Someone complained about me…

I only ever received one complaint when I worked as a radio presenter.

…and it wasn’t because I once played “Red Alert” by Basement Jaxx during my “Love Songs After Eleven” show because it was 12:39 on a Saturday night and I was sick of playing music for listeners to bonk to.

(I’m not saying I was single and lonely, but I WAS very single and very lonely)

It also wasn’t because I yelled “F**K!” on air because I was pissing around with the release handle to the hydraulic chair (curse you ADHD!) and trapped my hand.

The programme director called me into his office.

“We’ve had a complaint about you.”

“Why?”

“During one of the promos, you said ‘Dan the Garage Man.'”

“That’s right, isn’t it?”

“No, he prefers ‘the Garage Man, Dan.'”

If “FFS” had been around in 1999, I’d have said it right about now.

In radio, advertisers pay the bills. Whatever they say goes, but…

…forcing presenters to jump through very small, specific hoops and making them follow strict procedures to the letter does not lend itself to creative work.

Nothing funny, entertaining or remarkable gets done when you tell people exactly what to do ALL the time.

But, on the other hand…

You can’t just go around and give people total freedom – have you seen some of the people out there?

So, like most things in life, there’s a balance – you need a structure, but one that allows for personal expression.

Comedy sitcoms are a good example. At a basic level, they tend to be formulaic:

  • Three acts
  • Five(ish) main characters
  • The main plot and two subplots

Despite these restrictions, there are hundreds of different sitcoms, each with a different group of die-hard, passionate fans.

You can find this kind of creative structure in business too. Southwest airlines’ safety briefings are a good example. 

Safety briefings are, for the passenger, one of the most important things to pay attention to. Despite this, you hardly ever see anyone watching a demonstration that could literally save their life.

“Yeah, yeah… crashing to our death…orderly queue…Hey! Where the hell is my iPad? I’ve got three seasons of Taggart to binge!”

At Southwest, the stewards are told what points a safety briefing must cover, but HOW they choose to deliver it… well, that’s up to them.

“We do not require them to read the information in a rote or verbatim manner…we’re not afraid of song or humour. When attendants use their personalities, talents and sense of humour”, says Kathy Petit, Director of Customers for Southwest, in a PDF I found on the internet.

(Crikey – I’m using quotes and referencing stuff. This email is now officially better than the ill-fated dissertation I wrote for my Marketing degree, entitled “The PR Genius of Gerald Ratner”)

Here’s the thing – not only are Southwest’s briefings more entertaining, but they’re also more effective. 

Instead of busying themselves, trying to snag both armrests, Southwest’s passengers are actually paying attention to the briefing.

They even record them on their phones!

The structure (the WHAT) ensures the correct information is delivered…

The creative license (the HOW) allows it to be memorable.

Whether you’re transporting people across the Ocean or creating a TV show, there are some things you MUST do in a specific way…

…but the other stuff? That’s the stuff you can play around and experiment with and maybe find an angle that’ll make you remarkable.

 Have a splendidly fragrant Thursday!

 John

 P.S. In Monday’s email, I did promise you 18 P.S.’s today.

 I was lying. I was all talk.

 To make amends, I’ve added something new, bright and shiny (or should that be “shite and briny”?) to the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!!

 Also, this is your ONE WEEK WARNING…

 I will be removing some things from the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!! this time next week. I’ve not decided what exactly, but it’ll likely be the thing I’ve just added, the Mr Fluffy Pants Webinar and the “Five Days To Funny” folder, so you have a week to grab them before they vanish. 🙂