Vulnerability is the New Hubris

Posted on December 22, 2011


It’s important to take note when two smart people both say the same thing.

In this case, I’ve noticed that in the last three months both CBS Radio VP of CHR Programming Dom Theodore and 140 Characters Conference founder Jeff Pulver have talked about how being vulnerable is one of the most effective ways of building relationships with your audience.

In an interview for the Billboard Top 40 Update, Theodore talked about a host he works with who went on the air and shared with the audience that his dog had died. It had just happened the night before and he was still very emotional about it.

Theodore says it was amazing, compelling radio. Everyone can relate to the hurt that comes with loss of a pet and they commiserated with the host on the air as well as through an outpouring of comments on Facebook.

That sort of bond with listeners is hard to come by.

At the recent Arbitron Client Conference/Jacobs Media Seminar, Pulver shared stories of being an awkward teenager who discovered short-wave radio. It provided him an outlet where he could talk with people around the world and just be himself. That vulnerability helped him understand the idea of friendships and relationships on a different level that in his “regular” day-to-day world where vulnerability was seen as weakness.

Pulver also talks about how technology and social media platforms are becoming more emotional and vulnerable.

In a recent post to his blog, Pulver wrote, “These technologies allow an intensity in terms of connectedness we can feel. When we can read someone’s Facebook status and start to cry as a result of it, or laugh hysterically, or just smile, we realize that through this digital medium, feelings are emanating.”

Radio is entering a phase of more vulnerability because it leads to listener engagement. If you get an emotional reaction from the listener by sharing who you really are I can all but guarantee they will tune in again the next day.