What’s Your Next Story Arc?

I was reading Rob Logan’s article titled 5 Content Tips from Pop Icons, at first I thought it was just a reason for Rob to show off old photos of him posing with random 90’s pop stars but once I started actually reading it, I found myself inspired to write this article expanding on the importance of developing story arcs and recurring themes.

I’ve conducted many focus groups over the years asking listeners what content they’ve heard in the last few weeks and more often than not they’ll recall story arc content over a funny bit. Even with huge shows like Hamish and Andy listeners would recall “the caravan of courage” over a funny one off break not because it was their best content but because it lived beyond a single break and gave the listener a chance to hear it and buy into it.

Story arcs when planned and executed well, can be an extremely powerful weapon for your shows arsenal they can actually change listening habits because they create a reason for listeners to come back day after day and the show will even become famous for it.

One of the first things I did with all the shows I coach here in New Zealand was ensure story arcs are not only happening all the time but they have become a part of their planning habits “what’s our next arc?” and “could this content become a story arc?” are two questions my shows are more than prepared for being asked and I wanted to share some of their current arcs with you for inspiration.

 Jono & Ben’s Bouncy Castle Crusade

They actually sailed a kids bouncy castle across the largest freshwater lake in Australasia! The on-air story was 4 weeks long with lots of great moments throughout you can hear the highlights of that journey below and I expect the recall will be huge with listeners on this big idea.

 Guy, Sharyn and Clint’s Pigeon Song

Guy pitched his pigeon song idea to his co-hosts who loved it but felt it needed star power to have a chance of being a success. So they convinced NZ rapper Scribe come out of retirement to collaborate on the track if all proceeds went to charity and now their aiming to get “the pigeon song” to debut at number 2 on the official NZ chart out Friday!

Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom’s Four Strangers and a Wedding

This is an arc the show and station are famous for Strangers seeing each other for the first time when they walk down the aisle on their wedding day. Jay-Jay has been responsible for three successful stranger weddings between six strangers resulting in eight offspring, thirty eight combined years of wedded bliss and zero divorces but can she make it four from four.

The Mai Morning Crews Billboard of Shame

The show was informed they needed to fill a billboard for the boss (the Villain of the arc) so they decided to make a fun challenge out of it by creating shame billboards for each other basically exposing each of the shows characters insecurities in a self-deprecating and endearing way.

The Checklist:

You might not have a budget, you might not have a producer but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a great story arc to engage your listeners.

To help you create your next story arc here is a checklist for your next planning session enjoy!

1. What do you want to achieve and can it happen? Ensure you can deliver the outcome before you start on-air (it’s like knowing the out for your break).

2. Plan drama points; add hurdles and roadblocks to make your story interesting, its entertainment after all so entertain me.

3. Cast great characters, is the hero likeable? is the Villain believable? For example you wouldn’t cast a puppy as your villain no one would believe she was nasty but your boss is the perfect villain.

4. Always challenge your plan by asking “what else can we do?” are there phone topics, interviews, voxpops or social extensions that make this content bigger and give it a fresh lease on life.

5. You can never do enough on-air in all day parts, burn the idea like a hit song 24/7 with lots of extensions on all your platforms in all day parts.

About: Ryan Rathbone

Ryan now calls New Zealand home and is the Group Talent Coach-Music for MediaWorks and their seven national brands and The Edge TV. He has worked as CD with SCA, ARN and Nova Entertainment..

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