NPR, Greater Public team up to create pledge campaign built on Spark promotions

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Pledge spots and pitches in the works for public radio’s fall fundraising drives will aim to convert listenership gains from NPR’s Spark promotional campaign into membership revenue.

“Our goal is to turn increased listening into more givers,” said Jay Clayton, individual giving consultant for Greater Public, who announced the campaign during a PMDMC session Thursday.

Greater Public and NPR are collaborating to produce the fundraising materials, including spots, scripts and digital messages, for use during fall and year-end pledge campaigns. The pitches target listeners who find themselves tuning in more often to Morning Edition, the NPR newsmag that has benefited from aggressive on-air spot promotions since January.

Ninety percent of stations that carry Morning Edition followed NPR’s guidelines for the Spark campaign, running about 100 promo spots per week for the newsmagazine, Clayton said. NPR’s goals for the Spark promotions are to reverse a decline in average–quarter-hour listening and to help build local revenues around Morning Edition, which he described as the “bedrock of the public radio economy.”

Preliminary ratings data indicate that Spark is working to build audience. Nielsen Portable People Meter data for May showed a 3 percent year-to-year increase in Morning Edition’s AQH ratings on 50 stations, according to a slide presented at the session.

Final results from the Spark campaign won’t be known for months, but public radio’s fundraisers want to begin targeting listeners with messages promoting monthly contributions.

“The Spark promotion seems to be creating more listening to public radio, so we want to leverage that,” Clayton said. “The initial thought is ‘Let’s give the fundraising side as much push as the programming side was given.’”

“We consider this an experiment and a new, big, beta test,” said Kerry Thompson, an NPR producer who is working on the campaign. Pitch messages will build on a recurring theme from the Spark promos that remind the audience, “You’re listening more….”

She invited PMDMC attendees to share ideas and feedback on the message points.

Clayton rolled a couple of sample promos, including a spot featuring Peter Sagal of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…! Sagal jokes that he can see listeners through the radio and playfully admonishes them for paying monthly gym fees but not working out regularly; meanwhile, they listen to Morning Edition more often but don’t contribute to their local station. (Sagal knows this because he can see through the radio.)

During a Q&A portion of the session, two attendees stepped up to the mic to ask for spots that will resonate with listeners who live in small towns and rural areas. “Our listeners don’t go to gyms,” said a fundraiser from an Alaska station.

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