The Quilted Squirrel

The TQS Blog

How to write for radio, TV, and social media

Tell the same story in different ways.

Look.

If you had one message… and several opportunities to seize every customer you ever wanted… in any moment… would you capture it? Or just let it slip?

If the tone, rhythm, or words of that opening statement sound familiar, it’s because I ruthlessly stole them from the 2002 hip-hop hit “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. Partially to amuse myself, partially to make a point—which is coming, I promise.

No matter what business we’re in, we all want to say the same thing, don’t we?

“Our service is better, faster, and more affordable.”

“Our people are smarter, more talented, and easier to work with.”

“And look! Our company culture is the coolest!”

Eminem happens to be rapping about how to own the moment and seal your fate—about how to share your message with the world and stake your claim in something great. (Oh snap, now who’s rapping?)

But he’s also talking about how to create something that people love, need, want, appreciate, or value. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, too?

We’re all saying the same thing. We’re just saying it in different ways.

And that’s what this blog is all about: how to write three different variations of the same story for TV, radio, and social media.

To help you understand what I mean, I’ve come up with a simple ad idea for a burger place. I am calling the burger place “Burger Place.” (What, you didn’t think I was going to waste all my creative flavorings on you, did you?)

What’s more, I’m going to write (or describe) three different versions of the exact same ad:

  • One for radio
  • One for TV
  • One for social media

I’ll even throw in some “rules” for how to write each script. Sound good? Make sense?

Okay. Here we go.

RADIO

Whatever you’re trying to sell, you’re probably gonna get 15, 30, or 60 seconds to sell it, so sell it fast. Here’s a simple formula to follow:

1. Address your audience immediately.
Your audience is blind here, so a little theatre of the mind will go a long way. Start out with a question or conflict that I, the listener, can relate to. Tell me where I am and what I’m doing. In your script, describe any audio effects for your more talented team members to add later. For example:

[We hear a school bell ring and the sound of a door close. In the background, the familiar sound of a crowded high school hallway.]

[Dad and Son in unison, monotonously]: “Hi, Principal Donaldson.”

Principal Donaldson (older female) [angrily]: “Mr. Stuart, I’m afraid your son is in BIG trouble.”

2. Tell a story.
Questions and conflicts typically involve people. Who are they and what is happening? Structure a sensible storyline to propel your message. Deploy dialogue or set the stage with a compelling voice-over. This is called exposition. For example:

Dad: “Oh no, it’s not his report card again, is it?” 

Son: “Dad, I can explain—”

Principal Donaldson: “Yes, and so can I! Summer school!”

Son and Dad: [Groan in unison]

3. Present a problem.
Uh oh. That question or conflict sounds heavy. More to the point, it appeals to me, the listener (because you’ve strategically chosen to air this ad on a radio station that plays to my demographic). I need to know where this story is going and how it ends. Empathize with me, damnit!

Narrator: Summer vacation off to a rough start?

4. Introduce your solution.
Phew! That’s all I need? What a relief. Where can I procure this practical solution you speak of?

Narrator: This summer, Burger Place will be open earlier than ever! So you can start your day with a smile—even if summer school doesn’t.

5. Repeat the name of your product.
Say the name of your product or company as many times as you can without it sounding unnatural.

6. Add an incentive.
Whoa whoa whoa. I can eat a burger earlier than ever? Finally! But how can you sweeten the deal to make it really worth my while? If it’s for free or at a discount, I want it—no matter what it is.

Narrator: Get 50 percent off of every Burger Place order before 9 a.m. from now until Labor Day.

7. Include a strong call to action.
Tell me what I’m getting and where I can get it. As a standard rule of thumb, I should hear your product and/or company name at least three times. That’s usually some combination of your address, website, or social media handles. And remember, someone’s gonna to have to read this script, so make it easy to read. Spell out your URLs like this:

Narrator: Stop by your favorite Burger Place location, or visit Burger Place online at Burger Place Dot Com to see our new summer specials today!

Boom. Done. Radio’s in the books.

TELEVISION

Congratulations, you’ve made the leap from radio to television! Now’s your opportunity to show me what you were just telling me. You might still have as little as 15 seconds, though, so make your visuals count.

1. Put your product into my hands.
Let’s say—strictly, super hypothetically—I’m a schlubby, middle-aged man who loves watching sports and drinking beer. Add that note into your script. Then put yourself in my position. What do I want? Where do I want to be? Is it in the principal’s office at my kid’s school? Probably not. When you write your script, put me where I want to be and then give me chance to get there.

2. Or don’t.
For a comedic effect and lasting impact, put me somewhere I’d never want to be in my life. Then show my reaction. Does my delicious cheeseburger suddenly turn into my teenager’s god-awful report card? Ugh! Use comedic irony to present my problem and then introduce your solution.

3. Help me find you.
Are you located near a local landmark? Does your storefront feature a 30-foot inflatable crocodile? We’re on TV now, so mix in some visual aid. If you show me something I won’t soon forget, you might see me sooner than you expect. Or better yet, skip the gimmicks and show me what you’ve got, all new and shiny-like. Write visual cues into your TV script that you couldn’t write in your radio ad.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Static images. Videos. Carousel ads. Social media platforms let you reach out to customers and engage new fans in different ways. But in a world that can’t stop scrolling, how can you get them to stop and see your story? Let’s use a static Facebook ad as an example to break it down.

1. Keep it short.
Write one short message that tells your story as succinctly as possible. For example:

Bad report card for him? Delicious cheeseburger for you. “Celebrate” summer vacation at Burger Place today!

2. “Make it pop!”
Hooboy. Music to your designer’s ears, right? Capture your audience with images that stand out. In your script, describe the scene so your designer has some direction. Try to point out where a unique design element or animation could be effective.

3. Reiterate your point.
Use 25 characters or fewer to reiterate your story with a cheeky yet sensible tagline. For example:

Bad grades? Good burgers.

And there you have it! Same story. Different media. Modified scripts.

Did you lose yourself in the message? The moment? You own it! You better never let it go.

For more help telling your story, whether it’s on the radio, TV, or internet—we can help you with that. And oh yeah, don’t forget: We dive deep into web development, graphic design, and more.

Interested? Give us a call at 716-926-9266, contact us online, or subscribe to our newsletter today!

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