Seeing With Your Ears

His canvas was our minds.

His paintbrush, words.

And the pictures he painted so vividly made us see.

They made us think. 

And they made us buy – whatever he was selling.

Paul Harvey was the master of spoken-word communication. His choice of words, melodic intonations, and impeccable phrasing influenced the thinking and behavior of millions of Americans for more than a half-century.

I recently came across a remarkable thirteen-minute video profile of Paul Harvey, narrated by Chicagoland DJ Bob Sirott, who also worked for ABC affiliate WLS-AM when this video was made. Paul Harvey fans will enjoy every minute of it. 

HE TAUGHT US HOW TO SEE WITH OUR EARS. And if you’ll listen to the picture he paints in the space of just 17 seconds (beginning at 1:05), you’ll understand a little more of the power of pure audio, spoken-word artistry.

Advertisers and radio advertising professionals, take note of what he says beginning at 4:28, and again starting at 9:50. It’s pure gold for anyone who hopes to persuade people, to influence consumer behavior, to move goods and services.

You already know that “word-of-mouth” is powerful. Imagine how much more powerful it can be when you start controlling it? 

Need some help with that?


Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Copy, Copywriting, Paul Harvey, Positioning, Problem-solving, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling, Voice Acting, Voiceover | Leave a comment

“How Often Should My Message Be Repeated?”

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” 


Wanamaker’s famous quote on advertising has been widely disseminated. For some, it has inspired bold risk-taking and marketing breakthroughs; “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” For others, it’s been little more than a bromide to justify laziness, complacency, and mediocrity in advertising.

Wanamaker, a practicing Christian, refused to advertise on Sundays. His newspaper ads were widely considered to be fact-based and trustworthy, and Wanamaker guaranteed the quality of his advertised merchandise in writing, allowing customers to return any unsatisfactory purchases for a cash refund.

Costco, Amazon, WalMart, Nordstrom’s, and many other other successful retailers today emulate his customer-centric policies.

Ever an innovator in his marketing and attentiveness to the customer experience, his department store was the first to provide an in-store restaurant; he even installed a magnificent pipe organ, at a cost (adjusted to 2018 standards) of nearly three million dollars, it attracted throngs to the free concerts he provided in the Grand Court. That organ is still in regular use today at the Macy’s Department Store that occupies the location of the original Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, in England, a contemporary of Wanamaker’s named Thomas Smith wrote a book called Successful Advertising. It contained this now white-haired explanation of the need for repeated exposure to advertising in order to achieve success:

The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

In Smith’s day, newspaper and magazines were the only mass-media advertising available to merchants. Their counterparts today can find success advertising on radio, television, the internet, and a plethora of lesser-reach advertising choices.  Whichever medium or media you choose, the question remains: how often should your advertising message be repeated?

If your message is strong, and the timing and audience are ripe, once may be sufficient. A timely Facebook post might be enough to get the few dozen folks you need to take advantage of your dinner special.

But if your message is strong, and the timing and audience are ripe, it also may be repeated successfully for decades, as in the case of the classic Maxwell Sackheim/Victor Schwab advertisements for Sherwin Cody’s English home study course.

The same holds true of the many jingles and slogans that have been woven into the fabric of our lives over the past century. Those of us who were around prior to 1970 can still recall cigarette jingles that have not aired for nearly a half-century.

To illustrate the point, just fill in the blanks below with the name of the advertiser:

“_________________________. When you care enough to send the very best.” – used continuously since 1944, it was created by one of the company’s salesmen on an index card

“__________________. Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.” – one of radio’s top advertisers.

More saving, More doing. That’s the power of the _____________________________.” – another of radio’s top advertisers.

“I’m lovin’ it.” ____________________.

“__________. It’s everywhere you want to be.”

“________________. Eat fresh.”

“Just do it.” ________

“___________________. Because you’re worth it.”

“Every woman alive wants ____________________.”

“Nothing gets between me and my __________________.”

Pretty easy, huh?

And how much effort did you expend to memorize them in the first place?

None. You were simply exposed to them over and over again, and they’ve become indelibly etched into your consciousness.

For those in the Pullman/Moscow market who may be reading this, a couple more:

“_____________________. It’s not just a job. It’s a future.” – I wrote this one for a local advertiser whose reach has expanded dramatically over the past 35 years.

“______________________. You’re gonna love what happens next.” – Another tagline I developed for a local advertiser. You know his name. You may even find yourself singing it in your head.

Repetition is vital to most successful advertising. To paraphrase one of my major influencers, Roy H. Williams:

  • Repetition is the hammer that drives the nail (your message) ever deeper into the mind of your customer.
  • Repetition is necessary because sleep is the great eraser of advertising.
  • People stay “sold” like grass stays “mowed.” You need to keep at it, keep at it, and keep at it.

This is why one of my longtime clients hasn’t changed their ad in over 25 years. It’s a singing ad. The music production company provided the tune and the singer, I wrote the lyrics. Again, if you live in the Pullman area, you can probably guess who I’m talking about. And just for the record, the reason the ad never changes isn’t because we’re lazy; it’s because the advertisement is still getting results for them. Skeptical? Call and ask them how they know it’s working.

How’s your advertising working these days? Are people talking about it? Are they responding to it?

If not, you could use some help. It’s as close as your phone.


Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing | 1 Comment

Conversations in Advertising: Are You a Participant or an Eavesdropper?

By Photos by Bertilvidet, European People’s Party, Republican Conference of the United States House of Representatives. Collage/graphic by Didia [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re a business trying to engage consumers or a political candidate wooing voters, before your ad hits the airwaves, make sure it passes the Gossage test:

“An ad should ideally be like one end of an interesting conversation.”

(Howard Luck Gossage)

The “interesting” part depends on your content and its relevance to the listener. As to the “conversation,” there are two ways you can engage the listener: either as a participant or an eavesdropper. You can talk directly to me, or you can let me listen in on someone else’s conversation.

The late Dick Orkin was a master at creating great theater-of-the-mind using dialogue, as in this spot for Time Magazine:


Listener-as-participant is the approach most often taken by radio writers. With the right script and the right voice, nothing else is needed to capture and hold our attention, as illustrated by this award-winning spot for Ortho’s Fire-Ant Killer, delivered by killer voice actor Steve Morris:


It’s true that national advertisers and ad agencies have greater resources at their disposal than most local small businesses can afford. Does that mean you must settle for second-rate work? Hardly, especially in radio, the only pure-sound medium.

Listen to this spot for a local music store, which ran successfully for many years, featuring the voice of Cliff Miller, lead singer of local band The Fabulous Kingpins and an employee of the store at the time. I recorded Cliff on a portable Sony Walkman in a teaching room above the store.


Another local example – this time we’re eavesdroppers, listening to a story as it’s being told by the participants:


Whether you’re hearing that spot for the first time or tenth, chances are it held your attention. And holding a listener’s attention long enough to make a meaningful impression is the goal of every advertising message. Some succeed; too many fail. But one of the keys to success is having a firm grasp of whether your listener is going to be a participant or an eavesdropper.

This becomes even more important in the other spoken-word broadcast medium, television, because now you have to control the picture, as well as the words.

For example, there’s a political race in our area that’s drawing national attention, the race for U.S. Representative for Washington’s District 5 between Cathy McMorris Rodgers and challenger Lisa Brown. Stay with me for a moment and you’ll see just how audience engagement can be crippled by a single, simple lapse in perspective.

First, here’s a TV spot for Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers in which two presenters take turns talking to us:

It’s an effective approach. The alternating conversations keep us engaged as the story moves forward. Cathy comes across as confident, competent, and comfortable.

Now, here’s a two-and-a-half minute video featuring her challenger, Lisa Brown, also talking directly to us…or so it seems. Because at :53, 1:30, and 2:06 into the spot, the producer inexplicably decides to show us that it’s not a conversation; it’s a performance:

Setting aside the candidates’ political differences, McMorris Rogers’ spot is decidedly more engaging. Brown’s decision to call attention to the fourth wall* for no good reason is an unnecessary distraction. It draws our attention away from the candidate and toward the video producer! With all the money being thrown at this election, I’m surprised the Brown camp let this get past them.

For those of us who work in spoken-word media as ad writers or producers, it’s essential to understand the distinction between participant and eavesdropper throughout the message. And since a campaign consists of multiple messages, it’s usually advisable to preserve that distinction from one message to the next. Consistency will help drive your message, your business, your brand deeper into the minds of your prospects.

Need help with your advertising? It’s as near as your phone. Let’s talk!


*The “fourth wall” is a convention in performance art, an invisible barrier separating the audience from the action taking place onstage or onscreen. We, the audience, can see through the wall at the action taking place; but they, the actors, cannot see us watching them, as they go about their performance. However, when an actor takes cognizance of the audience, either through direct address or reference, he is said to be “breaking” the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall turns an observer into a participant, as when House of Cards’ Frank Underwood suddenly looks straight into the camera and confides in the viewer, or in this scene from Blazing Saddles.


P.S. Can you imagine James Bond turning to the camera and start talking to you?  Never!

Well, maybe just this once…


Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Copy, Copywriting, political advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Message Matters More than Money

A sometimes controversial, unabashedly conservative first-term state senator is consistently vilified by the press throughout his first term in office. In the next election cycle, he faces a challenger from within his own party.

The challenger is a popular local figure whose decades of public service include two terms as mayor and two terms on the city council of the largest city in his district, in addition to appointments to several city and state commissions. Signs supporting him sprout up like dandelions during the spring campaign.

In a May 3, 2018 article in the The Lewiston Tribune, writer William Spence set the stage for the contest. He wrote:

[Comstock] decided to run for the Legislature because he disagrees with Foreman on certain issues, and with the way he treats some constituents.

For example, he was offended by Foreman’s comment during a recent forum that Latah County, and the university and greater Moscow area in particular, is a “cesspool of liberalism.”

“To me, we’re a good mix of liberals, conservatives and moderates, and we all seem to get along,” Comstock said.

Foreman had a number of other widely publicized run-ins with constituents during his first term, including telling one “liberal nuttard” at the Latah County Fair last year to “go straight to hell.” Earlier this year he threatened to call the police on a group of Planned Parenthood representatives, and suggested “hard-core, left-wing extremists” are turning Moscow into “a big, selfish, godless town without a soul.”

When it comes to the issues, Comstock said his biggest disagreement with Foreman is over education funding. He supports an increased investment in public schools, as well as higher education and UI; Foreman, by contrast, has twice voted against the higher education budget, saying it had “too much pork.”

Both candidates reached out to voters in their campaign advertising, setting forth their positions. The incumbent relied mainly on radio to get his message to the voters. His :60-second campaign spot was simple, straightforward, and focused:


The challenger also did a bit of radio advertising, but placed greater emphasis on print and social media, including endorsements, letters to the editor, and videos, such as the one below, which covers a lot of ground in thirty seconds:


The challenger’s war chest was considerably larger than the incumbent’s, and his campaign expenditures were more than three times greater ($19,355.06 vs. $5,671.56). Based solely on the relative financial strengths of the two campaigns, the challenger should easily have coasted to a decisive victory.

Instead, he lost the election by 109 votes.

Evidently the message counted for more than the money.

Zoom out to a statewide perspective: the Idaho governor’s race. Ten individuals ran, spending nearly $11 million in the process. The largest spenders in both parties lost their bids. On the Republican side, Tommy Ahlquist spent nearly $4.5 million (more than $2.5 million out of his own pocket); he lost to Lt. Governor Brad Little, whose campaign expenditures amounted to $2.5 million. The results on the Democrat side were even more lopsided. The victor in that race, Paulette Jordan, spent $395,000 on her campaign; rival A. J. Balukoff spent more than six times that amount. Jordan received 58.6% of the vote; Balukoff, 40.1%.

Evidently the message counted for more than the money.

In the introduction to his book, FOCUS: THE FUTURE OF YOUR COMPANY DEPENDS ON IT, positioning and branding expert Al Ries sets forth his thesis:

The sun is a powerful source of energy. Every hour the sun washes the earth with billions of kilowatts of energy. Yet with a hat and some sunscreen you can bathe in the light of the sun for hours at a time with few ill effects.

A laser is a weak source of energy. A laser takes only a few watts of energy and focuses them in a coherent stream of light. But with a laser you can drill a hole in a diamond or wipe out a cancer.

When you focus a company, you create the same effect. You create a powerful, laserlike ability to dominate a market. That’s what focusing is all about.

When a company becomes unfocused, it loses its power. It becomes a sun that dissipates its energy over too many products and too many markets.

The same principle holds true for a message – in this case, an advertising message. Whether for a political candidate, a business, professional, or non-profit organization, focus can mean the difference between a message that penetrates the brain and one that goes in one ear and out the other.

When it comes to interpersonal communication, nothing is more powerful than human speech, or what we like to call “word-of-mouth.”

Word-of-mouth is the original “social media.” Because speech is our primary form of communication. (Print, in all its forms, is just an imitation of speech.)

Radio is the only pure-audio, pure-speech mass medium at your disposal.  Radio puts your word-of-mouth on steroids.

It’s a powerful medium. Use it effectively. Focus your message.

We can help you with that.

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Copywriting, Newspaper, political advertising, Positioning, Print, Professional Services Advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Storytelling | Leave a comment

Advertising Lessons from 1923 and 1927

He is “…hopelessly out of date, and amazingly current. He was the outstanding copywriter and strategist of his time; he made $100,000 a year and more writing advertising when that kind of money was important even to the U.S. Treasury.”

The writer was talking about Claude C. Hopkins (1866-1932), a pioneer of modern advertising. In 1923, he wrote a little volume entitled, Scientific Advertising.  No less a giant than David Ogilvy thought it so essential a work that he wrote:

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Four years later, Hopkins published his autobiography, My Life In Advertising. These two books, still readily available, are the distillation of a remarkable life’s work in sales, advertising, and promotion. For my money, they’re worth their weight in gold to anyone who sells, creates, or uses advertising to build an enterprise.

Hopkins himself wrote of his philosophy and methods:

“I am sure I would fail if I tried to advertise the Rolls-Royce [as Ogilvy later did with great success], Tiffany & Co. or Steinway pianos. I do not know the reactions of the rich. But I do know the common people. I love to talk to laboring-men, to study housewives who must count their pennies, to gain the confidence and learn the ambitions of poor boys and girls. Give me something they want and I will strike the responsive chord. My words will be simple, my sentences short. Scholars may ridicule my style. The rich and vain may laugh at the factors which I feature. But in millions of humble homes the common people will read and buy. They will feel that the writer knows them. And they, in advertising, form 95 percent of our customers.”

He gave the advertising world concepts we take for granted today: testing and measuring for results, product sampling, demonstration selling, the use of coupons, the advantage of specificity over generalization, selling service, cooperative advertising, preemptive advertising—his work for Schlitz Beer is a classic example:

“I went through the brewery. I saw plate-glass rooms where beer was dripping over pipes, and I asked the reason for them. They told me those rooms were filled with filtered air, so the beer could be cooled in purity. I saw great filters filled with white-wood pulp. They explained how that filtered the beer. They showed how they cleaned every pump and pipe, twice daily, to avoid contaminations. How every bottle was cleaned four times by machinery. They showed me artesian wells, where they went 4000 feet deep for pure water, though their brewery was on Lake Michigan. They showed me the vats where beer was aged for six months before it went out to the user…

I came back to the office amazed. I said: ‘Why don’t you tell people these things? Why do you merely try to cry louder than others that your beer is pure? Why don’t you tell the reasons?’

‘Why,’ they said, ‘the processes we use are just the same as others use. No one can make good beer without them.’

‘But,’ I replied, ‘others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.'”

The result? Hopkins gave meaning to purity. Schlitz, the number five brewer at the time, leapfrogged to a first-place tie within just a few months. He considered it one of his greatest accomplishments and used the technique successfully for other products and clients.

Want to become better at what you do? Take a lesson or two from the past and get yourself a copy of the combined volume of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins.

You can also download a free copy of the latter volume here.  Or here.



Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Consistency, Consultants, Consumer behavior, Copy, Copywriting, Demonstration (demo) tapes, Madison Avenue, Magazine, Newspaper, Ogilvy, Positioning, Print, Problem-solving, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Listening to These Commercials Can Make You a Better Writer

Rod'sMercuryAwardCrop2The finalists in the 2018 Radio Mercury Awards have been announced.

The 100 or so commercials that made the cut represent some of the best work being done in radio advertising today.

From this group, a dozen or two will emerge as award-winners, taking home the coveted RMA “tube” and, in most cases, a substantial cash prize, as well.

In my experience, ads that perform well at the cash register rarely win recognition at this level.

And ads that win awards sometimes don’t accomplish much more than that.

But when a commercial offers a compelling sales message wrapped in an entertaining story, it can achieve both.

Here are a few of my favorites from this year’s competition:

  • From FCB Chicago, this spot for Radio Flyer wagons (you had one, didn’t you?) entitled “Stinky Broccoli Forest.”
  • BarrettSF‘s spot for Exchange Bank, “Oxymoron,” turns this figure of speech into a plausible case for the bank’s “mix of tradition and the future.” If the bank is meeting or exceeding its customers’ expectations, this message ought to make ’em feel good about their choice.
  • “Bad Decisions” from Frederick Swanston for client Travel Centers of America/Minute Mart is a great example of what can be accomplished (with a chuckle) in just 15 seconds.
  • From agency Publicis, Charmin Shiny Hiney” might make the gentle Mr. Whipple blush just a bit. Not your grandfather’s Charmin spot, that’s for certain.

If you’re seeking inspiration to enliven your brand or sales message, you could do a lot worse than to listen to the great work found in the Radio Mercury Awards’ online archives. 

Congratulations to all of this year’s RMA finalists.

Posted in Advertising (General), Awards, Branding, Business, Copy, Copywriting, Jingles, Madison Avenue, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Amplify Your Word-of-Mouth (Guaranteed)

You prize good word-of-mouth don’t you?

We all do.

Word-of-mouth may not create business, but it helps create a preference for your business or brand in the heart of the hearer.

Good radio advertising can have the same effect, only multiplied and amplified.

Radio is word-of-mouth on steroids.

Individual word-of-mouth travels slowly and unpredictably. Nor can you control it. Whereas a good radio advertising campaign travels faster and wider, while under your complete control. In this way an effective radio advertising campaign accelerates the inevitable outcome of word-of-mouth*.

What’s more, local radio advertising is today’s biggest bargain in advertising, often far underpriced for the value received.


  • Radio reaches more people every day, every week, than any other single medium. In fact, radio has kept its reach while TV is eroding. See for yourself; read the charts.
  • Radio is the only pure-speech medium. Why is this important? Speech is our primary form of communication, and it’s why radio advertising is so powerful! (Skeptical? Here’s a logical demonstration. Try conducting your business without speaking. Seriously. Use only text, graphics, symbols, printed materials, etc. in communicating, but don’t speak. See how far that gets you.)
  • Radio is everywhere and goes anywhere. We listen when we walk, when we drive, when we’re doing chores, etc. Radio is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe.

“Media research shows that only two percent of the population are consciously aware of radio as a vital source of information in their lives—about the same percentage who, when questioned, report air as one of the ingredients they consume in life. […] People don’t remember radio as a source of information, because they do not consciously listen to it. Rather they bathe in it and sit in it. Just as we are not conscious of our breathing, we are not actively aware of radio-mediated sound in our environment. Yet we are deeply involved with radio, and we are strongly affected by radio programming that allows us to participate.” (Tony Schwartz, The Responsive Chord, pp. 75-76)

  • Radio offers you affordable repetition of your message. Repetition is the mother of learning – and of persuasion! No wonder radio’s R.O.I. is better, dollar-for-dollar, time-for-time, than any other medium’s.
  • Radio is accountable to its advertisers. Chances are you’ve been hearing about widespread online ad-fraud lately; it’s been all over the news. But they’re not talking about radio.
  • Brands and businesses are built by mass-reach, spoken-word media. And that includes businesses and brands right here at home. Local success stories abound, and I’d be delighted to share them with you.

A bit of advice. Beware of entrusting your reputation to social media, review sites, and other shiny online “opportunities” not under your control, where negative comments, unfavorable reviews, sabotage by disgruntled ex-employees or impossible-to-please shoppers, etc. can tarnish your brand and business, and adversely affect your word-of-mouth. However, when you advertise on radio you control the content of your message, all of it, in an environment that favors your success.

Listen, business owners whom you know and respect are continually growing their market share by means of their radio advertising. You can, too. We’re as close as your phone, and we’ll be glad to talk with you.

After all, it’s what we do for a living.



*This works in the opposite direction, as well. An effective advertising campaign will cause a bad business to fail sooner. Bad word-of-mouth travels even faster than good, as your own experience will confirm. A business (or event) that fails to live up to the expectations of those who respond to its advertising will find it more difficult to win them back next time.

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Consistency, Copy, Copywriting, Internet, Magazine, Newspaper, Pay-per-click, Positioning, Print, Productivity, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling, Voice Acting | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Speech Therapist In Your Pocket

You and I take the sounds of our words for granted. We don’t even give them a second thought.

Having learned our alphabet as kids (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, possibly our earliest exposure to the power of a jingle), we gradually picked up a vocabulary, adding to it a few words at a time.  And now, we speak effortlessly and instinctively.

But not all of us.  

Consider kids with speech disorders.  For them, learning to speak clearly can be a daunting task.

The development of communication skills begins in infancy, before the emergence of the first word. Any speech or language problem is likely to have a significant effect on the child’s social and academic skills and behavior. The earlier a child’s speech and language problems are identified and treated, the less likely it is that problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships. (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)

Chances are you know someone who has struggled with a communication difficulty, whether that be a lisp, a fluency problem, or trouble pronouncing certain sounds. With the help of a speech-language pathologist or speech therapist, their problems were met and often overcome.

photo courtesy Pullman Regional Hospital

But it’s not just kids who need this help.

People from other countries come here to pursue an education or career opportunity. English is not their first language. And even though they’re committed to learning to speak it fluently, they sometimes find it difficult to wrap their heads around certain sounds.

Hey, so do we. When was the last time you heard a group of non-native English speakers, speaking in their native tongue? Here in our college town, it’s not unusual to encounter, say, Asian or Middle Eastern students holding an animated conversation in Chinese or Arabic, for instance. What we hear are sounds, not words. So, put yourself in their shoes.

Whether the cause is physical or cultural, the fact remains: some folks need help learning to pronounce English sounds correctly.

And that’s where this story begins.

Enter Keri Jones, speech expert.

A speech pathologist at Pullman Regional Hospital, Jones has developed a breakthrough application for anyone needing to learn to pronounce English sounds correctly. It’s called Speech Sounds Visualized.

There are 26 letters in our alphabet, from which are derived 44 phonemes or sounds that form the basis of our speech communication. These fall into three categories: consonants, vowels, and blends. Speech Sounds Visualized provides an easy, convenient way to learn these sounds by watching, listening, and speaking.

Back in December, as Keri was finalizing work on the various components of her app, getting everything ready to send to the developer for final coding, she decided that the app needed a male voice to balance her own. One of her colleagues, a mutual friend, telephoned me to ask if I’d be willing to record a list of words for her. I was glad to help.

After countless hours of work by Keri and a team of project partners, including Pullman Regional Hospital, the PRH Center for Learning and Innovation, and Gemiini Educational Systems in Spokane, developers of innovative learning tools for people with autism, Down Syndrome, stroke victims, etc., the app went “live” last month in the Apple iTunes Store.

It’s already getting 5-star ratings and enthusiastic reviews, with only limited marketing to date. Everyone involved has high hopes that it will take off.

I’ve lost track of all the commercials and audio features I’ve recorded over the years, but it’s unlikely that I’ll soon forget this, my first contribution of voice work to a project that has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of people struggling to learn to speak English. For them, Speech Sounds Visualized will be “the speech therapist in their pocket,” and I’m honored to have been able to make a small contribution to its success.

Thank you, Keri. And congratulations on bringing this dream of yours to fruition.

We can’t wait to see what happens next.


Additional resources:

Steve Stone’s blog on Speech Sounds Visualized

Moscow Pullman Daily News article (unfortunately, the full article is behind a paywall, available only to paid subscribers)

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website 

Keri Jones’ profile on LinkedIn

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Putting Your Phone Number in a Radio Ad is a Bad Idea. Here’s Why.

Why you shouldn't put your phone number in your radio commercialYou’re not one of those advertisers who puts their telephone number into their radio ads, are you?

Good. Didn’t think so. Because you know better.

You chuckle at the mental image of somebody pulling over as they’re driving down the road, scrambling to jot down your number.

You know that there are seven to ten other words that would serve your marketing goals far better than that string of seven to ten numbers, right?

Seriously, unless you’re a direct-response marketer whose business is conducted principally or exclusively by phone, there really isn’t a good reason for you to waste valuable airtime by sticking your phone number into your commercial. (And if you are one of those businesses, you’re much better served by having a “vanity” number that employs a mnemonic device to aid in retention, e.g., 1-800-FLOWERS.)

Generally, your ad should contain one point of contact, not several, and then only if it’s absolutely necessary. Might be the physical location of your store or office, but these days a better choice may be your website*.

There was a time when “Let your fingers do the walking” meant using the Yellow Pages to look up a business. When was the last time you did that?  Today, we Google that information, or we ask Siri or Alexa to make the call. Today’s World Wide Web has eliminated the need to remember a phone number.

When was the last time you heard an ad for WalMart, Home Depot, Geico, McDonald’s, or any major retailer or brand? How many of them included their telephone number in their ad? Why do you think that is?

For the majority of marketers, it’s far more important to get people to remember your name than your phone number. And it’s infinitely more important for a prospective customer to know why she should do business with you, what she should think or how she should feel about doing business with you, than it is to know how to reach you. Because once she knows who you are and what you stand for, once she’s convinced that she wants to do business with you, finding you is easy.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. If you operate a pizza delivery service, having a memorable phone number is a good idea, so that whenever someone feels like pizza for dinner, they can call you (and get put on hold until the person answering finishes with a previous caller). But even pizza joints are gradually moving toward online or mobile ordering with an app; this will eventually reduce the need to use the telephone to arrange a pizza delivery.

Other good examples: emergency services (Think: “Call 911”). A hospital emergency room or urgent care provider might benefit by having dedicated, listener-friendly phone number. Ditto local taxi cab companies, HVAC emergencies, and plumbers. Ken Paulson has for the past year been training Pullman area residents to remember his phone number by means of a catchy jingle. (“Clear that drain with one call. Call 3-3-8-oh-8-2-4. Ken Paulson. Ken Paulson Plumbing.”) When you’re ankle-deep in water down in your flooded basement, it’s nice not to have to look up his number to call for help.

Music can be a powerful ally in getting people to remember your business, without even trying. Right from the time we memorized the alphabet as kids, singing it to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, we’ve effortlessly learned thousands of songs, motion pictures, products and brands, thanks to the irresistible influence of their music.

Should you have any doubt about the effectiveness of music for local businesses or brands, just ask Steve and Theresa Myers, Devon Felsted, Don Frei, Kevin Peterson, Archie McGregor, or Sam Dial to share their experience.

In a recent discussion among radio advertising professionals around the country, my buddy Blaine Parker related this experience:

We once tried to convince a new retail client to NOT put a phone number in a commercial because it would reduce traffic to the store. They had a “super secret sale” going on. Their first commercial said, “Just come into the store, say ‘Super Secret Sale!’, and get 20% off anything in the store.”

The first week of the sale went gangbusters. The client also said, “But we’re getting all these phone calls. We need to put the number in the spot!” We said, “No, you don’t. They found your phone number without it being in spot. You’re good. Add the phone number, and you’re going to kill response.” They wouldn’t listen.

The phone number went into the spot. As predicted, the phone number clouded the message. Traffic dropped off precipitously. The client walked away saying, “Radio doesn’t work.”

Sometimes, you can’t save an advertiser from himself. As for phone numbers, they are death for retail and any other message where the call to action is “come in.” The ONLY reason to include a phone number in a radio commercial is that it’s the only way to take advantage of the offer being made to the listener.

Carl Quist, proprietor of Imported Car Service in Pullman, has been advertising consistently in the morning news on one of our stations for many years. He could end his commercials with his phone number, since virtually all his customers call him on the phone to schedule service appointments. But he chooses not to. He knows that they can find his number quickly by asking the Goog. So, what does he choose to say in those final few seconds of his commercial, instead of giving his phone number? “Drive an import? Get to know Imported Car Service. On Bishop Boulevard in Pullman.” (Incidentally, his phone number is (509) 332-2314 – in case you’d like to ask him how his advertising is working.)

So, if your telephone number has been part of your radio commercial without a compelling reason, whether through inertia, laziness, or misguided advice, take it out. Replace it with words that will serve your business better.

*Brent Walker, an audio advertising specialist, provides additional perspective in his video, Think Landing Page, Not Phone Number. (You might be asked to sign up for a free account at Marketing Profs to view it. It’s worthwhile.)

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The Picture-Perfect Palouse

The Picture-perfect Palouse – a slideshow featuring photos of the Palouse, captured while on drives and walks in Palouse Country throughout the year.  First-time visitors to the Palouse region describe our unique Palouse landscapes as peaceful, tranquil, different from any other place they’ve seen.  If you would truly understand the beauty of the Palouse, you must visit the Palouse…drive its paved roads and dirt roads (some 2000 miles’ worth)…and discover its charms. Until then, please enjoy these Palouse photos – just a small sampler of our Picture-Perfect Palouse.


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