Autopilot Pitfalls

 In Blog

94.1 WXXX, the ’90s to now with Jack and Jill in the morning. It’s sunny and 63 at 7:25.”

You’ve heard a verbatim script like this hundreds of times. In addition to sounding non-conversational and inauthentic, air talents are triggered to go on autopilot with this outdated convention.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 after personalities have delivered scripted format mechanics and promotion multiple times, they tend to go rote and present them unconsciously without meaning or intention, which translates to no 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 talent skip the traditional preamble and start every content segment with a headline of the content they’re about to deliver to engage the audience immediately. Station name and frequency are still important, especially in diary-rated markets, but it’s now a matter of placement. Hit the station name and mechanics after the headline.

  • 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 is an opportunity to be in the moment and spontaneously express your fresh point of view.
  • Active listening is the opposite of autopilot. You will miss opportunities for natural and original responses and comebacks on autopilot.

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.

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