I saw a great article in FAST COMPANY about emotional connection. You can see it for yourself HERE.
It explains scientifically what I have seen experientially in cities all over the world: the most successful radio talent everywhere is incredibly gifted at forging on-going emotional connections with vast numbers of listeners — of making each one feel s/he is being spoken to personally.
We know how it happens: mirror neurons, which “…give humans the capacity for shared experiences by enabling us to project ourselves into the minds, feelings, and actions of others.”
Evidently, it is innate. Have you seen this amazing YouTube video?
How can an infant have such depth of feeling for words s/he cannot possibly understand? It’s empathy, that “…deep sense of shared feeling and kinship.”
The article explains that “Empthty has two components: emotional or affective empathy and thinking or cognitive empathy.”
“Affective empathy entails sharing an emotional reaction in response to the emotions of others. Cognitive empathy involves figuring out the emotional states of others without actually feeling it.”
I think I instinctively mistrust cognitive empathy. It always makes me feel as if I am being manipulated and I push back against it.
But every air talent I love in every city I’ve been to is a master of affective empathy, of finding the words and pauses necessary to make me feel what they are feeling, whether it is unrestrained joy or unbearable loss.
How do you get it if you don’t have it? Well, as we see with the baby, I think everyone has it, but yours may need to be unlocked and trusted. You need to be vulnerable to share deeply. Some air talent isn’t comfortable in that zone.
If you are, use the gift you’ve been given! There is no more amazing experience in media, and the fact that our best can do it with no visual cues at all, with only words and sounds and silence, is simply awesome!
This example, used in the article, is illustrative for our industry at this point in time: The story of Harley-Davidson, which you may already know.
In 1969, Harley-Davidson was sold to AMF and the new management did everything they could to compete with the then market leaders, the Japanese. They pushed down costs and increased production. Naturally, quality suffered, and then so did sales and revenue.
In 1981, a group of former Harley executives, who loved the bikes, who were riders, bought the company back, and immediately formed The Harley Owners Group, invested in building better bikes and creating pride of ownership, and ROI soared. They saved an iconic brand.
We, in Radio, live in a time of cost-cutting, or pushing production up and quality down.
Understand your only job is creating affective empathy. Your sharing, your own empathy, creates the value, the need to listen to you every day and share that experience deeply.
Help your listeners feel and they will reward you every time.