You’ve likely heard the expression “the only thing that’s constant is change.” Change is neither good nor bad. It's just what happens. And as things change, so do we. Yet we sometimes think back to what was then versus what it is now.
Do you remember when underwriting was a charitable donation to a public radio or television station? And the donor’s acknowledgment was only the name of the individual or business because that’s all that was permitted?
Fast-forward several decades to what we regard as business underwriting. Some refer to it as corporate support or sponsorship. And underwriting salespeople proactively “sell” underwriting to businesses and organizations as part of a media mix within a larger marketing strategy. We carefully craft the underwriting message so that we get the underwriter’s marketing message across while making sure the copy is in compliance with the FCC guidelines. That’s a big plus, and a long way from having only the contributor’s name in the sponsorship credit.
Here are some other changes we’ve all experienced:
With the invention of new ways to communicate, correspondence has transitioned from snail-mailed letters to fax machines, email, and voice mail, then texting, and instant messaging. My personal observation is that, because some business people are flooded with online and phone messages, they often don’t reply in a timely manner, if at all. So the good old fashioned letter or a one-sheet, sent in a 9 x 12 envelope, usually gets the recipient’s attention first when opening their mail. Take advantage of that and send a brief letter or a one-sheet with an attention-getting graphic or chart illustrating the value of your audience and their importance to the underwriter.
You may have experienced longer sales cycles in some of your sales situations. A tremendous number of marketing and advertising options are available to business people, and it can take them longer to make their decision. That delay can be compounded by the fact that sometimes those decisions are made by groups, boards, or committees. Try building in more time to allow for the response, and use that waiting time to increase your prospecting and add to the sales funnel and pipeline. Some of your new prospects may take less time to reach their decision.
When you have your first meeting with a prospect, find out if anyone in addition to the prospect is involved with making the decision. If it’s more than one person, when possible, make a presentation to the group so you can answer their questions in person rather than having to wait for the main decision-maker to get input from others in the group. That can help speed up the decision-making and buying process.
Back in the day, contracts were signed in person. Now they can be digitally signed and returned by email for a quicker turnaround.
It used to be that business support for public broadcasting was for altruistic reasons. Today, business sponsors talk about underwriting for marketing and advertising purposes and want to see a return on their investment. When we have that accountability, it means we should be talking with the underwriter about - and managing - their expectations.
Find out what the prospect expects from her underwriting schedule and discuss how realistic it is. Does she want a Cadillac for the price of a moped? If a small budget is her challenge, start small and work up to a larger schedule as she sees the results from her initial schedule. By staying in touch with your clients and asking how they feel about their underwriting, it shows you care and that you want them to be successful. If they are less than satisfied, look at solutions such as moving their spots into dayparts they’ve not used, or clustering their spots around your dayparts that have a larger audience. If you keep your distance and don't ask for their input, it sends the message that you don’t care.
Stations now have the revenue stream from digital media sponsorship. Websites, e-newsletters, online member magazines, and mobile apps all provide ways for our sponsors to market their businesses to our online audiences. An underwriter’s banner ads, linked to their business, can drive traffic for them where they promote their business in ways that we can’t do on-air. It also reinforces their radio message. One media builds upon the other. Listeners hear the radio spot, they see the digital ads, and the message registers quicker with the listener. Using multiple forms of media helps build frequency for the underwriter.
Either you have seen or heard about stations before they had a traffic system, of using index cards with the underwriting copy that was read live and information about the dates and times it was supposed to be read on-air. Many were relieved when they could begin depending on a traffic system to help monitor and track underwriting avails, copy, and revenue. Most traffic systems can provide reports about your avails and reports to see how much revenue is in your system (schedules and their dollars currently in the traffic system) compared to where you need to be to reach your revenue goals.
Change happens. When you're open to that constant, you can almost always use change to your advantage!