When Breaking News Breaks Your Underwriting Budget

Corporate Support

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With impeachment hearings airing for hours a day, many sales managers have found themselves scrambling to make up the revenue from hundreds of missed sponsorship credits. We’ve been hearing from members with questions over what to do, and from others with strategies that are working. Here are a few tips to share. But first, make sure to bring donuts and flowers to the traffic department ‘cause you’re gonna need their help! 

Breaking news is what we do.

It’s important to communicate with sponsors that one of the many reasons our audiences are so loyal is because we do give full coverage to important issues of the day, and this is certainly one that deserves our attention. Once the live coverage is over, listeners will want to hear the NPR analysis from journalists they trust. [Continued below...]

Set and Communicate Corporate Support Rates

Be transparent with sponsors. 

Get ahead of it. Inform sponsors in advance about what they can expect and tell them how you will make their schedules up. Clients can accept a problem if you arrive with a solution at the same time. Consider offering more spots in lesser dayparts, pushing some makegoods into December and January, or substituting digital offers. Consider highlighting your sponsors on your homepage in some way, encouraging listeners to support the businesses that are helping support this live coverage. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

Some stations are adding more avails on non-live days and preempting some promo inventory for underwriting. Other stations are running the live coverage on a separate stream, to keep their normal programming intact. Still others are running regular programming on their stream. Everyone is looking for ways to give their audiences what they want, when they want it. 

Shuffle some more.

If some sponsors are annual accounts whose messages are largely branding efforts, can you move them out of live coverage weeks to leave room for more time-sensitive announcements? Offer them a few bonus spots for doing so. Fortunately, January and February are often months with less demand so those months might be a good time to do that. 

Connect it back to what we do.

WDET sent out this well-crafted communication, “Thank you for your support of WDET and public media. It is during times like this, with the current impeachment hearings that your support is even more appreciated as we break from regular programming to provide the hearings live for our audience.  Arguably this is one of the biggest news stories of our time and it is the role that public media plays to provide unbiased, credible news and content.” 

And a sponsor responded with this: “It’s vital you all carry these hearings live, it’s what gives us the audience we want the rest of the time.”  

One station shared that a listener upped their pledge with these words, "Thank you for the coverage of the hearings. It is appreciated and I know it cuts into your budget so I increased my donation a little bit this year."

One thing this process shows us all is how much our listeners value our coverage and how important we are to our communities. Any way you can find to transfer this appreciation to your sponsors will go a long way toward making them stick with you. Please share what you’re doing; it could help your public radio colleagues. After all, we’re in this together!

Set and Communicate Corporate Support Rates

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