A Cure For The Out-Of-Control Virus: IMEWEUS
by Tracy Johnson
A virus that has spread through radio stations and personality shows all over the world. Left untreated, it threatens to destroy. It starts slowly. We don’t even notice it’s there. Gradually, day by day, break by break, it spreads. It’s called IMEWEUS.
Over time, symptoms emerge. Time spent listening goes down. Research indicates fewer “favorites” and Top of Mind Awareness is lower.
The IMEWEUS Virus
IMEWEUS is a real thing. It is a condition of self-absorbed chatter that’s all about us.
IMEWEUS is performing with an over-use of the words “I,” “Me,” “We” and “Us.”
Air personalities push listeners away from their show when it sounds like it’s about us, not them. Segments and stories becomes internal rather than external.
Listen to your show carefully, and identify how often content is presented from an inside perspective. It will surprise you. In some cases, it shocks programmers.
You’ll hear a lot of symptoms for this horrendous, debilitating virus. Here are a couple of the most common:
- Qualifying statements, rather than powerful, statements. For example, when a personality says, “I think that…” or “It seems to me that…”, a barrier goes up between the audience and the personality.
Imagine a personality that says, “I think all restaurants should have a special section for families with kids under age 4 so they don’t ruin dinner for everyone else.” Okay, that’s nice. It’s a good topic and a valid opinion. But it’s not nearly as strong as saying, “All restaurants should be forced to have a special section for families with young kids.”
Just say it. Don’t qualify a powerful statement or opinion by adding “I…” to it. If you just say it, they recognize it’s your opinion. But it’s so much stronger to state it as an absolute. Plus, it adds extra words, weakens the power of the statement and turn the spotlight on you.
- Another problem is using phrases that make it sound like we have an agenda. Using words like “We’ve got your tickets…” or “We want to send you to Hawaii…” are typical examples.
Reality check: You’re not doing listeners a favor. Listeners don’t want to experience of your generosity any more than you buy a car to experience the dealer’s offer. Replace “We have your” language with “Where you get” language.
The Cure For IMEWEUS
The good news is there is a cure for IMEWEUS. It takes discipline and attention, but you can do it.
If there’s an IMEWEUS problem, the cure starts with awareness. Study air checks and listen for problem areas. Make detailed notes. Knowing there’s a problem is the first step to a cure.
Then, make it a priority to develop new habits with these three steps:
- Set a goal that once in each show you avoid saying the words: “I, Me, We or Us.” This requires concentration and adjustments. It’s hard. You’ll be shocked how often you’re doing it. Then, target one break each hour. Master that, and make the goal once every 30 minutes. Then, try it for a full show without using those words.
- Air Check your own show at least twice a week. Listen intently to a full hour and identify times IMEWEUS creeps in and rephrasing he break could help the show be more relatable. Don’t beat yourself up. Just be aware. This puts it in your subconscious, and will soon cause you to be much more alert for it. This is training by learning new muscle memory for performance.
- Transcribe a break once a week. Print the text. Then re-write it to edit I, Me, We and Us out. Inject the break with more power. More energy. And more relatable YOU. Get details on how and why to transcribe a break here. There’s also a downloadable template that comes in handy.
Bonus Tip: Practice overcoming the bad habits in everyday life, too. It’ll make a big difference in personal relationships. You’ll be more likable, more relatable, more fun to be around and more colorful. You’ll become a conversation starter!
Overcoming IMEWEUS Case Study
Curing IMEWEUS can be difficult, but it’s possible. In fact, one client had the worst case of this condition I’ve heard, and we made it work!
My client applied the steps outlined above. Once alerted to the problem, it was painful to sit through the breaks. But we powered through the process, re-writing the transcripts to make each break more relatable.
Here’s how we reconstructed a break to generate an external, not internal focus:
Here’s the original break:
Last night, my fiancee and I were looking for a place we could have dinner…we tried several restaurants, and couldn’t get a reservation, or it just didn’t sound good to us. Well, after about 20 minutes, I’m going crazy…and just want to eat, already. But I persevered, because you know how she gets…So finally we found this new sushi place let me tell you, we have a new favorite entree…and if you had asked me before we went there, I would have told you I’d NEVER have even THOUGHT about trying it…but I love it. It’s delicious.
Not bad content, and it may even be a great story. The problem is that listeners would never hear it because it’s so self-absorbed. They perceptually tune out quickly and even if there’s a good break coming, listener interest only goes so far. This internal dialogue is simply not relatable.
We can fix this content just by taking the same story and restructuring it to focus on the audience as an entry point:
How great is it when you discover a new food that you once thought was disgusting….but it’s awesome? You know, that food that you THINK you hate, but you never really tried it…then it turns out that you hate yourself because you missed out on all those years of deliciousness? Last night, we were…
This simple adjustment tightened the break and made it more interesting. A big part of that is because it’s listener focused.
More on IMEWEUS
IMEWEUS is a problem, but understand that it’s not the simple, literal elimination of pronouns from your on-air vocabulary. There’s nothing wrong with saying the words I, Me, We And Us. It’s a problem when the focal point becomes internal rather than listener based.
My Audience Magnet online course for radio personalities dedicates a full lesson to IMEWEUS, including exercises and homework to help.
Curing IMEWEUS takes time. It demands a different approach to instilling an external discipline when presenting content. This is critical to the success of your show.
But here’s more good news: It’s not hard to do, it just takes focus to break the habit.
Do you have IMEWEUS? Probably, at least to some extent. Cure it before your show is on life support. It’ll transform your personality.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.