Things I Learned From Vin Scully That Apply To Radio Imaging
On a road trip this summer, I found myself entranced by the legendary Vin Scully calling a game between the Dodgers and Pirates during my Bucs’ last visit to LA in Vin's farewell season. I've always been a huge fan of Vin Scully, recalling the days when he did game of the week play by play for NBC. His delivery and descriptions of the game are legendary.
It was during the first 3 innings that he did on the radio that I began thinking about what we imaging people can take away from this broadcasting great.
First and foremost, Vin's ability to paint a picture with words is by far one of the greatest in the world of sports. Sometimes it's not always what he says but the way he says it. Instead of “McCutchen is on deck” he said, "Andrew McCutchen is in the on deck circle," and my mind immediately flashed to the image of Cutch taking practice swings as though the camera were on him with a lower-third graphic showing his stats in the game so far.
We often speak in bullet points due to time constraints, but when time does allow, consider trying to paint the picture and set the scene. Even a few placed sound effects can go a long way to creating an image in the listeners’ minds. A skill that we as imaging folks have seemed to have forgotten. After all, we are in the business of ‘imaging’ are we not?
The second thing that imaging people can take away from Vin Scully is his relatability...bringing things back around to the L.A. Area. He spoke about Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole being a lifelong Yankee fan but rejecting his favorite team’s draft offer and attending UCLA instead. He also brought up Pirates then first baseman John Jason, “the Chula Vista native still makes his off season home here in Southern California.”
Finding those little nuggets of trivia about the local region can be exploited to brand your station as an (insert city here) station. I used to use a website called citydictionary.com to find some of those bits of trivia about towns I was imaging for. Local slang, landmarks, famous residents can all be fodder to bring your brand back to the city and the region you’re trying to endear yourself to.
Finally, his consistency, 67 years as the voice of the Dodgers. Phil Rizzuto called 40 seasons for the Yankees, Harry Kalas had 38 with the Phillies, Bob Prince spent 28 seasons with my Buccos in Pittsburgh and Harry Caray, synonymous with the Chicago Cubs, was only their play by play voice for a mere 16 seasons. Vin’s longevity and his unwavering quality have entertained generations of baseball fans and he maintained that brand of quality until his final call.
What are the consistencies we can maintain as imaging folks? First off, making sure that our imaging has a consistent message. Everything we do needs to support the position of the radio station while creating an emotional connection with the listener. Good imaging that is a consistent balance of being informative, entertaining and relatable.
Secondly, having a long-term relationship with a station voice can have a great effect on maintaining the consistency of your brand. Just like Vin Scully and all of those play-by-play voices I'm mentioned, the mere sound of their voices became the sonic logo of the team. Your imaging voice is the most heard voice on your station. Over time, that voice can become the signature sound of the station. New Yorkers only need to hear Dave Foxx and they know they're listening to Z100.
But let's say you are at the mercy of a PD who insists on changing the v/o every few years. Another sonic identifier that can create consistency for your image is jingles. Dave Foxx told a story in his Radio And Production Magazine Column "Production 212" about the power of jingles. Ja Rule was in-studio for an interview can came into Dave's studio to cut liners for Z100. In the session Ja Rule spontaneously sang the Z100 jingle which, at that time, had been off the air for about eight years. Within days, there were singers in a studio, producing an update of those iconic jingles. The same can be said of KDKA in Pittsburgh. In the early 2000s, their 6-note audio logo was updated with a modern rock sound more appealing to gen-xers while giving the baby boomers in the audience some instant nostalgia to the days of Jack Bogut, John Cigna and the "Rainbow Machine".
So there are the three things I learned from Vin Scully that can apply to us imagers: Paint that picture with words and sounds, be relatable and maintain consistency.