I don’t mean to go off on a rant here … but while commuting to work this morning, I writhed in pain as I endured KUT-FM groveling on-air for donations from listeners. The groveling was almost as pathetic as I had experienced listening to vocal Lyndon Larouche supporters accosting passer-bys on the downtown streets of Seattle last weekend.
Below, I have outlined three Public Radio Pledge Drive Don’ts. (Feel free to share your pledge drive frustrations in the comments section of this blog.)
Don’t Play the Shame Game
During every pledge drive, public radio derides and shames freeloaders (those who listen but do not contribute) into making a donation. We’ve all heard this line during the pledge drive, “If you’ve been listening without contributing, then it’s your time to pay up for all the great programming you hear but haven’t paid for.” This guilt trip is old and played out.
The Shame Game has continuously failed Public Radio. How else can you explain that it takes seven years for the average Public Radio listener to stop freeloading and start contributing? (This “seven-year freeloading” stat was repeated over and over this morning on KUT-FM.)
Stop Begging for Dollars
Charity is donating money to a homeless person on the corner holding up a sign that reads, “Need Money for Food. God Bless.” Charity is not giving money to a pubic radio station that verbally begs and grovels with lines like, “We need your money. Without your financial support, expensive programming like The World may have to go away.”
Begging is not becoming of a brand that appeals to the highly educated and the highly paid. Public Radio needs to better communicate its overt benefit to listeners in a rationale and emotional manner that doesn’t succumb to unsophisticated begging.
It’s not radio. It’s NPR.
Public radio has more in common with the HBO business model than it does with the commercial broadcast radio station business model. HBO relies on monies from viewers (subscribers) and not from advertisers to finance their programming. Public Radio, like HBO, must appeal to listeners and not to advertisers for money to finance their operation.
HBO has proven that consumers will pay for quality programming. Both HBO and Public Radio focus on quality content that serves as water cooler fodder for the well-informed. However, you never hear or see HBO stoop to groveling for dollars from viewers. Take the high road Public Radio and learn from HBO on how to appeal to consumers willing to pay for quality programming. (Admittedly, there is a major difference in that public radio broadcasts its signal for anyone to receive while HBO is a television service available only to viewers who subscribe to receive HBO programming.)