The "You" in public radio
March 4, 2016 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Pledge drives rely on talking directly to the individual which is part of how radio is personalized to each individual listener. There has been much discussion within public radio of avoiding anything that sounds like it's not talking to the individual since that makes people not feel special as individuals.

So, hosts and pitchers are encouraged to avoid what used to be stock phrases like, "you all" or "all of you out there". Is there a psychology or philosophy that addresses the idea of speaking to a group by speaking to or through a single individual? And is this opposite to what politicians do, which is speak to the group as a group and if individuals identify themselves, that is a consequence?
posted by CollectiveMind to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A pledge drive is a series of calls to action, which are always more effective when they are couched as personalized, one-of-a-kind experiences.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:10 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wonder if it's part of a larger tradition in radio--and particularly in older broadcasts--of pretending to talk to one person. Bob Edwards talks about this in "Fridays With Red," iirc, and the way Red Barber (and other sports announcers) used that trick in a pre-visual era of baseball.

As a side note, my local NPR station uses phrases like "We'd like to welcome you into the public radio family/into fellowship with us" and I get the heebie jeebies. I'm donating, not joining a cult!
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:01 PM on March 4, 2016

It's pledge season at the community radio station I volunteer at so I've been thinking about this stuff a lot recently. The whole point of a pledge pitch is to get the listener to call in / go to the website and make that donation. One of the biggest barriers you face is that most people want to imagine that 'somebody else' will come along and pledge so that they won't have to. I think the psychological term to look for is "diffusion of responsibility" which yields a good number of studies about this phenomenon as it relates to charitable giving. Here's a quote from the abstract of the top search result for "diffusion of responsibility in charitable donations":
It was seen that solitary individuals were the most likely to donate and that their contributions were the most generous. As group size increased, there was a tendency for a proportion of group members to donate as well as smaller donations being collected in larger size groups. [link]
So when you address the listener directly you have the best chance of getting the donation because they feel directly responsible for supporting the cause, whereas if you address it to all of radio-land the listener perceives themselves as part of a very large crowd, which makes them less likely to donate or if they do donate to donate less.
posted by metaphorever at 12:20 AM on March 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's training. The idea is that we're not talking to "everybody out there," we're talking to you. Radio is an intimate medium, our voice is in your head, and folks who are good at radio make a one on one connection with the listener that visual media can't.
posted by Floydd at 6:50 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have to say, it works; I find myself more drawn to giving when they use that kind of personalized address.
posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on March 5, 2016

It's not just pledge drives - when I was doing radio presenter training, they also emphasized the importance of "you" rather than "everybody out there". As Floydd said, it's an intimate medium that's usually listened to by one person at a time, and building that one-on-one connection is important.
posted by divabat at 5:36 AM on March 6, 2016

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