, “ ow fast do you think the car was going when the cars came into contact?”. They said 31.8 mph. The word “crash” caused respondents to estimate 28% faster. That’s a big difference. The more colorful action word inspired a greater response.
Exhibit B: Once again, there were two groups in separate rooms. Bowls of identical snacks were provided, and they were told they could eat as many as they want. But the snacks were labeled differently. The group eating Fruit Chews ate twice as many as the group eating Candy Chews. The words you use in branding and positioning your content makes a big perceptual difference.
Exhibit C: Again, two groups were asked a simple question. The first group was asked, “Can you smoke while you pray?” 96% said no. The other group was asked, “Can you pray while you smoke?” 97% said yes. How the question was phrased produced an opposite result to essentially the same question.
Because our rain seeks simplicity and avoids confusion, we become creatures of habit that craves the familiar. This is one of the reason locked-in features are such a powerful force for radio stations.
Author Daniel Kahneman says this in his book, Thinking Fast & Slow:
“Listeners default to hard-wired behaviors without giving it any thought.”
He goes on to explain that these responses are automatic, and you probably have dozens of these kinds of decisions without even thinking about it. For example, if someone around you sneezes, you may automatically and quickly respond, “Bless You”. It’s become a habit. An automatic, reflexive behavior.
This is another argument to focus less on quantity and more on quality. Great content that’s over the top that prompts action and is packaged in a familiar surrounding (feature) has a great chance to become an automatic response. That’s when we become part of the listener’s lifestyle.
How your phrase your content is another factor in keeping attention. Here are two examples:
Supporting Claims: The word “because” is described as a compliance trigger that gets listeners to agree with you, or at least understand your point of view.
In an office study, all copiers but one were labeled as out of order, causing a line to form. At different times, someone tried to cut to the front of the line. Here are the results:
When they asked, “Can I cut in front?”, with no explanation, 60% say yes.
However, if they say, “Can I cut in front because I’m in a hurry and have to get this copy?” 94% agreed to let them cut.
And the interesting thing is the reason doesn’t have to be anything major. Saying, “Can I cut in front because I have to make copies?” worked with 93%.
The Information Gap theory: The brain wants stories to be complete. We want to know, Who What When Where Why and How. And you can take advantage of that desire by provoking them to take action to close the Information Gap. This works in teasing and storytelling. Withholding some of the information until the end creates curiosity and adds to the drama.
That’s why Delayed Resolution is such an important part of storytelling.
The more you study how listeners respond, the clearer it becomes: Simple and easy is always more effective. In fact, it’s the key to create brain-craving content. If it’s hard to process, we skip it. It’s too easy to move on and find something we like better. Or, something that’s just easier to digest.
Put these concepts into practice on your show. And let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear the audio.
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