September 10, 2020


With communities continuing to re-open/adjust across the country and schools back in session in some shape or form, corporate underwriting teams are keeping a close eye on changes to local business spending, working to identify shifting and new corporate sponsorship dollars at the start of Q4. Here are a few observations from the field:

Performing Arts

While the overall landscape here is still fairly bleak, a few markets are seeing a minor resurgence in performing arts dollars, with some local arts organizations working to market virtual or socially-distanced outdoor events throughout the fall and leading into the holidays. 


For the most part, museums and historic sites are back open for business in many markets, and many of these organizations are spending at pre-COVID levels. 


Several markets report an uptick in business from private or parochial schools, many of which are offering in-person education instead of virtual, and are looking to build awareness about these offerings. Private tutoring is also a growth area, as well as office supply stores since families, educators and professionals are stocking home learning/working spaces for the foreseeable future. Traditional bricks-and-mortar education clients are looking to market products and services that help them differentiate their virtual learning game.

Voter Education

A number of stations have secured business from the local Board of Elections or League of Women Voters, with messaging that shares information about how to vote (i.e. in-person, by mail, early, etc.) While public radio stations have to take care not to accept partisan or advocacy messaging, information that serves the public interest when it comes to the election can be acceptable. Learn more about considerations for political advertising and public media here

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Local Tourism

With Americans staying closer to home for vacation or weekend getaways, many local resorts, attractions, breweries/wineries, state/local parks, camping sites, etc. are placing a greater emphasis on local marketing this year. 

Youth Activities

Several markets have secured annual buys from the Girls Scouts and are prospecting other outdoor-oriented hands-on youth activities or organizations, like 4H Clubs, for example. 

Continuing Business: Home Services, Healthcare, Professional Services, Retail

Stations continue to see interest from various subcategories of healthcare and professional services that relate specifically to the impact of the pandemic, including mental health, family law, senior care, hospitals, telemedicine, grocery stores, and restaurants. Consumer-facing features of these businesses are evolving too; for example, restaurants are shifting from messaging about take-out and curbside services to messaging about bar-code generated menus and safe dine-in experiences. 

Home improvement, landscape and home services continue to do well as businesses and families gear up to extend and improve outdoor social distancing spaces into the fall. Think fire pits, heat lamps, bug control, patio re-models etc. The same goes for residential real estate. Some people are moving into bigger homes as they anticipate no (or limited) return to the office for a long time to come. 

New Business: Hyper Small/Hyper Local

Several stations report pleasantly surprising new business from very small local businesses including a local specialty bra store, a local dog groomer/walker, and a personal tutor. While these likely represent small dollar amounts, they are mostly new business for the station and help demonstrate these stations’ commitment to the community and those businesses struggling to stay afloat.

New Areas of Focus for Local Businesses

B2CE-commerce has sprung up massively in this pandemic and will continue to grow moving into the holiday season. Businesses – large, medium, small, and increasingly, collectively – are looking to capitalize on this, by targeting quality consumers with their online offerings and ensuring they have the tools and infrastructure in place to support digital/contactless payment.


B2B: Many businesses continue to ask employees to work from home to maintain social distancing, and their technology needs and spending are changing as a result. This includes software, virtual meetings, cloud technology, digital identity verification tools, face recognition technology, virtual private networks (VPNs) and cybersecurity, among others. Indeed, consider the following industry software spending chart which includes some of public media’s traditionally strong underwriting categories, courtesy TrustRadius.

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