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
- 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
- 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
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