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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

The tiny copy change that shifted perception worldwide

It seldom does any harm to suck-up to the boss. At least that’s what I keep telling my team. So you won’t be surprised to hear that the BBC’s Director of Global News Richard Sambrook delivered a characteristically brilliant keynote address at last week’s Radio Festival.

Richard’s speech underlined the continuing importance of radio in reaching global audiences and during it he played the audio imaging used by the BBC of old…

[audio:|titles=BBC Lillibullero ident|artists=BBC]

…and that of today…

[audio:|titles=BBC ident|artists=BBC]

Richard’s point, reflected in this contrasting audio, was not just that one sounded more contemporary than the other but that today’s BBC is about nation speaking to nation in a two-way global conversation, not just London calling the rest of the world. The idents reflect that change.

I was also struck by the copywriting, short as it is. We swapped out “This is..” for “You’re with..” a few years ago but the impact of doing so has only sunk in recently.

The aim was to move from a station announcement to something that acknowledged the relationship between you and the broadcaster. Station announcements still have their place of course (St. Pancras International for example) but radio is about human connections and the newer phrase adds an emotional dimension. “You’re with..” also puts both the BBC and you on the same level. Immediately you’re closer and in good company.

At the time this change didn’t seem a big deal. It was unlikely to bring us new listeners. We did it because, well, I tend to be a bit obsessed with detail. I felt a bit silly writing instructions about something so trivial.

Then, more recently I found this blog entry from a listener in Mexico, and this from Yahuda Berlinger in Jerusalem who is otherwise critical of the BBC:

Every hour the BBC ends the hour with some jingles. The jingles used to end, “… wherever you are, THIS is the BBC.” Lately they have switched to “… YOU’RE with the BBC.”

It’s not much of a change, but I think it’s a good change. “You’re with” gives you a sense of community, where “This is” is just self-promoting. “You’re with.” It’s got a nice ring to it. Yes, I am. I am with you. I hate you, and I can’t trust you, but I’m with you while I’m listening to you, so, yeah. I’m with you.

The “you’re with…” line has made it into this quotations page, into a bunch of Tweets:

BBC Tweet 1

BBC Tweet 2

…and now into Richard’s speech which, need I remind you, was very good.

It all serves to demonstrate that radio station brands are highly geared machines. A tiny turn on the controls can shift us a huge distance in the minds of our listeners.

Audio: copyright BBC. Used graciously.