Start a Conversation: Holistic Campaigns

I’ve come to realize over the years that Pledge Drives are treated as tactical efforts and are rarely used as part of an overall campaign strategy.  By that I mean that Pledge is often its own island, with its own messaging and themes, and bears little to no resemblance to other fundraising campaigns we happen to be doing at the moment.

Pledge started out as a tactic: we needed the cash flow, so we set up the phone bank, flipped on the microphones and cameras, and asked for money.  I have referred to it lovingly as, “incessant verbal invoicing.”

Television pledge evolved into a cottage industry for producers of self-help, concert and music programs that come to us as ‘virtuals’ that we can schedule at will, slap on a lower third banner, and collect the money.   If someone were to receive a piece of mail or e-solicitation from the station during Pledge Week, would they recognize that there was a coordinated campaign going on?  How does Pledge factor into your overall messaging strategy?

It’s not as though we haven’t seen positive effects from consistent messaging in TV Pledge virtuals and in local breaks.

The growth in Sustainers since the introduction of consistent messaging in 2013 is impressive.  That’s a technique that we could deploy in other ways.

There is certainly no ‘national theme’ to TV pledge shows, such as “Help Public Media Make the Community Smarter, Happier & Healthier.”  Consider this: a theme that unifies our Pledge programs can also be amplified in our mail, telemarketing, e-solicitation and social media efforts.  Of course, that requires us to stick with a theme for the full length of rights periods, which can often run two years.  But if it were a good theme, it would be well worth the investment.

On radio, where we have the most control over our messaging, themes often focus on getting more money and reducing the amount of time we ask for money.  I would prefer to promote the value of the mission in the listener’s life and in the life of the community.  Again, it’s an opportunity to create and amplify a multi-platform campaign that demonstrates impact.

For example, “Support Truth in Journalism,” “Invest in the Station That Supports the Arts,” and “Real People Bringing You Authentic Artists.”  When executed properly, the monetary goal and length of time you spend asking for support will find equilibrium.  You can then avoid making and breaking covenants with your listeners.  That sometimes happens when we try something that has caught fire elsewhere in the country; it works for a few drives and then audience fascination with the approach wears off.

A holistic, multi-platform campaign approach that includes Pledge requires internal coordination and cooperation.  The benefit of cross-promotion of a single theme is that the number of impressions required to promote the campaign and elicit response is achieved more efficiently.  Savings may be achieved if the campaign is used across platforms for one or two years.

Do you have an example of a successful cross-platform campaign (that includes Pledge) that you would like to share with CDP?  Can you think of ways we can scale up such a campaign to a national level?  Let us know.

Barry NelsonComment