Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Well-Chosen Word Matters in Pledge Drives Too

One of the big challenges during public radio pledge drives is avoiding clichés. They pop into the appeals of even the most experienced on-air pitchers. Fundraising fatigue will do that to you. 

Pledge drive clichés aren’t effective at persuading listeners that their support is important. 

You are the public in public radio.

And it is unlikely a cliché ever motivated someone to drop what she was doing to make a contribution.

We meet our goal one pledge at a time. Just you and 19 other people in the next 2 minutes gets us there.

For the most part, pledge drive clichés are silly filler. However, there’s a new one going around that is downright ridiculous and, in my opinion, a bit damaging.

It’s time to begin your financial relationship with the station.

When I hear this on the air, I can’t help but think about how Paula Poundstone might react using her best “Wait Wait… let’s stop the show for a moment while I ask a few questions to sort this out” voice. It goes something like this:

Hold on a second. Did you say that you want to begin a financial relationship with me?  How does that work?  I give you 10 bucks a month and you go halfsies with me on my kid's college tuition?

On-air fundraising is hard. In some ways it is the most challenging programming to produce in public radio because it is live and, even when heavily scripted, subject to spontaneity.

Sometimes that spontaneity makes the fundraising more effective. Other times it undermines not only the fundraising, but also the larger effort to build a true relationship with listeners beyond the programming.

It’s time to begin your financial relationship with the station.

Who talks like that in real life?

Public radio is successful because the well-chosen word still matters. Listeners will hear poorly-chosen words on-air as long as stations do traditional pledge drives. It's one of the costs of doing business that way.

It’s important to remember that the pledge drive words are just as much a part of how listeners think and feel about the station as the words they hear while listening to programming. Stations should strive to recognize those poorly-chosen words when they inevitably happen and ensure that they don’t become clichés that hurt the station’s image more than they help it.

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