The cost for a Maine small business or non-profit organization to buy a commercial on a Portland radio station could be about 63-cents per word. So it's important to make every word count, especially since multiple commercials will be needed to ensure the success of a campaign and those pennies will quickly add up. Some advertisers choose to use the 160 words of their commercial to disseminate a list of facts about their business: telephone number, store hours, aggregate year of experience, prices, and guarantees. Others businesses choose to use their commercials to tell a story, the oldest and most powerful communication method.
Reasons Don't Change Behavior
Steven Denning, author of many books on the power of storytelling, recently told Forbes Magazine, "Reasons don’t change behavior. When it comes to inspiring people to embrace some strange new change in behavior, storytelling isn’t just better than the other tools. It’s the only thing that works." Here are two cases in point.
Motel 6 is one of the best known brands in America. The national chain of economy motels built its entire success by telling stories on the radio each ending with the phrase, "we'll leave the light on for you." Here is an example of one the radio stories:
A few years ago, I met Tom Bodette, the official yarn-spinner for Motel 6, and I asked him why he thought these radio stories were so epically effective. Tom replied, "When people meet me and find out I am the voice of Motel 6, they almost always say that I don't look how I sound in my radio stories. When I ask them what they thought I looked like, they actually describe someone who looks remarkably like themselves. So, I think that's why these radio commercials are so memorable: The listeners involuntarily insert themselves into the story." In other words, commercials that tell a story can make people sell to themselves, and that's a powerful behavior (just like how you convince yourself it's okay to eat that piece of chocolate cake despite the fact you are on a diet).
Maine Radio Advertiser Tells Her Story
Another example comes from right here in Maine. Earlier this year, United Way or Greater Portland invested in an annual radio campaign called "MY United Way." The purpose of the campaign, according to UWGP's Chief Storyteller Suzi Piker, "is to increase awareness of the scope of the organization’s work. Every month in 2014 we are producing a 60-second ad – culled from a longer interview – featuring people who are actively involved in their community and United Way. While I edit and construct each segment in-house, the final result is never scripted. This lends a credibility to each person’s voice."
February's My United Way" story featured, Peter Lancia who participates in The Westbrook Children's Project, an innovative partnership of the Westbrook School Department, the City of Westbrook, United Way of Greater Portland, parents, businesses and other community partners. Hear Peter's story:
"What I find so compelling about audio as a storytelling medium is the authenticity of the human voice -- the way it makes us listen and use our imagination," says Suzi. "There are no visual cues or filters to impede or strengthen the message – you literally just have the voice (and possibly some well-placed music)."
"In 2011," Suzi says, "I was named Chief Storyteller at United Way of Greater Portland. My role is to create digital content that helps the organization be its own media channel. United Way’s ongoing radio ad campaign is an example of how storytelling and messaging can intersect."
"United Way of Greater Portland is not looking to “hard sell” its message," says Suzi. "Perhaps this “soft sell” is a luxury in the advertising world, but it aligns with our strategic goals of raising public awareness."
Hear other episodes of the My United Way campaign here: http://www.unitedwaygp.org/my-united-way/.