Radio performers should constantly seek new ways to connect with listeners on a personal level. That’s the key to attracting a fan base and breaking free of the archaic radio ratings system. An overused trick has been to teach talents to use the word “you.” Okay. That’s fine. Another common tactic is to ask a question in hopes of making listeners feel that the segment is about them. But the truth is that audiences don’t fall for those tricks. But researchers have found something that may be just what you’re looking for. There’s a new twist for intimate connections that could help.

One of the principles of my Powerful Language For Strong Performance seminar is to reduce or eliminate the use of pronouns. The goal is to use fewer personal pronouns like “I, Me, We, and Us,” but that can be extended to other pronouns that have lost meaning because they have become so commonly exploited.

Radio personalities have a habit of over-using the word “you,” but the real problem is you are probably using it incorrectly.

The Word “You” And Intimate Connections

The discovery came from a group at Wharton looking for traits that predict whether songs would become hits. Marketing professor Jonah Berger took a fresh approach, analyzing the language of lyrics. His team analyzed thousands of hits to find common aspects of the lyrics that could possibly predict success.

The first discovery:

Songs that contain the word “you” more often are more likely to become a hit.

Okay, big deal. That’s a common word. Many hits are love songs written about or for another person.

So, they dug deeper and found correlations in how the pronoun was used.

The first conclusion is that using the word “you” doesn’t make a song more likely to be successful. Instead, it’s this:

When “you” is the object of a sentence, it is much more likely to become a hit.

They point to songs like the Whitney Houston and (Dolly Parton) song “I Will Always Love You” and Queen’s epic “We Will Rock You.”

To prove this theory, they tested how the placement of “you” matters. They say:

It’s not because we imagine Whitney or Freddie singing to us. Instead, these songs remind us of times we’ve felt similarly. By putting ourselves in the singer’s shoes, we recall and enrich our own memories.

What Does That Have To Do With Radio?

For decades, programmers have taught personalities to start a segment with the listener by emphasizing the word “you.” Some call it the most powerful word in marketing, though I make the case there’s a stronger word.

The word “you” is powerful, but using it to launch a break isn’t the point. Cramming those three letters into a phrase isn’t a magic trick. But placing it properly can make your segment more personal, a recipe for intimate connections.

Berger explains:

This gets to the core of why we like cultural products. They help us see our own relationships, our own social connections, as deeper and different as they might be otherwise. When Whitney Houston is singing, ‘I Will Always Love You,’… it causes us to think about, ‘This is really an amazing, romantic song. Who do I love?’ It helps us think of a close other in our own lives.

Berger remembers listening to Houston as a teenager and pining over a high school crush. It’s not the use of the word but the leverage of how the word is placed that causes us to feel a powerful emotion. That’s the twist.

The takeaway is both simple and applicable for anyone who relies on communication.

The Twist For Intimate Connections

At the heart of the discoveries is that we are self-obsessed. Before buying a product, clicking a button, or deciding to continue listening to a radio show, audiences subconsciously evaluate, “What’s in it for me?”

Making “you” the object of communication is key because it causes each individual to feel a personal connection. However, this is only when the word is used properly, and that’s where personalities often miss the point.

For example, it’s fairly common to hear a break start like this:

Have you ever wondered how actors can memorize a script so easily?

That’s just inserting the word “you” into the topic. “You” is not the object of the segment.

Here’s a simple adjustment.

You can change your life and be more likable by using the same techniques actors use to memorize a script.

That adjustment makes intimate connections. Using the word “you” differently makes the same topic more personal.


Whether it’s a hit song, an online headline, or the setup for a segment on the radio, you will gain attention by endearing the source to the target by speaking intimately and with this powerful language technique.

When listeners think about themselves through your content, they will connect with you personally, and that’s the key to a hit segment.

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