DEI Underwriting Recommendations

The MEGS sm approach to underwriting recognizes its value as a revenue stream, but also that underwriting is a programming element which impacts the sound of programs like Morning Edition®. As such, managing underwriting is an important task on which program directors, underwriting staff, and station managers must cooperate in order to assure optimum service to listeners.

The very characteristics that make our stations unique in sound and substance are what make us attractive to underwriters. We must ensure we preserve them in order to be successful. In addition to providing exceptional programming, it is critical that we maintain a non-commercial, uncluttered, intelligent, respectful environment, that we keep listeners engaged during breaks, and that we air underwriting messages that are in keeping with our programming values.

Based on the most recent NPR research on underwriting practices, DEI's review of practices at top-performing stations and the Core Values work of PRPD, DEI recommends the following guidelines:

  • Present the messages in an intelligent, professional manner-they should be consistently presented in the same station voice. Never allow underwriters to use their own voice for the announcement.
  • Introduce all underwriting messages to alert listeners that they are hearing a funding credit, such as "Support for KXYZ comes from…" or "Our listeners support KXYZ and so does…".
  • Limit the length of each of your underwriting announcements to 15 seconds, not including a preamble or introduction.
  • Limit the collective length of local underwriting messages per hour to two minutes or less; this amount of underwriting has proved sufficient for some of DEI Benchmarks top performers and is reasonable for most markets.
  • Avoid stacking underwriting announcements more than three deep.
  • Allow an underwriting credit to include a phone number or website, not both. Do not repeat the phone number. Enforce the same guidelines on length for all underwriters; non-profits should not be allowed to air "paid PSAs" with longer time limits. Our listeners often don't make the distinction between a for-profit and a non-profit when hearing the announcement.
  • Traffic funder announcements should adhere to the same guidelines as your underwriters' announcements. Ideally, avoid airing traffic funding credits during prime listening hours.
  • Adhere to the National Standards for Underwriting Credits to preserve the non-commercial nature of public radio.

In order to follow these guidelines, stations must be proactive when it comes to inventory management. If you "sell out" during drive times, don't fall into the trap of adding more inventory. Our goal should be to increase total underwriting revenue - not necessarily to sell more underwriting credits! Rates should be examined regularly and increased when dictated by inventory and market conditions.

Successful stations preserve the quality of their air and effectively manage their inventory, all while maximizing underwriting revenue. Underwriting staffs should understand how to properly position public radio to leverage our strengths; underwriting managers must effectively package your inventory and aggressively manage the limited inventory that public radio offers, in order to maintain the uncluttered environment that distinguishes public radio from its commercial competitors. When public radio serves listeners well, everyone wins!

By Marlene Schneider, DEI Underwriting Advisor

Revised 5/13/08