June 24, 2024

KERA saw success in 2023 with a simple strategy: Ask your audience about themselves before you ask them for money. Straightforward, but so beneficial in fundraising and beyond, KERA used surveys to learn about their audience and steer them toward the content they wanted. We also used swag giveaways to drive engagement and reward them before reaching out to them with more strategic fundraising asks. 

Public media has a strange business model: We give away our content for free and then ask for money after the fact. Using surveys to identify these loyal subscribers, seeking their feedback and then rewarding them with swag for their feedback seemed an extension of our unique business model worth testing.

KERA’s Hypothesis: If we ask prospects about themselves, then tailor our communications to their preferences, and try to provide relevant content, that will increase giving potential. 

The idea formed at a PBS Digital Immersion Regional Workshop after hearing Amy Sample, PBS’ Vice President of Business Intelligence, go into the depth of PBS audience segmentation data. This detail of PBS audience segments provided opportunities for engagement. To identify these preferences within our audience to point them to the content they’ll enjoy most, KERA started by sending surveys to PBS digital prospects.

At first, it was one question: What do you want to watch tonight? The possible responses were informed by the PBS audience analysis.

After the survey, we sent two follow-up emails to every prospect, but the emails had content based on their selection. These initial emails did NOT ask for donations, instead they asked them to sign up for our newsletters to keep them connected to our content. 

The lion’s share of respondents chose “Drama and Mystery” and received these emails:

KERA is unique in public media as it has PBS, news, AAA and classical stations all under the North Texas Public Broadcasting umbrella. This allowed us to personalize the emails based on the viewers interests. So, they received unique follow-up emails based on their selection like “Great Performances and Concerts”:

Or “World, National, and Local News”:

After testing this outreach with our PBS audience, I next surveyed our AAA audience immediately before a fundraising drive. This helped us communicate and engage with our audience without asking for money.

The timing was helpful because it primed this audience to get more emails from that station. We asked why they love KXT, as well as  when and how they listen to us?

Finally, for our KERA News audience, we surveyed to our NPR newsletter audience and lapsed donors, again asking them what they come to KERA/NPR for as well as when and how they listen.

Again, incentivized, we gave out dozens of swag packs to randomly-selected winners. Also, this survey went out just before our autumn member campaign began and allowed us to point prospects to other digital offerings like our podcast, Sugar Land, from the Texas Standard.

To date, we’ve received more than 2,000 completed surveys from our prospects across all stations. Not only will you get answers to your questions and identify wonderful candidates for testimonials, the feedback and increased opens, clicks and responses will improve your email reputation while learning more from and deepening engagement with your most ardent subscribers.

Survey Benefits

  • Surveys provide qualitative and quantitative feedback on what your audience thinks of your station and programming.
  • Surveys are SCALABLE – you can do them no matter your station/staff size.
  • Surveys identify incredible testimonial candidates, and subscribers and the content to continue to target them with.
  • Surveys give audience an opportunity to feel heard – and rewarded!
  • Surveys improve your email reputation via increased engagement.

Surveys allow you to get priceless feedback directly from your audience, but that also give you the important opportunity to provide the content your audience wants and target communications with their preferences as best you can. 

If you can, give outdated swag away or anything of value. Your supporters and ardent subscribers probably want any swag you offer. They might be actively looking for a specific old mug (I was from KCRW).

You need to ask your donors and audience for support, but you also must ask your audience about themselves, their preferences, opinions, and their history with public media to find where your mission overlaps with theirs. This is just a first step in a communication loop that will grow and evolve. More important than the survey itself is listening and reacting to the responses you receive and what you learn.

KERA’s Test Results

We folded our new PBS prospects into this welcome series every month to quickly steer them toward the digital content they want and introduce them to everything North Texas Public Broadcasting has to offer. Once they’d been through the welcome series, these subscribers received fundraising emails during on-air fundraising campaigns. 

After the COVID bump in 2020 and an understandable dip in 2021, the acquisitions are now steering way up. KERA recently topped 9,000 new member acquisitions from PBS referred prospects in the last five years. But 5,000 of those members came in the last two years. 14.5% of those who responded to surveys went on to give in 2023, and, overall, 2.5% of those surveyed went on to give in 2023. 

Everyone has their story with public media, and it can only help to ask them about it. Surveys will identify magical testimonial candidates. What’s more, surveys allow your audience an opportunity to feel heard by a nonprofit they like. They also allow our stations an easy opportunity to start and never stop learning about our audience. If we listen to our audience, they’ll hopefully be more prepared to engage with our emails in the future and support our causes when ours coincide with theirs.