National Public Radio

Why Public Broadcasting is an Important Media Tactic

By John Butler
In January 23, 2015

You know those really annoying people you run into at parties who start every sentence with:

“Did you hear that guy Terry Gross interviewed on Fresh Air last night?”


“Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace said that quantitative easing is on the horizon in the Eurozone.”

Or, worse…

“Downton really hasn’t been the same since Matthew Crowley died…”

Yeah, that’s me. I am an unabashed listener and viewer to publicly-supported broadcasting. Getting most of my news and a fair portion of my entertainment from WCPN and WVIZ here in Cleveland, I am easily the most irritating person in the room at most social functions, and completely comfortable with that characterization.

One of the key disciplines that you need to develop during a career in advertising—particularly if you provide advice and counsel on media tactics for your clients—is to maintain a dispassionate distance and keep in mind that you are not necessarily the target audience. Programming that you find to enrich your life and inspire a more circumspect perspective on the world may not be reaching your clients’ prospective customers. And, for the most part, I have a very solid handle on that.

However, in fairness to all concerned, I am compelled to provide rational and strategic support for the fact that we advise so many of our clients to invest in NPR and PBS underwriting sponsorships as part of their media plans. As Kai Ryssdal would say, “let’s look at the numbers…”:

  • 80% of listeners have a more positive opinion of a company that supports public radio.
  • 68% believe that companies that fund PBS have quality and excellence brand attributes.
  • 58% believe that a company is more credible when it utilizes public radio vs. commercial stations.
  • 57% of viewers regard PBS underwriters as community leaders.
  • 75% of public radio listeners prefer to buy products from companies that support public radio.
  • 66% of PBS viewers would choose to buy a product from a company that supports PBS, all things being equal.

If reaching an educated, affluent, community-minded, influential and cultural audience is important to your brand, let’s look at indices for those characteristics:

PBS/NPR viewers and listeners are more likely to:
Viewers And Listeners Of Public BroadcastingSo clearly, while it won’t generate the sheer tonnage of volume that other broadcast, cable and satellite vehicles do, public broadcasting delivers a vertical slice of the population that disproportionately affects their community’s economy, activity and thought leadership. So, it’s not just an investment in the quality of your community, it’s also has the distinction of being a solid investment for your brand.

Editorial note: I would be remiss if I didn’t reference an article written by James Fallows of The Atlantic which points out the more subjective, but nonetheless important, reasons that public broadcasting adds to promoting an educated and informed electorate: Why NPR Matters

John Butler

I am a lifelong Clevelander and have spent nearly 30 years in the marketing communications industry. It is my belief that you need to have a diverse range of interests in order to bring perspective to a client’s marketing needs. So my blogs will generally be about social media, dogs, music, media planning, historical fiction, content marketing, professional sports, brand positioning, restaurants I like, quantitative research analytics, science fiction movies, target audience segmentation, running/cycling or the impact of digital media on advertising messaging. You get the idea.

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