Finding Ways to Meet Sponsors’ Needs During a Pandemic

event sponsorship, Corporate Support, marketing, COVID-19

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Greater Public spoke with Joyce Cotton, director of marketing and community partnership at WEDU/PBS TV. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cotton has relied on many of the techniques she’s honed over decades in the industry, combined with inspiring new ideas for how to serve sponsors, her station, and the community. Here are some of the practices - old and new - that have helped her meet sponsors’ needs in valuable ways. 

Lean into Sponsor Relationships During Hard Times

Over the years, I have been involved in the Tampa Bay community which has given me the opportunity to have a greater understanding of the issues that are of concern in the local community. At the start of the pandemic, I realized that this was going to be a time of change and uncertainty for everyone. I was a natural at adapting and adjusting to change. We have a relatively small underwriting team and I handle most of the arts venues which were shut down immediately. So, maybe two thirds of my business was impacted. I reached out to each community partner in an email. I said, “I understand your situation, if you need help with something, just let me know. We are all in this together.”

Because of the relationship that I have with my clients, some of them reached out to me, including an area restaurant that’s long supported WEDU. They asked if we could produce a spot to let their customers know that, although the restaurant was closed, their chef was preparing family dinners for curbside pick-up. A family-owned catering company changed their on-air message to encourage the donation of catered meals to the doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers who were caring for COVID-19 patients in area hospitals. 

I am fortunate to have developed ongoing community partnerships. For example, since the opening of the Glazer Children’s Museum 10 years ago, we, along with our education department, host bi-monthly “Free Tuesday” events on-site that include PBS Kids activities, character appearances, mobile labs with iPads featuring PBS Kids games apps, take-home educational resources for families, and free books for the kids. We have 2,000 - 3,000 people at each event. The museum recently reopened with a Wild Kratts exhibit in March [of this year] and will have the Daniel Tiger exhibit opening in the summer. Although we are not hosting the “Free Tuesday” events due to the limited capacity, the marketing director contacted me about this natural tie-in to continue our partnership and the museum is recognizing WEDU PBS as a sponsor of both exhibits. They have committed a $10,000 cash underwriting schedule to promote the reopening and assure families that they can come back safely.

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WXPN's Virtual 5k Brings Surprising Results

event sponsorship, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, Audience Engagement

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, events have gone virtual. From screenings to concerts and 5k runs, we’ve all been scrambling to figure out the best way to transition to this new model.

Last fall, WXPN successfully did just that, for its Musicians on Call campaign, in partnership with a national organization by the same name. The results were impressive, particularly when it came to participation. With approximately 200 more participating in its annual 5k fundraiser this time, many were listeners who lived too far from Philadelphia to join past runs, but were signing up now.

“We’re a big supporter of the local music community,” says WXPN’s Director of Marketing, Kimberly Winnick, who is responsible for raising funds for the program. “It’s one of the reasons we got involved with Musicians on Call. Our mission is to connect artists and audiences, and build, serve and engage the community. With a large community of local musicians and passionate volunteers, we knew we could build and sustain the volunteer staffing needs for this program. It’s a perfect fit for us.”

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Using Audience Personas to Guide Your Fundraising Activities

Membership, marketing

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Making up imaginary people may seem like a childhood game long forgotten, but media companies across the country are using the practice to help guide their work.

The idea behind audience personas or audience visioning exercises is to use a fictional person who is based on data and insight to guide product or project development. Check out this basic example created to think through a public radio website user:

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Boost Staff Motivation One Year into the Pandemic

Corporate Support, General Management, COVID-19

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The question on everyone’s lips just a month ago was “how do I keep my staff motivated one year into the pandemic”?

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to overcome so many extra challenges, boosting employee morale and keeping employees motivated when they’re working remotely.

We’ve become a Zoom society. Working from home almost daily, we’re Zooming with our sponsorship prospects and clients, our coworkers, and station managers. It’s not always easy. Zoom meetings bring technical glitches, dropped connections, and interruptions from our pets or family members which can be an embarrassing situation. And there’s the often-heard, “you need to unmute yourself.”

Trying to motivate employees after months of being away from an office environment can be challenging. We're so focused on rebuilding relationships and revenue streams that a mental health break is in order. Without time to blow off some steam, a person can become bored, frustrated, and unmotivated.

Here are some ideas to lift your staff's spirits and morale, or offer them a break from their challenges and struggles.

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Possibly the Most Compelling Reason to Sponsor Public Media

Corporate Support

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Reaching the public radio and television audience has always been a selling point with sponsors, and is the unique value proposition of all stations. The public media audience is unparalleled in reaching decision-makers and is an ideal highly qualified audience for sponsors. But as listening and viewing habits change, as well as behaviors due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, there may also be another reason to sponsor public media that is even more compelling.

A recent study reported by Annette Malave, SVP/Insights, RAB in her blog post “Radio Covers Auto Insurance,” showed attribution data analysis by Analytic Owl on the recent large ad spends by insurance companies like Progressive Insurance. The data showed that of nearly 36,000 radio ads throughout 2020, radio increased web traffic by 12%, according to NumericOwl data (powered by AnalyticOwl). For every radio ad aired, it generated 2.2 new website visits for a total of over 135,000 visits.

Everyone wants increased web traffic! Think of all the professional service companies, attorneys, healthcare, and others that have spent a lot of money updating their websites to make them current and user-friendly. If you can increase their web traffic it can help make that investment worthwhile. Oh, and what about automotive dealerships? Driving traffic to their website is exactly what they want.

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Why Confronting Ethics in Fundraising Matters Now

Major Giving, COVID-19

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Americans tend to place more trust in nonprofit organizations than they do in many other structures. But if any organization abuses that trust or defies the ethics of philanthropy, it paints us all with the same mistrust. 

When some nonprofit hospitals across the country recently allowed their major donors and board members to “skip the line” and receive the coronavirus vaccination early or through special invite-only arrangements, it understandably angered not just the general public but most of us inside fundraising. 

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) released an unambiguous rebuke of the practice. “The idea of hospital systems, or any charity, ignoring protocols, guidance or restrictions—regardless of origin—and offering certain donors and board members the opportunity to ‘skip the line’ and receive vaccinations ahead of their scheduled time is unethical, inequitable and antithetical to the values of philanthropy and ethical fundraising.”

While we in public media are not subject to concern over vaccine distribution, it would be unwise to ignore this opportunity to examine our own ethical responsibilities to discover where we need to shore up our practices.

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How to Plan a Collaborative Fundraiser

Membership, pledge drive

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Many stations have used or considered using collaborative fundraisers to contribute to the wellbeing of the community and provide opportunity to donors for deeper impact.

Collaborative drives appeal to donors because their gift simultaneously benefits the work of another community issue that they care about. 

WFDD in Winston-Salem has run a collaborative drive since 2009, gathering insights along the way about what makes these campaigns successful. Our BackPack Campaign works to alleviate childhood hunger through a partnership with our regional food bank’s BackPack Program, which provides children experiencing food insecurity with a backpack full of kid-friendly, nutritious food to take home over the weekends.

The BackPack Campaign offers a model for any station wishing to hold a collaborative fundraiser. 

What Is the BackPack Campaign?

The BackPack Campaign is a four-way partnership. The first partner is a food bank that runs a program to send children home with a backpack of food each weekend. The children have been identified by their school as getting most of their meals at school, and as not having reliable access to food over the weekend. An identified corporate partner agrees to fund the backpacks for children through a direct donation to the food bank. The third and fourth partners are the station, and, of course, the listeners.

It’s structured such that every gift to the station results in offsetting the cost of one backpack of food for a child. Listeners make a donation to the station, and 100% of their gift remains with the station supporting the programming; the corporate partner funds the backpack; the food bank distributes the backpacks through its program, which provides continuity of service to the children who are enrolled and can serve additional children because of the partnership. The backpack is the thank-you gift for the donor, it just goes to a child in need. Because it’s structured as a one-for-one (one donation equals one backpack), rather than a “when-then” (“when we meet the goal, then this will happen”), it’s very positively received. The station is coming together with the community to serve the community in amplified ways.

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More "Share of Wallet" Can Deliver More Revenue and Better Results

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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BIA Advisory Services, which tracks the local advertising spend for 16 different media, half of which are traditional and half of which are digital/online, is reporting that radio advertising spends will be up slightly this year. To get more revenue, and deliver stronger sponsor results, we in public radio sponsorship can work on getting more “share of wallet.” 

“Share of wallet” is defined in this context as the dollar amount a client spends with a particular advertising media. Radio, historically, has not asked for enough “share of wallet” compared to the unparalleled reach that radio offers. This year, if you change your expectations and your “ask," you can change your sponsorship revenue results.

The Radio Advertising Bureau reports the total number of radio listeners from Nielsen’s RADAR data every year.  92% of all Americans over the age of 18 listened to radio in 2019. As of August 2020, in Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, approximately 91% of all Americans over the age of 18 were listening to radio. According to Nielsen  this means that Radio is America’s #1 reach media. 241.6 million people listen to radio each week. How does this compare to TV? Television reaches 80% of Americans over the age of 18 according to the same Nielsen data. 

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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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