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Public Media: 3 Ways to Use Airwaves to Grow Underwriting_Members

This is the first in a series of CDP blog posts where underwriting expert Lori Zoss Kraska of Growth Owl, LLC, and I share thoughts on mitigating issues that have cropped up around a key public media revenue channel as coronavirus caused economic and societal disruption this winter and spring.

Here are 3 ways your station can leverage its airwaves right now to generate support for both membership and underwriting during these challenging times:

1. Remind them About the Benefits

Now is a great time to take advantage of the extra underwriting inventory characteristic of the summer season to remind listeners about the benefits of underwriting and membership.

Underwriting message ideas include: the power of the highly educated, audience affluence, expendable incomes, interest in cultural institutions, references to the Halo Effect, and the respectful tone/delivery of messages that distinguishes public media.

You may also engage major donors and foundations in running announcements that support the mission of the station, while allowing them to also celebrate arts & culture organizations they support in addition to the station.

2. Underwriter and Donor Spotlights

Don’t be shy! Ask your raving fans to tell your audience why they support your station via underwriting or membership. These are donors and underwriters who understand the value of public media and your station’s importance to the community. It’s preferable that these testimonials to be voiced by underwriters/donors. Request that they record messages on their phones or tablets and send to a station rep via a dropbox. Alternatively, station talent can voice written testimonials. These spotlights build continued goodwill with those featured and instill interest from new underwriter prospects and members.

Underwriting testimonials can be used to market the station to underwriting prospects on-air. It can be done as a donut, with the top and bottom voiced by a staff member who appears on all campaign spots.

3. Radio Drive Time is Back and PBS Kids is King

As some Americans head back into the office this summer, they’ll be tuning into their favorite NPR news and public music stations during their commute. Back at home, many summer camps, school programs, and kids activities are cancelled. Now more than ever PBS Kids programming plays a vital role in these upcoming summer months in reestablishing STEAM based principles while children continue home based learning. Creating underwriting packages around radio drive time and PBS Kids during the summer generates interest and value to underwriters looking to associate their message with public media’s news, analysis, and educational programming.

Lagniappe: Utilize unused underwriting inventory (:15-:20) to promote station fundraising channels such as vehicle donations, sponsorship, planned giving, Sustainer credit card updating, corporate matching gifts, Passport, and newsletter signups. These ROS spots can be front-loaded by the traffic manager and pulled when underwriting contracts are entered and breaks are filled with paid underwriting.

Below are underwriting spots your station can use:

Example of :30 underwriting donut:

Announcer: Here’s (underwriter name), (station) sponsor, on the value of this community resource:

Underwriter: “(station) is simply one of the things that makes civil society work. My family and I care about fact-based journalism, the arts, and culture, which is why my company supports (station) as an underwriter. People tell me all the time that they appreciate that we sponsor programs that make our community better.”

Announcer: (station) listeners are active in the community. And they support sponsors who underwrite on (station). Learn more about why sponsorship is good for your business. Call (number) or visit (

Examples of :15 underwriting marketing spots:


Announcer: (Station) listeners appreciate the support of local businesses that sponsor programs they love. Learn more about reaching an audience of loyal (station) listeners at ( Or call (number).


Announcer: (Station) viewers trust this station to bring mind-expanding programs to their children, grandchildren and---everybody in the community! Become a (station) sponsor and reach those audiences. Visit ( Or call us.

(web site and number on lower third during entire spot)

Example of major donor testimonial:

Announcer: Here’s (name), (station) Leadership Circle member and lover of the arts, on why supporting the arts and performance are critical to a culturally-rich society:

Donor: Things will get better, and when we’re able to get back out to experience music live, made right in front of us by talented musicians, you know I will be there. I support (station) and my favorite arts groups like (name) and (name) because together they create a world I want to live in. Keep them in mind, and join me as a supporter, if you can. And thank you for supporting this Voice of the Arts, (station).

Example of Foundation testimonial:

Announcer: The (XYZ) Foundation supports (station). They also support arts and cultural organizations in (city, region, state). Here’s the foundation’s (title, name):

Foundation rep: The arts are critical not only to the American spirit of self-expression, but they’re major economic drivers. In states and counties that prioritize arts and culture, millions of dollars and jobs are generated, stabilizing communities across America. We’re grateful to (station) and other organizations that join us in supporting the arts. I hope you’ll join them, too.

About the Authors: Lori Zoss Kraska, MBA is founder/chief principal of Growth Owl, LLC. She works with public media stations as well as nonprofits across the country in helping them increase revenue from corporate sponsors and foundations. She also provides training, coaching, and strategic consulting for corporate support teams and executives. Barry Nelson is a fundraising consultant and raving fan of the CDP.

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