A copywriter learns about the power of storytelling in marketing through an offbeat radio experience
I can still remember the pit in my stomach as I nervously tapped on the steering wheel listening to the Bluegrass Zone radio hour wrap up on Houston’s longstanding listener-sponsored radio station, 90.1 KPFT. I was parked outside the very same station, staring down the quiet Montrose street it resides on. The station itself has always been somewhat of an oddity for Houston. Much like Montrose, it serves as a colorful pop of expression within a city blanketed by conservative industries. In the late winter of 1970, KPFT kicked off their broadcast by simply airing “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and has since given Houston listeners an alternative to mainstream radio as well as a voice to countless causes with its progressive news programs. The sometimes controversial radio station has survived a great deal over the years, including a terrorist bombing to its transmitter—twice.
However, I wasn’t there to ruffle any feathers. I was invited to be a guest on their talk show So, What’s Your Story? hosted by Hank Roubicek—a former professor of mine and a dear friend. I eventually mustered enough courage to get out of my car and lumber towards the front door to ring the buzzer. After sharing several awkward stares with strangers through the glass paneled door, I was buzzed in and quickly ushered into the recording studio where Hank was waiting. He shook my hand and offered a reassuring smile as I sat down. Before I knew it, a headset was strapped to my skull and a monstrous microphone glided towards me. Like Death, it carried a sinister and indifferent aura. I cleared my throat and took a deep breath as the red “On Air” light flickered on.
It was time to tell my story—or a story, at least.
Despite the lukewarm reception of my radio debut, which featured a cringe-worthy retelling of a southern folk tale (accents included), I had two major takeaways from that experience: the power of storytelling and the value of day jobs. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate storytelling even more—especially in marketing. Whether I was developing content for a TV commercial or a billboard meant to be read at 70 MPH, I’ve kept in mind one simple question—what’s the story? People communicate through stories—not just words, so it’s natural for narratives to be the driving force behind your content. From my experience, here are the top three ways story-driven content can have an impact on your audience.
They Help Guide Your Audience
Let’s face it—your audience is being bombarded with ads every day, and sometimes you only have a few nanoseconds to catch their attention and give awareness to your product or service. Stories can organize key points and guide your audience from A to Z in a natural and memorable manner. For example, If I had simply listed the different types of radio shows KPFT aired instead of offering a brief insight into their history, you’d have probably stopped reading. Stories are a powerful organizational tool and are vital when conveying pretty much anything to your audience.
They Connect with Your Audience
People resonate with stories—not your products or services. Aside from guiding your audience, stories also help your audience relate to your ads. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all laughed or gotten teary-eyed from a commercial at one time or another. We laughed or cried because we related to the ads in some capacity. You’re making advertisements for people, not mindless drones. They need to be able to imagine themselves using your products or services and to accomplish that, you need to be mindful of their everyday motivations. In my introduction, I tried to convey the anxious emotions I felt before going on air in an effort to relate to your own personal experiences with anxiety or public speaking. If your audience can resonate with your story, they can resonate with its purpose.
They’re More Memorable
Without cheating, what was the name of The Beatles song that kicked off KPFT’s broadcast back in 1970? If you remembered correctly, I did my job. If not, you might remember how much of a fool I made out of myself, which in turn, will help you remember this blog. Either way, I’ll make some kind of impression. In short, stories are memorable. You can list all the impressive facts and statistics you like, but at the end of the day, they aren’t going to be remembered if your audience doesn’t have a narrative to tie them to.
At Versa Creative, we understand the impact storytelling has on audiences. See our work for yourself or read about other ways we’ve been able to Build Powerful Brands. Now, excuse me while I scour the internet to ensure there’s no evidence of my short lived radio career.
Copywriter & Branding Specialist