The Big 5 for Radio Success: Part 2

Tell a Good Story

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Note: We have the contest winners. In 3rd place, with his tale of Boise woe, is Matt Morin of San Francisco. Our 2nd place winner is Chris LaScala of Great Wolf Resorts in Madison, Wisc., with a literal "choke story." And the Winner of the Palme de Merde is Rosemary Kuropat of Slover and Company. Her story can be read here.

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
We each have that one friend who is a really good storyteller –- the sort of person who can take the most mundane material and turn it into the equivalent of "War and Peace." They can set the scene well, they lay out the players in the story and then, with the mighty power of 15 Garrison Keillors, they belt out a tale that grabs your attention from start to finish.

Greg Spencer is that guy.

Greg is a sales manager with Entercom in Austin. We used to work together in Portland when he was the sales manager for 94.7 Alternative Portland ( (to this day, my favorite station). Greg is an incredibly nice, affable guy who, for some reason, has ended up in some, shall we say, interesting situations. But they always make for a great story.

On the days when I needed a bit of a jolt or just a good laugh, I would wander to the other side of the building and seek him out. I just wanted to see what kind of story ammo he had in the cannon. The best was when I would loiter near his door and he would look up and wave me into his office with a loud, "Zanger, come here." Invariably he would show me something on his computer (always funny, never shady), then bust into story time. I would shut the door, sit down with rapt attention and just listen as Spence let it fly. Vegas trips, sales junkets, client meetings, college in Arizona, his experiences in New York and Seattle, even high school -- all was grist for the mill and I never once walked away disappointed. I feel like I should have given him a tip or an entry fee because the stories were literally that good.

Everyone likes a good story. But, for some reason, we've lost that spirit in radio advertising. We're among the best storytellers in the world when we're on the air, but the big disconnect is when the commercial stop-sets (industry jargon) start. What could be good stories invariably turn into thirty or sixty-second press releases. This is one of the biggest opportunities we have as a medium. Being so unbelievably flexible creatively affords us built-in chances to humanize our clients.

Think about it for a second: Every company and product out there has some kind of history or story attached to it. When I worked for Nike, the competitive spirit of Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman permeated everything we did. One of Portland's most respected car dealers, Tonkin, has a fascinating story and a rich history. Our area's family recreation center, Bullwinkle's, has been part of Portland's families for over 15 years. These are the things that really matter to people. A massive sale on the '08 models is nice, but, in my mind, knowing the story of the company selling it has more long-term value.

The inspiration and the stories are all out there. If you're doing radio now, look a little deeper into your client's history and ask them to tell some stories. It could be the one thing that helps push your on-air creative to a place of prominence. And if you're looking for a little push, I HIGHLY recommend reading all of Ruth Reichl's books. Start with Garlic and Sapphires, her third book, and go from there. You will then see how a powerful, poignant story can make an indelible impact.

The other option is to find your own Greg Spencer.
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