The Right Brain GM

I hope you work for one

It’s no accident that the two best General Managers I’ve worked with over my long career have both been right brain dominant.

They intuitively understood and were interested in reaching listeners on an emotional level, and were highly tolerant of some of the innate frustrations artists bring to business.

A new book, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist, gets to the science behind my observation.

And, it provides more evidence that you must change the way you market and communicate about your station, even if you only market it on your own air and website.


Without going into so much detail* that you’d be stabbing yourself in the throat, what you need to know, and understand, is that the left brain is highly resistant to new information, no matter how brilliantly you present it.

Even more significant, the left brain generally won’t even process new information coming into the brain unless it is first noticed and processed by the right brain.

This point alone makes every one of your promos and liners, and sales presentations, spewing facts and details about your station, so much white noise, at best.

Instead, if you want listeners’ and clients’ brains to process your message, give it to them in story form.

Your right brain loves stories — not lectures — using words that paint pictures in your listeners’ minds, because the right brain isn’t all that verbal.

Everyone in your organization that has anything to do with marketing — which is everyone in your organization, if you didn’t already know that — needs to acknowledge that the left brain reflexively rejects all information which does not conform to the model of reality it already has in place.

Let me say that again, because it’s so important:

The left brain reflexively rejects all information which does not conform to the model of reality it already has in place.

This simple fact explains so much of our world, and our behavior, that we could spend days discussing the nuances and effects it creates. But for now simply understand what you observe in your own life: It is very hard to change someone’s mind about anything already deeply believed.

But the purpose today is not to analyze why Glen Beck, or Barack Obama are successful, why their true fans never budge an inch, no matter what reality says.

The purpose is to implore you to use narrative, containing highly emotionally charged words to paint pictures of those parts of your station you want listeners — and clients — to notice.

The purpose is to encourage you to remember the artistic, right brain part of our business, to hope that you find and hire someone so wildly creative they scare you to death every day.

Because if you get the right brain to notice, there’s a good chance it will bring the left brain along.

p.s. I’ve been intrigued by brain research for 25+ years. If you’re interested too, one of the most famous TED talks is about right brain/left brain and you can watch it here in less than 20 minutes. Voila!


*If you’d like to read more about this book, and this topic, see this article in the Wall Street Journal. I also highly recommend the blog Ageless Marketing as a resource.