Start a Conversation: Engagement Starts at Home

If there is one thing you know about CDP, it’s that we are obsessive about data.  More data is better.  Clean data is essential.  Actionable and predictive data is downright exhilarating.  If you agree that data is key to successful engagement, I suggest that we look inward to our own platforms.

As a consultant to the Contributor Development Partnership, I visit hundreds of public media station web sites each year for research purposes.  I can report that I have had quite a variety of experiences with station web sites, and many leave something to be desired.

I have seen sites that feature all staff (including interns!) and others that do not list the General Manager, Membership Director, or Development Director.  Others feature job titles that are a mystery to me, and therefore must be a mystery to audience members and donors.  A number of sites I have visited list staff members & bios of people who left the organization months ago.

In a disturbing number of cases, a link to staff pages is not listed on the site (even though I know it must be there), so I find myself trying to outsmart the site by Googling STATION NAME + STAFF and boom, there it is.

Some stations list staff but make audience members use web forms to contact staff.

I have rarely received an answer back from a person whom I contacted through a web form.  Where did my message go?

I understand that resources are tight and many stations do not have the capacity to update or expand staff listings and contact data on web sites.  I also understand the argument that web traffic to station sites is fairly low, so updates to the site by development and membership staff (except during Pledge) are far down on the priority list.  In an age of apps and smartphones, web sites might seem old-fashioned; who wants to spend precious resources on improving them when we can invest in an app?

In some cases, hands are tied by limitations or bureaucracy associated with university license holders.  That must be frustrating for managers and staff who yearn to interact with their audiences.

And yet, public media content and fundraising managers have had a years-long discussion about audience development.  We are developing local outreach efforts, news & music staff, podcasts, and social media.  We are gathering more and more data on our audiences.  In terms of inbound engagement (i.e. clear and concise contact info that audiences can easily use) I see room for improvement.

Here are some reasons why fixing your public web site data will be a good use of your time:

What If I Were a Potential Major or Planned Gift Donor?

I don’t mean a philanthropist dropping out of the sky.  I mean a person who is known to the station who has been cultivated and may be ready to make a significant gift.  If I went to your web site right now, would I be able to find the right person with whom to discuss my gift?


Public media is proudly transparent.  Our audiences value our transparency and supporting it during pledge drives, in the mail, and online.  Tell the world who is responsible for your excellent programs and responsible stewardship of their dollars.  Trust is a rare and precious commodity these days, and stations can strengthen trust by making communication with staff an easy and direct process.

Partnership Opportunities

If I am a potential community partner and cannot find a way to reach the right person to start a relationship, I might go to another outlet in the area.  While a number of stations include modules such as Hearken to engage with audiences around content, I don’t often see obvious invitations to engage.  I know this is not a case of “we can’t be bothered” but I have to wonder if that is the impression we give when we make it difficult for viewers and listeners to contact their favorite stations.

Of course, if you are not interested in talking to me about CDP, I won’t take it personally.  But for all the reasons listed above (and more) my hope is that stations will review their web sites (from the audience’s perspective) and make adjustments that will help the audience engage with you easily and conveniently.

Thoughts?  Ideas?

Barry NelsonComment