A Cure For the IMEWEUS Virus

A Cure For the IMEWEUS Virus

by Tracy Johnson

A virus that has spread through radio stations and personality shows all over the world. It starts slowly. Gradually, day by day, break by break, it spreads. I call it IMEWEUS.

Over time, bad things happen. Time spent listening goes down. Research indicates fewer “favorites” and Top of Mind Awareness is lower.

The Virus

IMEWEUS is a real thing.It is a condition of self-absorbed chatter that’s all about us. It becomes a barrier between the audience and the performer.

So what is it?

IMEWEUS is overuse of personal pronouns, especially the words “I,” “Me,” “We” and “Us.”

Personal pronouns cause segments and stories to sound internal rather than external.

Listen carefully and identify content presented from an internal perspective. It can be shocking.

IMEWEUS Symptoms

There are many symptoms of this debilitating virus. Here are a couple of the most common:

Qualified 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 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. A qualified statement is 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. 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 there’s an agenda.

Using words like “We’ve got your tickets…” or “We want to send you to Hawaii…” are other examples. Listeners don’t want to experience of radio station 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

The good news is there is a cure for IMEWEUS.

It 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.

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Then, make it a priority to develop new habits with these three steps:

  1. 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. 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.
  2. Air Check at least twice a week. Listen intently to a full hour and identify when IMEWEUS creeps in. Rephrase the break to be more relatable. This puts it in your subconscious. It’s learning new muscle memory for performance.
  3. Transcribe a break once a week. Print the text. Then rewrite it to edit I, Me, We and Us. Inject the break with more power. More energy. Get details on how and why to transcribe a break here. There’s also a downloadable template that comes in handy.

Bonus Tip: Practice in everyday life, too.  It’ll make a big difference in personal relationships. You’ll be more likable, relatable, fun to be around and more colorful.

IMEWEUS Case Study

A client had the worst case of this condition I’ve heard, but we fixed it!

It was painful and tedious to sit through the breaks. But we powered through the process, rewriting transcripts to make breaks more relatable.

Here’s how we reconstructed a break to generate an external, not internal focus:

Here’s the original break:

Last night, my fiance’ 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.

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Here was the fix:

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.


IMEWEUS is a problem, but it’s not just about literal elimination of pronouns from a vocabulary. There’s nothing wrong with saying the words I, Me, We And Us.

The problem is when the focal point becomes internal rather than listener focused.

My Audience Magnet online course for radio personalities dedicates a full lesson to IMEWEUS, including exercises and homework to help.

But 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.


How to Overcome an Extreme Case of IMEWEUS

Audience Magnet Online Video Training Course For Radio Personalities

How To Tell Personal Stories Without Being Self Absorbed

How To Perform With The Conscience of the Listener


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