Each morning when KUOW social media producer Brie Ripley gets to work, she asks herself the same question: How am I going to bring journalism to social media today? Ripley has been with the station for just a year, but as their second full-time social staffer, she has been able to innovate and grow audiences in the social space. More specifically, Ripley asks how she is going to bring region-specific stories to the accounts, which she says is key in reaching audiences and engaging with them.
When I started working in sales in commercial media, about the year 40 BC (Before Computers), it wasn’t uncommon to ask a prospective advertiser for recent copies of the trade magazines they subscribed to. That was how almost every salesperson learned about the prospect’s industry and business. Back then the prospect was willing and had time to talk about it with sales reps.
Times have changed.
Now, prospects are bombarded by media sales reps. Think about it. In almost every city there may be about 30 salespeople representing various radio and TV stations, and a half dozen or so from the daily, local, and business papers. Add in another dozen sales reps from billboard companies, direct mail and marketing businesses, cable TV, and online marketing companies. It’s easy to understand that a business owner or their marketing person is being called on by dozens of media sales reps every month. Businesses don’t have the time to educate every salesperson about their business, nor should they have to do that. That’s our responsibility.
Whenever I talk to leaders in other nonprofit industries about fundraising for public media, they tell me how lucky we are. They understand that our supporters - the people who love and give to public media - are truly the stuff of envy. Our fans proclaim their adoration on tote bags, in dating apps, in conversations with friends and family, and by becoming members. More than half of public media donors are sustaining members; they give year after year. This percentage is head-and-shoulders above the share of sustainers that can be claimed by other nonprofits. Not surprisingly, overall retention among public media donors is also significantly higher than the national index.
Public media has nearly perfected the model of raising money from a large swath of people who love what we do. Our central strategy has historically relied on the fact that our supporters engage with us everyday, all day long on our airwaves. When we want them to give, we don’t have to go far to get their attention. We simply go on-air and ask. These donor interactions are straightforward and transactional. And they deliver.
Like I said, the stuff of envy! Of course, our greatest strengths can conceal our greatest weaknesses, or, as I see them, our greatest opportunities.
If you felt like your organization’s online giving was unpredictable or lackluster in 2018 you are not alone. According to the recently released M+R Benchmarks report surveying 135 diverse nonprofits, online giving revenues grew a measly 1% last year.
After an incredible 2017 with revenue growth of 23%, the 1% increase in revenue in 2018 fell short of expectations. But the team at M+R highlights the good news: it’s still a 77% increase from 2014. According to the report, this flat growth is the market right-sizing itself after the outpouring of donations following the 2016 election. M+R suggests, “It’s that the growth happened a year early, showing up in 2017.”
There is no sugar coating some of the other data in the report, however: Email open and click-through rates fell to 14% and .44%, respectively; and membership growth slowed (after a big 21% increase in 2017 to a 5% increase in 2018).
But the data also gives us some guidelines for being successful despite growth slowing, such as improving donor retention and sustainer programs, increasing the effectiveness of other channels, and mobilizing your most passionate supporters.
Paul Jacobs recently shared conclusions about the future of corporate support revenue based on years of research and data analysis. Jacobs is vice president/general manager of Jacobs Media, which has provided programming, digital, sales, and social media consulting to commercial and public radio stations for the past 35 years. Jacobs Media is also home to the Halo Effect research we use every day. His conclusions underscore some essential - and imminent - realities about the way we sell underwriting in today’s media environment.
- People have many more ways to spend their time with media today than they ever have in the past. Radio accounts for 17% of all media consumption, and this holds true across all ages. While the car remains the main place people listen, 20% of smart speaker owners say they are listening to a little more or a lot more radio, which speaks to more in-home listening. Of course, the days of two bands and five presets on the dashboard are over. The amount of content and content sources competing for listeners’ attention is vast.
When digital director Jodi Westrick was hired at Michigan Radio, she knew her new station was excellent at telling stories with audio and website content. Her goal was to expand the reach of those stories to new and different audiences.
Westrick and her team began synopsizing the station’s reporting on the Instagram platform using single images, slideshows, and video. These Instagram posts link back to the full stories using instructions to “visit the link in our bio.”
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review Daily Alert titled “Why New Sales Managers Need More Training” by Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha and Sally E. Lorimer. The article really resonated with me, especially when they mentioned the Peter Principal where “companies promote their best salespeople to become their worst managers.”
I was that person - a top salesperson who wanted to be a manager - and then quickly learned that I was not good at it! The things that made me great at one thing were not the skills needed to be a successful at the other. Fortunately for me, I worked for an organization that offered strong mentoring and training, and so I was able to acquire the skills to transition into management.
In smaller public media operations, the above scenario plays out every day: A sales manager retires or steps down, the station scrambles to get someone in place ASAP, and the first place they look is internally. Who is our best rep?
There’s a familiar phrase in professional sports: “in the zone.” Professional basketball players on a hot streak shooting from beyond the three-point line are in the zone. Baseball players enjoying a hitting streak might say the ball seems impossible not to hit when they are in the zone. When a golfer’s swing seems effortless, when she sinks her putts on the green with ease, she’s in the zone.
What contributes to being in the zone? Being completely focused on the moment. Everything else seems to fade into the background, including the noise of the crowd.
When performing an activity, and being immersed in the moment, there’s an energized focus. Being in the zone is when you’re completely involved and concentrating on your actions.
In sales, you experience being in the zone, mainly when three conditions are in play:
The last quarter of the calendar year (October-December) is a critical fundraising period for stations. With fall drives and year-end giving occurring in these months, the fundraising outcomes are important to the overall success of your program regardless of whether this period coincides with the end of a station’s fiscal year.
Last year, we began hearing a mix of optimism and concern from our members about quarter four of 2018. So we decided to survey stations to learn how 2018 came out, and preview plans for 2019.
Just like with other advertising platforms, underwriters who are considering digital sponsorship can have recurring concerns that prevent them from signing deals, whether they are skeptical about digital advertising in general, or perhaps have unrealistic expectations of what digital marketing alone can achieve.
Concern: Is Digital Sponsorship Generally Effective?
It's not uncommon to hear that underwriters have concerns about digital in general, or feel their click-through rates are too low. These underwriters may be accustomed to cheaper CPMs, and may have a dislike or distrust of mobile media.
Although digital is known to be effective and generates a massive amount of underwriting revenue, some underwriters have general concerns about digital and hesitate to allocate a portion of their budget to this type of sponsorship. These are usually underwriters who have a lack of personal experience with buying digital.
Response: Examples of Success
If a potential sponsor believes digital isn't as effective as traditional media, try sharing relevant examples and success stories. We recommend showing examples of competitors running digital ads; MOAT.com is a website that provides insights into where advertisers are running their ads, and can be a good source for advertisers, for example.