Not Business as Usual, and We Are Not Alone
May 12, 2023 by Joyce MacDonald
You’ve completed your research and believe you are looking at a company that is fairly likely to be interested in a public media sponsorship at this time.
What do you say when you call for an appointment?
Your goal is to create immediate interest for further discussion. Engage the prospect. It is that simple. Don’t try to sell them over the phone. Sales research has shown that you have between 10 and 30 seconds of attention span with which to earn the right to advance your call. This means you have to maximize the impact of every word.
Use your hard-won prospecting and researching. It is critical that the person on the other end of the phone know you have given some thought to why a public media sponsorship could help his or her company. Don’t use a canned speech! This is the opportunity to differentiate yourself by showing that you have an idea of the issues they are facing. Instead of saying, “This is so and so from WXYZ, would it be possible to meet with you to talk about how public radio and our online and digital media could help your business?” You should focus on specific business issues they might be facing.
The basic components of your opening statement should contain:
For example, the University of Oregon was having a problem with fundraising. They believed the problem was fueled, in part, by a public misperception that the school valued sports more than academics. It was critical that they turn that perception around quickly. What a great prospect for public radio! In this case, the phone call from the account executive at Oregon Public Broadcasting could go something like this:
“I’ve been reading in The Oregonian about the public’s misperception that sports are more important to the University than academics. As the article stated, it must be difficult to fundraise in this climate. It seems that the University may need to communicate its message that ‘academics are king’ to a group of people that are exceptionally educated, influential and philanthropic. Public radio and its digital media can bring this audience to the University—and do it in an uncluttered environment so your message stands out and is heard. Would it be possible for us to get together or schedule a phone call to explore how a partnership would provide unique benefits to the University?”
Another example is the case of a community bank. Community banks have been facing difficulties competing with the mega-banks that move into their areas and offer free checking and other attractive methods of gaining new customers. Public radio offers community banks a great way to differentiate themselves in the eyes of their current and prospective customers. Your initial call might go something like:
“Over the past several years I have noticed a couple of large, national banks moving into the community. I realize they entice customers with things like free checking. It must be difficult to compete with them on that level. It seems it might be important for you to improve your position in the community in order to differentiate yourselves from the large banks and create a preference for banking with you.
Public radio can bring you an audience that prefers to do business with companies that are seen as contributing to the good of the community. Public radio is unique in its ability to deliver an audience that actually appreciates the companies that sponsor our station. Would it be possible to get together on a phone call or zoom meeting to discuss the possibilities of working together?”
The above examples are not designed to be delivered in one swift breath. You should be conversational and convey your key points as a part of a two-way exchange. Your introductory phone call will vary with each prospect.
At West Virginia Public Broadcasting, initial contact is sometimes made by email. Here is an example of an email message sent to an airline newly offering service in the community:
“With all the competition in the airline industry, it can be challenging to introduce a new airline service like ABC Air in West Virginia.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting offers ABC Air a unique ability to reach an affluent audience that travels regularly for business and pleasure. Our fiercely loyal audience prefers to do business with companies that sponsor public broadcasting.
As the only statewide network of both radio and television, West Virginia Public Broadcasting is a cost effective way to brand ABC Air in our state.
I would be happy to discuss the many on-air and online opportunities for ABC Air on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Please let me know when we can meet.”
The point is not to go on and on about you or your station, but to capture the imagination and gain the interest of your prospect to meet and do business with you. When you take the time to review your research and think through what is likely to be of utmost importance to your prospect, you are far more likely to hit an area of interest in the minimal time you have to make an impression. You have to “earn the right” to your prospect’s time. You do this by linking the unique benefits of public radio and its related digital media to the unique needs of the customer so that they are interested in exploring solutions with you. You are far more likely to get traction in an account by following this process than you are by simply sending out a media kit with a generic letter.
How do you make sure you’re meeting with the right person?
Once you get a commitment to a first meeting, it is important to make sure you will be speaking to the right audience. While it is tempting to just get off the phone as quickly as possible once the meeting is set, it is worthwhile to make sure you will be meeting with the right person or persons.
A couple of questions are all it takes to ensure you don’t waste your time at the first meeting. You need to make sure you are meeting with the individual(s) who have authority in this area. So you want to ask a question or two along the following lines:
Now that you have your initial meeting scheduled, take the time to prepare what you’ll want to discuss and how you’ll weave it into the conversation at the right time with the prospect.
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