Autopilot Pitfalls

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94.1 WXXX, the ‘90’s to now with Jack and Jill in the morning.”

You’ve heard this dictated script hundreds of times. The problem is that air talent can be triggered to go on autopilot by this outdated convention.

Arbitron started rating radio stations with their diary methodology in 1964. Programmers quickly learned that diary keepers didn’t record their real-time listening, instead they wrote down the stations they remembered listening to. To boost recall, the winning strategy was immediately, and often, pound the station name and frequency first every time the mic opened.

Another reason to question the effectiveness of word-for-word scripting is that after personalities deliver scripted promotional liners and mechanics multiple times, they tend to go rote and present unconsciously without meaning or intention, which translates to little authentic communication or connection with listeners. I was lucky as an air talent to have program directors who gave us fact sheets and encouraged us to put them into our own words.

RLC strongly recommends that talent skip the traditional preamble and start every content segment with a headline that will engage the audience immediately. Station name and frequency are still important, especially in diary-rated markets, but it’s now a matter of placement.
More Autopilot Pitfalls:

  • Being on autopilot sounds like a memorized script, because it is. Other forms of autopilot fails are safe, stock answers to big issues, and safe, stock questions during interviews. People today are seeking connection to the talent’s personality, and scripted, rote deliveries limit your potential to make valuable and lasting connections.
  • When we are on autopilot, rather than being fully present in the moment, we are drawing on perceptions from the past. Every interaction with your cohosts, callers, and guests are opportunities to be in the now and to express your unique point of view.
  • You can’t be an active listener on autopilot. You will miss opportunities for spontaneous and original responses and comebacks.

The Power of Now

Before opening the mic, ask yourself, “what is my authentic truth on this topic?” Being present increases the chance of saying something innovative and sticky. Additionally, you are more likely to articulate your viewpoint with a fresh perspective.

Photo by Andrés Dallimonti on Unsplash

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