Anna McDonald

Greater Public Corporate Support Advisor

Recent Posts

Effective Ways to Educate Clients About the Reality of Radio Listenership

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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Many stations have seen a surge in digital traffic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And many agree that digital sponsorship revenue is likely to further increase as the work-from-home phenomenon and other consumer and marketing shifts continue into 2022 and beyond. Much about this has been great news for public media, both because it has helped to fill some of the void left by broadcast revenue loss in the past 18 months, and because it has helped stations get their backend and digital inventory operations in order to grow audience and sponsor engagement across digital platforms. 

But this excitement about digital has also generated marketplace misperceptions about radio that many sales teams are working to overcome.

Perception vs. Reality

Many marketers and media buyers continue to think that the audience attrition felt at the beginning of the pandemic continues, and that radio listenership is essentially dead. 

In reality though, radio has the biggest share of listening time compared to streaming, podcasts, and other audio listening; many public media stations are within 10% of their pre-COVID audience numbers.

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How to Pivot Corporate Support to Meet This Year's Challenges, Part 3

sales strategy, Corporate Support, COVID-19

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Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald recently sat down again with Paul Jacobs, VP/General Manager of Jacobs Media, for the third in a series of conversations about disruptions to the public media corporate support landscape (go back and read Part 1 and Part 2). The discussion was designed to take stock of where we are a little over a year into the pandemic and to offer advice for sales teams working towards recovery: 

First the good news: things are better than they were this time last year … 

But, to state the obvious: they are still messy! 

Here are a few tips from the conversation to help you continue to navigate through the uncertainty, keeping this guiding principle top-of-mind:

Just because things are beginning to resemble “normal” life, we are not going back to the way things were. If you are looking at 2021 through a 2019 lens, you are in trouble. 

Consider:

Digital Acceleration

The shift to digital marketing that was taking place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic is now accelerating. This is primarily because many local companies had to learn digital as a survival tactic to literally keep their businesses open during lockdown. In doing so, here's what they learned:

  • Digital marketing is not as hard as they thought, in fact it is pretty easy.
  • Digital marketing offers direct communication with customers, which they like.
  • Digital marketing makes tracking and testing possible, which allows for flexibility of messaging and spend in an uncertain business environment. Again, something they like. 

As a result, they will continue using digital moving forward.

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Corporate Support Strategy in the Coming Year: Telling a Client “No”

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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After a recent lively one-on-one conversation with Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald, Vice President and General Manager of Jacobs Media, Paul Jacobs, answered some additional questions from station colleagues across the system about corporate support efforts in the wake of challenges from the past year.

Q: What if you love the client, their passion, and idea, but you know their promotion will fail, which might damage their faith in the public radio audience or spread the virus. How would you handle that?

Jacobs: I have always believed that good news travels fast, but so does bad news. So if you allow a client to do the wrong thing, or something you believe won’t work, it’s incumbent on you to say something for a few reasons.

First, of course you want it to work for them. Second, if a credit sounds bad or inappropriate or simply doesn’t fit, all of your listeners will hear it, which reflects badly on the station. Third, if it fails, don’t assume the client won’t share that experience with others. Business people talk to other business people, and word spreads. So even if a client insists on doing it their way, you need to be on record as warning them, so in the event it doesn’t work, you might get a second bite of the apple to do it your way. If you don’t, it’s likely they will conclude that public radio doesn’t work and move on.

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Corporate Support Strategy in the Coming Year: Shopping Guides to Support Local Businesses

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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After a recent lively one-on-one conversation with Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald, Vice President and General Manager of Jacobs Media, Paul Jacobs, answered some additional questions from station colleagues across the system about corporate support efforts in the wake of challenges from the past year.

Q. You suggested on the webinar that stations should "promote local business.” I don't disagree, but is it legal for public stations to say 'shop local' on the air? And, even if legal, is it wise? Doesn't that undercut the messages from most if not all our national underwriters? 

Jacobs: I’m the last person you should ask about legalities so I’ll leave that up to other smart people. Let’s face it, Amex does a ton of business with Target and Wal-Mart, and they just sponsored “Small Business Saturday.” Shopping local not only appeals to local businesses, it is in sync with your local audience. As media becomes more nationalized, there’s benefit to reminding the audience you are local and care about the community where you both live.

“Shop Local” can also take many forms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on the air. It can be an online initiative. For example, Louisville Public Media calls their effort the “Sponsor Market.”

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Corporate Support Strategy in the Coming Year: Sponsorship Pricing and Packaging

pricing, Corporate Support

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After a recent lively one-on-one conversation with Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald, Vice President and General Manager of Jacobs Media, Paul Jacobs, answered some additional questions from station colleagues across the system about corporate support efforts in the wake of challenges from the past year.

Q: Should I be selling digital packages via SOV (Share of Voice) or CPM (Cost Per Thousand) models? 

Jacobs: In my experience, I always prefer SOV. (Do you see a pattern of my desire to stay away from ratings pricing?) Unless a digital package has a hefty number of impressions, it’s hard to generate a good rate and make it worthwhile. I prefer multi-channel digital packages that are long on concept and heft, and short on delivery pricing, whenever possible. Now, with agencies, that can be a challenge. CPMs work best for display ads, and less so for higher concept packages.

So to me, the best digital packages are those that are based on a concept that’s perceived as valuable by the client, not because of the numbers it delivers primarily, but the concept is in alignment with the brand’s values. And then the concept is supported with multi-pronged support, like email, website, push messaging, social media, etc., that features the sponsor. It’s the combination of the heft of support and the value of the concept that drives value.

In other words, I like fewer, bigger SOV-type packages than trying to sell a bunch of smaller ones based on CPM.

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Corporate Support Strategy in the Coming Year: Growing and Diversifying Audience

Corporate Support, COVID-19

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After a recent lively one-on-one conversation with Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald, Vice President and General Manager of Jacobs Media, Paul Jacobs, answered some additional questions from station colleagues across the system about corporate support efforts in the wake of challenges from the past year.

Q: What are some best practices for operating public media outlets?

Jacobs: While I don’t have best practices to offer specifically, I can tell you that what used to be a much simpler task has grown significantly more complex in the past decade. The onset of digital, the aging of the core audience, the diversity of America, and new competitors all make operating a public radio significantly more challenging. Given this, I offer these suggestions:

  1. Embrace younger, diverse staff members. All media outlets, including public radio, tend to rely on old experienced hands (like me). But we know Millennials and even Gen Z have much different experiences and outlooks. To position your station for the future, get them into the conversation.

  2. Research the audience. One of the greatest things about digital platforms is that conducting ongoing audience surveys and Zoom focus groups is a lot easier. I find too many public radio stations don’t take the time to get real input from their audience and miss opportunities to serve.

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How to Pivot Corporate Support to Meet This Year's Challenges, Part 2

sales strategy, Corporate Support, COVID-19

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After their first conversation about disruptions to the public media corporate support landscape due to COVID-19, Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald sat down again with Paul Jacobs, VP/General Manager of Jacobs Media to learn about his best advice as we move into the new year. 

Where we are: the wild ride continues

The roller coaster of a year has continued for businesses, consumers, and media companies alike. Last fall brought more uncertainty with colder weather, a rise in COVID cases and more restrictions. At the same time, the promise of a vaccine is a bright light taking us into 2021, and there is hope that by Q2 business and marketing may start to come back to an operational “normal” (although things will never be as they were).

Consider these trends and their long-term impacts, which are still unknown:

  • Consumers are moving out of big cities.
  • Two million women have voluntarily left the workforce.
  • Many small businesses - including those that are the bread and butter for public media - probably won’t make it.
  • Working from home is likely to be a part of business operations for the foreseeable future.
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Leveraging The CARES Act for Corporate Sponsorship

Corporate Support, calendar year-end, COVID-19

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Prospecting new sponsorship leads during this time is a challenging proposition. But the resulting necessity (and freedom) to think outside the box can also be a silver lining. Several stations report doing just that as they successfully prospect and secure sponsorships from new nonprofit or social-service-oriented clients. The prospecting they are doing is from a source that might not seem obvious: The CARES Act. 

Signed into law back in March, 2020, The CARES Act was designed to provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers and families and small businesses, and to preserve jobs for American industries. Recipients in your area likely include many small businesses and a good number of nonprofits. For-profit businesses -- which presumably have marketing and other traditional business functions already built in -- may be more likely to spend their assistance right away. But that may not necessarily be the case with many nonprofits. Indeed, especially when it comes to social-service oriented nonprofits, many received an influx of cash and still have money to spend by the end of the calendar year.

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Underwriting Category Trends for Q4

Corporate Support, COVID-19

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With communities continuing to re-open/adjust across the country and schools back in session in some shape or form, corporate underwriting teams are keeping a close eye on changes to local business spending, working to identify shifting and new corporate sponsorship dollars at the start of Q4. Here are a few observations from the field:

Performing Arts

While the overall landscape here is still fairly bleak, a few markets are seeing a minor resurgence in performing arts dollars, with some local arts organizations working to market virtual or socially-distanced outdoor events throughout the fall and leading into the holidays. 

Museums

For the most part, museums and historic sites are back open for business in many markets, and many of these organizations are spending at pre-COVID levels. 

Education

Several markets report an uptick in business from private or parochial schools, many of which are offering in-person education instead of virtual, and are looking to build awareness about these offerings. Private tutoring is also a growth area, as well as office supply stores since families, educators and professionals are stocking home learning/working spaces for the foreseeable future. Traditional bricks-and-mortar education clients are looking to market products and services that help them differentiate their virtual learning game.

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How to Pivot Your Corporate Support Practices to Meet This Year's Challenges

sales strategy, Corporate Support, COVID-19

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The disruption to the public media underwriting landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant. These changes have opened opportunities to pivot how we do business in ways that could also have lasting benefits. Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald recently sat down with Paul Jacobs, VP/General Manager of Jacobs Media as part of the PMDMC Summer Series to discuss Here is some of their best advice to take on the challenges brought by 2020:

Pivot to … E-Commerce 

The businesses that support public media have been turned upside down, and the rules for how they can engage and message their customers are changing weekly. It’s as difficult for them as it is for us. Messaging has shifted from “come on in” to “go online.” E-commerce is the way forward and will drive companies’ marketing decisions and changing budgets for the foreseeable future. 

This includes holiday shopping in Q4. In fact, the holiday shopping season has begun! Companies like Walmart and Target have already said they won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day. Like many companies - large and small - they are shifting their selling points to digital. 

This means that those businesses without a digital plan are really scrambling, and that most likely includes some of the smaller businesses that buy local public radio. What can you do to help your local sponsors promote their e-commerce offerings and connect listeners to their online storefronts? Can you create a shopping guide for the holidays, a shopping app, or other specific sponsor-facing solutions? Check out this example from Louisville Public Media.

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