Here’s How to Set Up a Great Story [audio]
by Tracy Johnson
Here’s a really simple topic that worked for the team at K104/Dallas on many levels, but I want to focus on the brilliant way the team executed the setup.
In storytelling and on-air break construction, there are five key elements: The hook, setup, dress up, payoff and blackout. Once the hook is in, the storyline advances to the setup. In this phase, it’s the storyteller’s job to personalize the story, causing listeners to get more interested in what’s to come.
The Setup: Break 1
In this example, the DeDe in the Morning team is digging into a relationship topic that centers around Lady Jade, one of the team’s cast members. Jade is recently divorced, and is starting to date again, but having some issues with how guys use text messaging to initiate contact. Here’s the first break:
In this case, the hook was not dramatic and obvious, but Lady Jade introduces the break quickly by making a strong statement:
Stop hitting me with the WYD.
A short hook, well in line with the 7-second challenge. This causes one of three responses:
- Disagreement or
- What’s WYD?
The show quickly moves through the explanation, and starts to set up the entertainment value in the topic. This is the setup phase.
In the setup, Jade injects even more of her personality as she further establishes a point of view. Notice how passionate she is, almost yelling at guys to “make the plan!”.
This creates friction, as the guy on the show, Michael Shawn, defends the WYD text. DeDe meanwhile, plays the role of host to perfection by keeping the break moving forward, advancing the brewing conflict.
As the break advances, nobody backs down, which further pulls listeners into the conversation. Then, Dede picks exactly the right moment to invite listener participation, giving the phone number clearly and asking the questions specifically just as the topic is at it’s peak.
This was a brilliant setup!
Advancing The Setup
The topic continues across the next break, with listener input.
This is the dress up phase, as listeners participate and the topic takes on more dimension, weaving toward a payoff.
Here’s the next break that demonstrates a strong dress up phase:
The show does a great job exploring this topic, using listeners to contribute entertainment value. And they find a strong exit, getting out at a high point, before the break starts to lose momentum.
One more thing that makes this work: Many times, talent doesn’t find a great moment on the air because they’re working too hard to find an outcome. It’s not your job to solve a problem or answer a question. The entertainment value is in the pursuit of an outcome. In this break, nothing was decided, but it was highly engaging and entertaining.
The Set Up is a critical part of storytelling. That makes it an important part of every break. If the hook is to capture attention and get the audience to actually listen, the setup has to lead them into the next few seconds or minutes, proving that the content is worthy of the attention that’s been earned.
Paying attention to how each break is constructed, and developing some layers of intriguing content to be revealed in the setup of breaks will help pull listeners deeper into the topic.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.