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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Survey Says: Sexy Female TV Anchors Don’t “Communicate.”

A very clever Indiana University experiment has firmly established what most of us have probably intuited: sexy, attractive, sultry-sounding female TV anchors boost ratings by drawing male viewers, but the men don't remember what was being communicated: http://bit.ly/hPzh96.

OK, so there’s a bit of a "duh" factor here. Still, the subtext of this interesting experiment's findings is not to be sneezed at. At CommCore we always review the importance of visual appearance and vocal impression with our clients. Content may be King or Queen, as the saying goes, but first impressions matter…a lot. However, looking and sounding good to an audience during a speech or presentation is a just one of the variables that make a difference in successful communications. You have to always consider your communications goals, the audience, the surroundings, and the subject matter as much as what you think makes you look, sound and feel good. And this applies to male presenters as well as to females.

The sexy female TV anchors are clearly intentional – they evidently boost ratings, and if that's a conscious decision by a TV news department, fine. By the way, since many of us spent a good deal of time in the news business, we know that attractive female reporters are just as smart as those that wouldn't necessarily be in the Indiana University study. But as the experiment clearly shows, some of the message – news – is lost in the process, predominantly by male viewers.

Some CommCore rules about public appearances:

• If you have to guess what's appropriate, show up as the best-dressed person in the room or broadcast studio rather than most casual. It's easier to dress down by removing a tie or suit top, and rolling up your sleeves, than try to dress up a polo shirt.

• Make sure your manner and tone fit the live or TV audience and occasion. Sexy is distracting, unless sexy is what you are pushing.

• Make sure your message fits the occasion. A flirty, light presentation during a somber period might offend rather than uplift an audience.

What are your thoughts on the Indiana University experiment? How do the findings apply to your or your clients' communications strategy and tactics? What does it say about how broadcast news is communicated these days?

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