Here's the challenge. A Maine small business owner is given sixty seconds to share 170 words with tens of thousands of people on a Portland radio station. The goal of the commercial is for the owner's best prospects to believe something or to take action in regard to the products and services her business sells. So what should the business owner do?
Sadly, if this business owner is like a lot of advertisers who use Portland radio, she will fill the time with a list of facts and features glued together with cliches and platitudes. Or what George Carlin once called "The Advertising Lullaby" whose sole purpose is to "lull us to sleep."
In the most successful advertising, business owners tell stories. According to an article in The Harvard Business Review, "It’s no surprise. We humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls."
HBR goes on to explain why storytelling is critical to effective advertising. "Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic."
"In one experiment," HBR goes on to say, "After participants watched an emotionally charged movie about a father and son, Zak asked study participants to donate money to a stranger. With both oxytocin and cortisol in play, those who had the higher amounts of oxytocin were much more likely to give money to someone they’d never met."
Can A Good Story Be Told In One Minute?
Telling a story within the confines of 60-second radio commercial may seem daunting. But consider that Ernest Hemingway allegedly once, on a bet, created an entire novel consisting of just 6 words: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."
Apocryphal or not, this Hemingway story proves it is not the number of words that make the story. It's how the words are used. But, most Maine business owners probably don't pretend to have the literary prowess of the man who wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man And The Sea. But, I promise you, the ability to tell a story in 160 words can be accomplished by anyone.
There is a website that translates thousands of Chinese short stories from anonymous contributors into English. Each of these stories can be told in one minute or less. Here's a particularly powerful one called Heart Murmurs:
"Every day he listened to the heartbeats respectfully and with the utmost patience. Each one was different. He truly believed that one day he would find that old familiar palpitation. Donating her heart had been his wife's last wish. One day, he listened to the heartbeat of a female patient who had come in for a diagnosis. "You've had a heart operation?" "Yes," she answered. "A transplant?" he asked. She nodded. "Are you having any problems or pain with your new heart?" "No. I just came to tell you that she's doing find and she loves you very much."
Heart murmurs is exactly 99 words. Wow!
Good Stories On Portland Radio
Many commercials heard on Portland radio do, successfully, utilize powerful storytelling to engage their best prospective customers. One of my absolute favorites is from "The Roofa", a Westbrook, Maine roofing company. If you are not from Maine, then I should tell you "Roofa" is how some of us of say "Roofer." Take a listen to The Roofa's story:
Listen to another example of great radio storytelling. This one from The United Way of Greater Portland
Here's our best advice to Maine small business owners who advertise on Portland radio. Each word of your radio commercial is precious and you will pay around 60 cents for each one. So make every word count. Science and history prove that storytelling is human's most powerful form of communication. So in your next radio commercial, don't spew facts...tell stories.
Lean more about creating awesome radio commercials:
- 207-Huh? Phone Numbers Have No Place in Portland Radio Commercials
- Maine Made: Award Winning Radio Commercials 2014
- 5 Ways Your Radio Ad Can Be More Effective
More Free Advice For Maine Small Business Owners