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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Upselling and Cross-Selling Your Underwriters

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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How many of your underwriters also buy sponsorships of your other offerings and opportunities? I’m referring to items such as web ads on your station’s website or e-newsletters, program guides, and/or mobile apps? How many of your current underwriters sponsor your station’s special programming features or events?

If your answer is “not enough of them,” then you’re missing opportunities to generate incremental revenue for your station through upselling or cross-selling.

Upselling means showing the value and encouraging the purchase of a related type of on-air media in addition to your underwriter’s current schedule. For example, an underwriter who is buying a “Run of Schedule” could also be a sponsor of one or more specific on-air programs (i.e. music, news, or public affairs).

Cross-selling is recommending that, in addition to their on-air schedule, your underwriter purchases complementary sponsorships like station events, online marketing opportunities, or other promotions. Taking a multi-media approach that includes various marketing opportunities will bolster your underwriter’s name recognition and top-of-mind awareness as they build upon the recognition they receive from their current buy.

Upselling and cross-selling is necessary to leverage more sales with your existing underwriters. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, both offer distinct benefits and can be effective when used in tandem.

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Prepare Your Sales Strategy for a Banner Election Year

elections, sales strategy, Corporate Support

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As the election ramps up, all corporate support sales reps should feel confident that public media is going to have a banner year. The election year is expected to deliver larger than normal audiences to public media, similar to what we saw in 2016. Combine this with balanced reporting, lack of political advertising, and the qualitative nature of our audiences, and public radio is the place for smart marketers to be heard. 

According to Nielsen Research, the 2016 election and aftermath provided the largest audience increase in history. The overall growth of the public radio audience since 2000 has been remarkable and the 2016 election brought even more new listeners, many of whom continue to listen. The expectation is that 2020 will provide another bump in ratings. 

For music stations,  there are signs that news fatigue has set in... to some extent. It would be smart for music formats of all types to position themselves as havens from the barrage of news and political advertising. Whether it’s classical, jazz, or AAA, music is a force that brings people together. Sponsors should appreciate that in 2020!

What is your strategy?

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Three Ways the Data You Already Have Can Increase Corporate Support Prospects

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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As a salesperson, you probably don’t analyze data like your manager does. You may not know how to access data easily and wonder what you’d want to do that for anyway. After all, that’s not your job, right?

I beg to differ. Having been “on the streets” for most of my career, I know how hard it is to get new clients on the air. I know how time-consuming it can be to find good prospects, and how frustrating it can be to fall short of an annual goal at the end of the year; there goes my bonus!

Well, data can help you! There are several things you can analyze on your own throughout the year to help you find new prospects and stay on-track.

1. Examine your biggest categories.

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Staying on Top of Trends in Advertising and Marketing

sales strategy, Corporate Support, underwriting prospect

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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.

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How to Get "in the Zone" in Underwriting Sales More Often

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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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:

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Secrets of the Best Sales Reps: Systems

sales strategy, Corporate Support, prospecting

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I used to work for a guy who would ask one key question during the interview process: “What makes you good at what you do?” If the candidate couldn’t articulate that, he wasn’t interested in hiring them. When I asked him about it, he said that really good salespeople have a self-awareness of why they are successful that makes their behavior repeatable. And this is the key: Do you know what you do when you win, and can you do it again…and again...and again?

As sales reps we need to know what brings us success so that we can repeat that behavior. Having good systems is one of the best ways to do that. Systems allow you to build self-awareness of why and how prospects choose to do business with you. You can be the most charming and persuasive person, but if you can’t keep track of yourself, those wins will merely be luck- and not necessarily repeatable.


For active accounts, you should have a way to track past, current, and future billing. Are they spending more each year, the same, or less? Do you know why? You need to offer excellent service to your active accounts which includes meeting their copy needs and knowing when to change the message.

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Sure-Bet Tactics to Renew Underwriting Clients

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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I was contacted recently by an underwriting salesperson with a question about renewing one of his account's annual underwriting agreement. He told me that the year-long agreement was ending in a month and he hadn’t talked to the underwriter since the agreement was signed the previous year.

I told him he was about ten months late in starting the renewal process.

The way I see it, the renewal process for underwriting should begin when you first sign up a new underwriter.

I don’t mean that you should have a renewal agreement ready to give to your first-time underwriter. However, when a businessperson signs their first underwriting agreement, that’s when it’s time to ramp up your relationship with the account and start to plan for the future. Instead of thinking of the process as a renewal, look at it as a continuation of your business relationship

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Nurture Your Underwriting Client Relationships After the Close

sales strategy, Corporate Support, prospecting

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You’ve worked hard to sign up your new underwriter. You started with an initial meeting to learn about her challenges and objectives. Then you followed up with information how your media can provide a solution targeting her desired outcome. She liked your presentation and proposal; your answers to her questions, and she decided to become an underwriter.

What do you do now?

Believe it or not, the sale is not complete. The commitment is there but you’ve not yet started to deliver what she purchased. So, next up… 

Write up the underwriting agreement and have it signed and returned to you.

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Admin templates

Draft the underwriting copy so it conveys her marketing message and complies with the FCC’s and your station’s copy guidelines. Once the copy is approved, send her a recording of the spot. Let her know she can share it with her employees and post it on her company’s website. 

Send her a schedule of times that her underwriting spots will air during the first week so she’ll know when to listen in to hear her spot.

After the contract is signed, the copy is produced and ready for airing, and you’ve sent her the list of when her spots will air during the first week you’re all done. Right?

There’s still more work to be done.

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Position the Wins of Public Media Sponsorship Against the Trend of Programmatic Ad-Buying

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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The digital media environment continues to change at a rapid pace. In order to sell digital sponsorship with confidence, we need to stay ahead of the pace of change by educating ourselves about the latest trends.

The trend toward programmatic ad buying continues to increase, and this is a bit of a pain point for us in public media. Because of our language restrictions, we can't wholeheartedly embrace this trend alongside other advertisers. 

Clients who engage in programmatic buying are using a publisher or ad network/agency to set a determined budget, upper/lower CPM, and start/end dates. The process is self-service so when the buyer clicks "go," the buy is executed automatically, non-stop, until the budget or end-date is reached. 

If you're talking to a prospect about digital sponsorship, you should assume they're engaging in some sort of programmatic buying. Common platforms are through Google and Facebook, but the practice is becoming more universal. In fact, an April report from eMarketer shows that $46 billion will be spent on programmatic advertising this year, meaning that 82.5 percent of digital display ads in the U.S. will be purchased through automated channels.

This doesn't mean there's not a valuable place for public media sponsorship.

Radio advertisers like digital.

There a strong case to be made to your clients for broadcast and digital to be sold together. Why? Because:

  • Merging broadcasting and digital gives additional reach and/or repetition.
  • 85% of radio advertisers also buy digital (RAB and BA 2017).
  • Digital generates 7.5% of average station revenue (RAB and BA 2017). This will grow as digital migration continues.
  • Public media’s audience, content, community, and uncluttered environment still entice buyers.

Be ready to position against programmatic.

Programmatic has a low barrier to entry, is low-maintenance, and increasingly common. But it  does have its weaknesses.  Significant percentages of media buyers cites the following - legitimate - concerns about programmatic: (eMarketer 2017)
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