Take a look at these two
words: “do it”
Add the word “just”
before them and you start thinking of running shoes and athletics.
Or - Add the word
“tonight” after them and the “innuendo alarm” sounds off in your
brain and you start thinking of something completely different.
My team actually used
that second version in a radio spot for the National Day of Prayer a
few years ago.
People listened, wide
eyed – as a married couple talked while fixing dinner, wondering if
what they thought was being talked about was really being talked
but then the “aha”
And they learned that
the couple was really talking about praying together as a family.
The spot was done in a
way that would go over the heads of the little ears, and it was
totally a message that an adult couldn't ignore. All because of
how they interpreted two harmless little words: "do it."
See, it's not the words
themselves that are powerful, it’s how the listener's brain
interprets them that make them powerful.
And if you want your
messages to be noticed, you have to let the listeners’ brains do
that, not just give them basic copy that regurgitates facts.
Here's a great way to do
unrelated items and let the brain tie them together with what you’re
And it's best if thing
one is a relatable situation,
thing two has a strong
emotional draw, and thing three gives you an "aha" moment.
Brains cannot ignore
those three things.
In the "do it" instance
we took #1, a husband and wife conversation around dinner, (a
added it to #2. - “do
it” - a strong emotional draw, and tied it to what we were selling
- #3 (Prayer) - in an “aha” way.
To give you a new
example, here’s one way I do it to make a radio spot: I grab off of
my bookshelf a little book called “14,000 Things to be Happy About”.
The first thing I flip to are the words “a black jacket.” The
second thing I find are the words “eating alone.”
So I'm going to make
"the black jacket" into a relatable situation, "eating alone" into
something emotional, and tie them into what I'm selling - how about
giving to the station? Here's what it might look like:
FEMALE ANNOUNCER: She dresses in her
best formal wear: the little black dress, the accompanying black
jacket, and she sits and waits for her date to step through the
door. Candlelight and violins electrically charge the air in the
best restaurant in town, and the candles seem to flicker with every
few ticks of her wristwatch. 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour goes
It looks like she’ll be eating
89.3, KSBJ makes it a point to always
meet you with a message of comfort and love from one who will never
leave you. So during our Sharathon, won’t you stand with
...Because you’ll never ...
EVER ... get “stood up” with us. 89.3, KSBJ.”
There you go - a
creative spot with an “aha” moment. All from 3 things that don’t
seem to have any meaning together - a black jacket, eating alone,
But how did I really
come up with that? Well, first I looked at the words and ran them
through the filter of “how can this relate to her life?” To me, I
saw the black jacket was something she’d wear while eating alone.
Then I asked myself “why is she eating alone?” My answer was
because she was being stood up. Then to come up with the "aha"
moment I found a way to twist the word “stand/stood”
Like everything else, it
gets easier to do the more you practice. But what if your job is
not to write spots? Well, it can work with how you relate on air,
For instance, remember
the recent congressional scandal? How could you tie that into your
“safe for the whole family” talk?
In this case, you
wouldn't mention the congressman’s name or the scandal itself, but
you could boil it down to its spiritual issue. The question is
“what would cause someone to send lewd pictures of themselves?” A
number of reasons come to mind: Lack of common sense. Pride in the
power you have. Feeling above the law (once again, a pride issue).
Pride is a perfect
spiritual and relatable concept to message to the audience. It's
something we all deal with, and it's something we want to teach our
kids not to deal with.
So, as an on air person
how do you make pride a relatable situation? Simple. You find
something from your own life. My example is, that like most media
people, I'm prideful in the way that I want to be noticed.
How do you make it
emotional, though? For me, I like to paint a picture in the
listeners’ mind. You hear great radio personalities like Rush and
Delilah do this all the time. In the "black jacket" instance above,
the words helped you see the candlelight and violins. When it comes
to our example here of pride, I can either paint a picture of my
pridefulness, or maybe it'd be better to paint the opposite. Maybe
paint a picture of servanthood? That's more emotionally appealing
anyway. The perfect picture of servanthood that I can think of is
Jesus washing His disciples feet.
OK, so I have my
relatable concept about pride: (one's desire to be noticed), and my
emotional picture about pride (Jesus washing the disciples feet).
So, now I just have to tie them together into an “aha” moment.
All of a sudden it jumps
out at me. Scandal and Sandal are almost the same word
• I have a problem with the word
“see” ...as in “I want others to ‘see’ me.” I want attention.
• It’s a problem that’s rampant -
it’s pride, pure and simple, and you “see” it from people everyday -
like from this Congressman who just resigned from a big scandal - a
pride issue - being “seen” in inappropriate ways.
• The Bible warns against it. In
the Old Testament it says that “pride comes before a fall.”
• And, in the New Testament, Jesus
had the right idea. He removed his disciples sandals and washed
their feet. He wasn’t proud. He served others.
• Even to this day He’s not
concerned with how others “see” Him, only that people ultimately do.
• So maybe next time you’re dealing
with pride remember the sandals and the scandals and how it all
• ... to the “C.”
• And remember these words from
Downhere - “How Many Kings,” a song that paints a picture of a
And there you go.
Something relevant to the news of the day, that reveals something
personal, that’s relatable to her life, safe for the whole family,
interesting to the listener, and tied into a song that will touch
To recap, here are the
details to remember: Give the listeners’ brains something to work
on by tying three unrelated things together. Make thing one a
relatable concept, thing two an emotional draw, and tie it into
thing three (what you're selling) with an "aha" moment.
If you just “do it” -
hey if you do even one of these three things in a message -
you’ll be messaging better than the majority of stations in your
market, and your listeners will relate to you in a much stronger
Sterling Tarrant is the Production Director and
part of the mentoring and on-air staffs at KSBJ, Houston. He
specializes in effective and memorable messaging for his station and
his freelance clients. He has produced thousands of radio
productions in his 34-year radio career. Reach him at
and hear examples of his work at