How to Advance Equity with Your Storytelling

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, Audience Engagement, diversity & inclusion

Leave a comment

If you grew up in the United States, at some point someone probably convinced you that if you work hard, success will follow, either in the form of good grades, fame, or fortune. And this equation, hard work = success, has probably informed many of your life’s decisions, like when to stick with a difficult task or job and what to say to friends and family when they struggle to accomplish their goals.

But what if this equation is untrue? Or more accurately, what if it’s only half true?

Social scientists have found that the most pernicious barrier to DEI is the myth of the self-made man, also known as rugged individualism. This myth is so implicit and widespread in US society that our minds automatically attribute disparate outcomes between groups to individual effort. So, if we state that African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than White Americans, the average American brain attributes that difference to either better individual effort by White Americans to eat healthfully or less effort by African Americans to eat healthfully. We don’t see the food deserts, housing, and environmental factors contributing to these disparate outcomes. We simply can’t see how systems support some people’s success but not others’ because we have bought so completely into the myth that we all go it alone.

This idea shapes how we tell stories. The Hero’s Journey, a monomyth made famous by cultural and religious scholar Joseph Campbell, is the template used to shape narratives in media, from books and movies to journalism and documentaries. It involves a protagonist who goes on an adventure, experiences a crisis, overcomes it, and then returns home transformed. Everyone from Pixar cartoonists to nonprofit fundraising professionals has been influenced by this template – including public media.

The Hero’s Journey certainly holds people’s attention. But it also makes the system invisible and silent, thereby reinforcing oppressive behaviors and protecting those in power.

If we want to create a more equitable world, we need storytellers to break the silence and become transparent about the system, the privilege it affords some but not others, and the support any protagonist receives from others in their journey to success.

Continue reading →

A Year-End Appreciation from Greater Public

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, leadership, calendar year-end, Audience Engagement

Leave a comment

The brightest moments from 2021 have been when I’ve seen the brilliance that’s come from you, our Greater Public members.

This year we continued to come together on Zooms, hangouts and chats. And your ideas, determination, and creativity were magnificent to behold. Thank you for that!

We hope your connections with us and other Greater Public members brought you inspiration and conviction to keep moving forward.

Before the calendar changes to a new year in a few weeks, we want to take a moment to thank you for your incredible work by sharing a message created just for you by spoken word artist, Nick George.

As Nick says, “keep on telling it.” We’ll be here to support and cheer you on along the way. Wishing you a restorative and happy holiday season.

- Joyce MacDonald and the Greater Public team


Continue reading →

How the Pandemic Prepared Public Media to Build an Audience-Centered Culture

leadership, Audience Engagement, COVID-19

Leave a comment

Over the past year, I’ve watched public media organizations meet the challenges of the pandemic by creating ways to serve audiences that would have been previously unimaginable. 

From COVID help desks to the most creative examples of virtual — and newly accessible — live events, the pandemic challenged many of our organizations to set aside some of the well-worn ways we do things in order to ask a single essential question: 

“What does our community need from us right now, and how can we best provide it for them?” 

The process of asking and answering that question is how we develop an audience. Continually repeating this process while embodying and rewarding the skills required to meet audience needs is how we build an audience-centered culture.

Continue reading →

WXPN's Virtual 5k Brings Surprising Results

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

Leave a comment

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.”

Continue reading →

Proof of Performance Promos May Help You Gain Trust and Grow Audience

elections, Membership, General Management, Audience Engagement

Leave a comment

For many of us, Impeachment coverage has dominated our broadcast schedule and made it difficult to get all of our underwriting spots aired. But the special coverage has also highlighted what public media does best, bolstering support for our services. A report out in mid-December from the Radio Research Consortium shows that NPR member stations with full-time news formats saw an 18% increase in listening. 

At KUOW in Seattle, Arvid Hokanson, director of audience, noticed the increased listening in his weekly broadcast and stream data and recognized an opportunity.  

“If people are tuning in more now,” says Hokanson, “we should capture them.”

His goal: Connect the station’s coverage of this historic moment in listeners’ minds with an awareness of the singular value of the service.

Continue reading →

How Michigan Radio Uses Instagram to Cultivate Audience Engagement

instagram, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, General Management, Audience Engagement

Leave a comment

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.”

Continue reading →

Three Strategies to Strengthen Fundraising in an Unpredictable Economy

Membership, customer service, Social/Mobile, Audience Engagement, online giving

Leave a comment

Stations have grown used to raising money in the glow of a decade-long economic expansion and much-touted strong economy. Maybe economic news will remain glowing. But the chief economist at Freddie Mac recently said we are in a “mental recession,” explaining a palpable nationwide unease. If this persists, members, listeners, and viewers may do what donors always have done when facing uncertainty: delay giving decisions and avoid new commitments.

When planning for the next 12-18 months, stations can either hope for the best or get ready. But ready for what? If macro factors like gyrating stock markets, uncharted tax policy, and political upheaval begin scaring people away from giving, what can we do about it? In fact, there are three smart things stations can do, no matter what 2019 and 2020 hold:

  1. Reexamine member acquisition using ALL of your digital prospect channels.

    Stop neglecting NPR One subscribers, website visitors or your social media followers. Probe your fundraising results from non-member digital constituents, fix weak performers, test neglected groups.

    Test new ways to recruit sustainers, like apps for rounding up spare change on credit card purchases.

    Get e-communications off snooze control. Pretend you don’t have an e-newsletter or e-anything and design them from scratch, asking what would motivate people to give.

Continue reading →

How Minnesota Public Radio Captured the #MPRraccoon Sensation to Connect With Its Audience

Membership, marketing, Audience Engagement

Leave a comment

Reprinted with permission from Solution Set reports from The Lenfest Institute and The Solutions Journalism Network

On Tuesday, June 12, a raccoon got stranded on the side of an office building across the street from Minnesota Public Radio, the public radio station in the Twin Cities.

The station’s reporters quickly dubbed the critter #MPRraccoon, and as it climbed up the building to safety it attracted worldwide attention. But as the newsroom covered the viral phenom, others at MPR tried to meet listeners’ request for raccoon merchandise. This week in Solution Set, I spoke with some of 
MPR’s leadership to better understand how they responded to this unique moment.

The Challenge

June 12 was a fairly normal Tuesday afternoon at Minnesota Public Radio until staffers noticed something odd on the building across the street: A raccoon was climbing up the side of a building.
Journalists, as they’re wont to do, quickly began tweeting about the little critter, and MPR reporter Tim Nelson christened it the #MPRraccoon as he reported extensively on the animal’s progress.
Soon, people far beyond Minnesota began following the raccoon’s ascent. Social media posts spread rapidly around the Internet, #MPRRaccoon trended on Twitter, and news organizations from around the world began publishing stories about the raccoon.
People from all around the world also began producing art depicting the raccoon’s challenge. And as the drawings and depictions appeared on social media, users had another request: Can I get an #MPRraccoon tote bag or T-shirt? (This is public media after all.)
So as the raccoon continued its climb, MPR began thinking about how it could make the most out of the unexpected attention.
“The conversations were how do we, Minnesota Public Radio, respond to this? It was more about feeding what the audience wanted and being true to who we were than how can we make money so to speak,” said Jennifer Van Zandt, managing director of marketing & creative services.

The Strategy

#MPRraccoon took off on Tuedsay afternoon, June 12. The raccoon safely reached the top of the building in the early morning hours of the following day, Wednesday, June 13.
By that afternoon, MPR was already selling T-shirts and tote bags.

Continue reading →

Ten Approaches to Audience Feedback That Help Listeners Love You

PMDMC, Membership, Audience Engagement

Leave a comment

Every day, listeners and viewers contact their public media stations with questions, comments, compliments, and criticisms. These interactions can range from day-making to incredibly stressful. In truth, hearing from the audience at all means they care enough to reach out. These encounters are valuable opportunities to truly connect with listeners and viewers, deepening our relationship with them, and making sure they know how valuable they are.

1. Pay attention to what your audience is saying.

Everything we do is for the audience. Without them, public media wouldn't exist. We don't always need to see eye-to-eye, but we do need to pay attention and let our audience know that their voices matter. Make certain that listener feedback is actually reaching your programming staff and management. 

Continue reading →

Three Great Ways to Grow Listening Among Your Audience

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive, Audience Engagement

Leave a comment

Informed by recommendations from Michelle Owens of Vermont Public Radio, Craig Oliver of Greater Public, Jody Evans of Public Radio Program Directors, and Izzi Smith of NPR

Listening is the most elemental unit of the public radio economy. The past year has seen record increases in listening, and many stations are converting that increase into new revenue, updated case statements, and new content for future audiences. The importance of listening is simple: Those who listen more have a better ability to understand and internalize the value of public media and the public funding model. Decades of studies have indeed shown that station revenue is listener-sensitive; more people listening means greater opportunity for fundraising success. Better fundraising leads to more investment in great programming, which brings in more listeners and so on.

Here are some great ways to grow listening over the long-term.

1. Understand that listening actually decreases during a drive and plan accordingly.

Continue reading →