You Should Be a Great Storyteller

Posted on April 18, 2011


I think it’s fascinating to see the advertising world waking up to something we’ve known in radio for a long time, if you tell a good story people will listen.

A recent commentary in MediaPost’s Marketing Daily blog by Len Stein, president of Visibility P.R., discusses how consumers are becoming, “increasingly suspicious of traditional marketing techniques.” He suggests instead that brands should focus on telling stories, “For a brand to connect with its communities, it must tell captivating stories that allow fans to become emotionally invested.”

That could be a one sentence job description for airtalent: 

“Must tell captivating stories that allow listeners to become emotionally involved.”

Agree or disagree with his point-of-view Rush Limbaugh is a master at this. He tells stories about the American political landscape that leaves his listeners emotionally invested in what’s going on.

As a host, if you aren’t telling great stories and are only regurgitating facts your listeners can find at any of hundreds of Web sites you are easily replaceable. If you aren’t telling great stories and want to get started Stein’s article has several good suggestions:

  1. Start by getting the facts right. Sort out the 5W’s and 1H (who, what, where, when why and how) of the story. It may sound basic but it guarantees you understand the premise and facts of the story you want to tell.
  2. Consider the audience. Be sure to focus on the part of the story that is important to your listeners and will cause them to have an emotional response. This doesn’t always mean tugging at heart strings. Anger, disbelief, happiness and frustration are all emotional responses.   
  3.  Empower your listeners to participate. Encourage them to share similar stories, give their opinion, volunteer to help or some other call to action.

I would like to add one warning and one suggestion of my own to this discussion:

 Warning: Don’t equate talking about yourself with good storytelling. The listeners aren’t that interested in you. Talk about what’s going on in the community, the country and the world; not your last grocery shopping trip.

 Suggestion: I recommend hiring a Talent Mechanic to help improve your storytelling skills.