Radio Hed: Story Forms for Radio Writers: The Parable

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to create a commercial. Sometimes the personality of our client, the type of business or customer profile will suggest a story format, sometimes not.

Wondering how to turn your client notes or recordings into a story? Today let’s explore one particular storytelling genre, the parable.

Parables, an ancient tradition of storytelling, teach morals or lessons, commend exemplary behavior or warn against the consequences of a wrong decision. They explore how to lead life well. Parables, sharing a common root with the word “parallel,” often compare people, behavior or ideas. Parables come in various types and forms.

Many parables are religious in nature, and can be found in religious texts such as the Bible or the Buddhist Tipitaka. Our purpose is more secular. We want to help our clients sell something.

Using the form of a parable, we can give examples of making the right buying decisions, warn against the consequences of wrong decisions (buying from your client’s competitor) or show how to live well (with your client’s products or services).

You can start by taking inspiration from well-known parables, such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Got a client whose competitors constantly run sales while your client offers real value? Your commercial could be “The Store That Cried Sale!”

An adaptation of The Prodigal Son could be “The Prodigal Customer” about welcoming back “lost” customers with special offers, celebrations, etc.

The Emperor’s New Clothes can be turned into a story where an “innocent” (yet perceptive) person points out the foolishness of buying at full price, falling for a false claim and points out the wisdom of people who buy from your client.

A little internet research will give you other parables to adapt and inspire you. Once you become comfortable adapting, create some originals.

Steps to creating a parable commercial:

1. Write out the moral or lesson of the story. This will be your starting point, or the foundation of your parable.

2. Write for your audience. Who does your client want to reach - children, teens or adults, retirees? Knowing this will help you develop a story that is appropriate for your client’s existing and potential customers.

3. Brainstorm. If you have a lesson, such as “value is better than low price,” think of ways that you have learned that in your life. Read other parables for ideas.


4. Develop your story. Keep it simple. The characters don’t have to be well-known. Stories about your client’s customers will be the most powerful. Be careful not to belittle them or make them seem foolish.

5. Read your parable commercial to someone, preferably a member of the target audience, for feedback. Do they “get it?”

Parables usually feature people, as characters, not animals as fables do. We’ll cover fables in a future article.

Parables in commercials can be an effective way to position your client and educate your audience. They are a form of memorable story which can be recalled with clarity and interest, the first step in selling.

© 1997-2012 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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