Public Media: Existing Within the Shadow of White Supremacy Culture

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, leadership, diversity & inclusion

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White supremacy is all around us. If you are aware of this, congratulations, you are on the road to recovery; the first step is admitting it. If you are struggling to grapple with this concept, know that you are not alone. This statement may challenge your inner spirit, causing denial and a sense of panic followed by a twinge of anger. I know this because I have felt it. These powerful, pessimistic feelings show up in our actions, and interactions with others, when merely the ideas of racism and racial bias are hinted at. This is how white supremacy wins every time.

Conversations around systemic racism in our society are far from new. Mountains of data, studies, and reports offer stark evidence that, in the United States, the systems we all rely on were intentionally designed to marginalize and oppress Black and brown people. Yet little progress has been made to change them. Why? Because white supremacy has been the standard throughout. We default to beliefs, actions, and characteristics that promote and uphold whiteness. If it’s not white, it’s not right.

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Leadership for the Now Generation

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, leadership, diversity & inclusion

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We are experiencing a reawakening in America: A global pandemic and failure of our democratic systems. Nearly a decade of watching Black Americans murdered from multiple video angles. The Karens. Mask polarization. The psyche of America is crying out: When will it end? Enough is enough.

The overwhelming feeling is that few solutions - or even substantive conversation - have come from those in power. 

It’s no different in public media.

My heart aches when I see/read/hear so many of my media colleagues and particularly those in public media, who have expressed during these past few weeks their lived experiences inside of newsrooms and organizations as being made to feel less than or even invisible.

Those words come from a tweet that I posted back in mid-July. But it’s a statement I’ve been making for the better part of the last decade. These are years when my BIPOC colleagues have been speaking up about their experiences working in public media. Applying for c-suite roles and never being interviewed, being passed over while whites with less experience and questionable pasts get promoted, discovering that white colleagues in similar roles make significantly more, and enduring retaliation for speaking up or filing complaints with leadership or HR.  

While some diversity might exist at the bottom of our organizations, as you summit the peak of leadership, it’s snow-capped white. It's the public media version of a 1960’s lunch counter. It’s modern day segregation.

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Three Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Own Growth

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, leadership

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Professional development is something we know is important, but very few managers and leaders give it the time, resources, and prioritization that it needs. Of course, you can also choose what value to place on your own career development. If you’re looking to regain your momentum and start growing faster, here are a few traps to avoid: 

1. Stop Thinking You Don’t Have Time to Learn.

You’re busy, I get it. But why is it that some busy people can make time to grow in their jobs and others can’t? Your manager’s attitude and company culture play a role, sure, but I think an even bigger contributor is the belief that professional development is somehow an “extra” that needs to happen when your other work is done

Take this very concrete example: A public radio membership director spends two hours per week doing a complicated multi-step process to prepare data from a payments system to import it into a CRM. She knows that if she were to design a template to do this, she could probably reduce that time to 15 minutes. She also knows that if she knew how to build this template, she could build others that would save her time on other tasks. And, she could teach this skill to other people in her department so they could be more efficient. “One day, when I have time,” she says. 

The bottom line is that you will never not be busy. The only way to “make time” to learn and grow is to stop thinking of it as something you do separately from your day-to-day work.

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Opportunities for Leadership: Three Ways Public Media Can Improve its Essential Service as a Result of COVID-19

General Management, leadership, philanthropy, COVID-19

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Across the United States, public media newsrooms are doubling down on their efforts to inform local communities about the dangerous unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re setting up remote reporting and broadcasting capabilities, adding reporters to their teams, and ramping up the flow of information to ensure timeliness and accuracy. 

Will public media also use this opportunity to address known challenges and accelerate change? And, if these strategies are successful, will public media have positioned itself more favorably in the minds of journalism funders? Here are three opportunities—for public service certainly, and for revenue, potentially—that the pandemic opens to public media newsrooms.

Serve the Full Community

Public media has long touted its “grass tops” service to affluent, educated audiences. But in recent years, this audience focus has become a significant liability for public media among grantmakers considering local journalism support. Gaps in the reach of news and information are increasingly well documented, showing that communities of color, immigrants, and low-income people are not reflected by or reached through legacy news, including public media.

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Leading With Influence and Persuasion in Public Media

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, leadership

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Leadership roles in public media are often very challenging and complex. Whether you’re a GM, a PD, marketing director, underwriting director, or membership director, we are all responsible for creating strategies and painting a vision. However, when leading a team, creating consensus and alignment is not an easy task.

My go-to source for enhancing my ability to persuade people without coercion, is a book titled “The Art of Woo.” The authors Mario Moussa and G. Richard Shell both teach at the Wharton School. “Woo” refers to the ability to “Win Others Over.” It’s this ability to persuade, according to the book, that allows us to achieve our business goals.

Develop Trusting Internal Business Relationships

Woo is basically relationship-based persuasion: a strategic process for getting people’s attention, presenting your ideas, and obtaining approval for your plans and projects. Face-to-face meetings are the best way to develop trusting relationships. Such settings enable people to catch nonverbal cues such as voice-tone, body language, and emotional emphasis.

Cultivate Self-Awareness 

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The Great Major Giving Pivot

Major Giving, General Management, leadership, philanthropy

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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.

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Bust Your Organization's Internal Silos With an Audience-Centric Approach

PMDMC, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, marketing, leadership

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This interactive session  was first presented by Atlantic 57 at PMDMC 2018. You can try three session exercises with your own team to explore how to put these principles into practice.

There's a division in many newsrooms today that has an impact on how well we serve our audiences. 

Most newsroom reporters and editors focus on creating content, while those in digital roles focus on distributing that content or analyzing audience analytics.

The challenge: Newsrooms are struggling to bridge the divide between old and new.

When these groups work as two teams instead of one, newsrooms struggle to bridge the divide between old ways of presenting content and the new ways in which audiences consume content. It's a gap that has a significant impact on the audience experience:

The solution: Unite your teams to serve your audiences.

Put the needs of your audiences at the center of your work. This seems like a no-brainer. And yet, many organizations are falling short of this goal. There are three key barriers that stand in the way. We'll outline what those barriers are, and how to bridge them. 

BARRIER 1: Media organizations try to be everything to everyone, everywhere.

Sound familiar? Audiences are moving across platforms at a rapid pace (think podcasting, social media, smart speakers...) Many organizations are scrambling to keep up with these platform shifts and can lose sight of the larger mission. 

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Defining Digital Revenue: Current Public Media Trends

PMDMC, boards of directors, digital revenue, General Management, leadership

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According to an in-depth 2011 study by Ernst & Young that examined how global media and entertainment leaders define digital revenue, the conclusion was:

“The multiple interchangeable terms used to describe digital revenue – new media, online, internet, electronic delivery or interactive – add to the complexity of clearly defining digital revenue. They lead to lack of clarity of individual business models and revenue streams.”

I’ll say.

This study confirms the same struggle felt in public media. Without a standard definition, there are inconsistencies in judgment. As the Ernst and Young report notes, not only are there inconsistencies across all media organizations, public or commercial and large or small, there are inconsistencies inside organizations, between different departments within a single organization.

This issue was identified in the discovery process with Greater Public’s Digital Revenue Readiness Council earlier this year, as the group explored actionable guidance on digital revenue strategy. The challenge was noted in the council’s findings that were presented with the illustrated digital revenue roadmap at the PMDMC CEO symposium. Most council members’ organizations had their own definition of digital revenue but more importantly, they had a process in place at their organizations to assess it. That was the takeaway:

How each organization chose to define digital revenue was not a key indicator of success. The council believed that stations should define it however they want, but once they do, commit to growing that number.

While this conclusion mirrors the findings across other studies, the CEOs in attendance at the symposium asked for some level of guidance and an explanation as to what some of those definitions were. What are the different ways in which public media organizations define digital revenue and are there any conclusions we can draw immediately? The answer is yes.

Current practices fall into three trends...

When we look across public media it is important to highlight a significant point. Many, if not most organizations are not yet thinking about digital revenue in a significant way at all. Most are still developing a strategy to grow this illusive revenue stream as well as determining how they will count it. It is a chicken and egg conversation for many. How can we count something that we can’t define? For those who are thinking about it, however, some common practices emerge. They seem to fall into few broad categories.

TREND #1: Membership revenue obtained through digital initiatives is the primary focus.

Of the small number of stations that are actively tracking digital revenue, it seems that there is one immediate takeaway. No one seems to be counting all donations given through digital channels as digital revenue. The current practices are careful to note what initiated the action or “source of gift.”

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12 Pro Tips to Successfully Move From Underwriting Account Exec to Manager

training, managers, Corporate Support, time management, leadership

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By guest author Gina Dragutinovich, Director of Corporate Sponsorship Sales at WUWM 89.7 FM-Milwaukee Public Radio

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You Complete Me: Bringing Commercial Salespeople onto Your Public Radio or TV Team

sales strategy, training, Corporate Support, leadership

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Members: don't miss Greater Public's"Onboarding New Underwriting Reps" webinar

It was only a few years ago that public radio and television stations were loath to hire commercial salespeople. It felt too much akin to letting the camel inside the tent.They would surely destroy the integrity of public media by making it too commercial-sounding; junking up the airwaves with a bunch of car dealers… or worse.

Fast forward to now. In one recent PMDMC session the group was asked how many in the room had commercial experience and it seemed that half the room raised their hands.The question is, what makes one person a better hire than another when it comes to transitioning into public media?

There are lots of reasons to embrace commercial salespeople into your organization. The key is to help them make the transition so they will stick around and you can reap the benefits of their experience and, perhaps most importantly, their relationships in the community.In many cases the commercial reps that are looking to make the transition into public media are senior reps that are looking for a job they can feel good about.They love the medium, know how to use research, and, best of all, they know where the money is when it comes to bringing in revenue for the station!

What makes a good candidate; things to interview for...

  • Passion for public media: are they a listener/viewer?
  • Have they been donors and for how long?
  • What is their favorite program? This question is courtesy of Market Enginuity, and it generally shows how involved they are in the programming.)
  • How many years’ experience do they have?
  • What were their favorite kinds of projects?
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