August 17, 2022


Surveys help you connect with underwriters to learn what they need and how you can better serve them. They can also serve as reminders for underwriters as to why they prefer to promote their brand on public radio.

When you ask the right questions you can learn:

  • Upcoming goals or new plans for their business that they may want to promote on-air
  • Ways to better improve and strengthen your working relationship
  • Quotes about their experience that can be used to promote your station’s underwriting program in marketing materials and maybe even some recorded testimonials for on-air promos too (asking permission to use their quotes first is recommended)

Underwriters are busy and you definitely don’t want to add to their “to-do” list, so keeping the survey short and to-the-point is important. As an incentive to get underwriters to take the survey, those that complete it could be entered to win a bonus schedule of underwriting spots.

When creating the questions, make sure to keep their best interest in mind and the questions oriented towards helping them, while also learning new information about them that could turn into underwriting opportunities.

Here are some questions you might ask:

  • What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the last year?
  • Do you have a goal for this year, or anything new you’re planning that you want to promote?
  • What’s one reason you choose to promote your brand on [STATION]? How do you feel when you hear your on-air spot?
  • Can you describe a time a customer mentioned they heard about you on [STATION]? What feedback have you heard from the community?
  • Is there anything the [STATION] team can do to work better with you?
  • Anything else we should know?

With a theme of “WKMS Loves Your Business” in February of this year, WKMS sent out the above questions in a survey to 128 current underwriters (those that have worked with us in the past year).

Side note: We had some issues with sending the survey via Google Forms. It could be because of our university account, but it would only let us send the survey to 20 emails at a time. Not ideal when trying to send a mass survey! Next time, we will likely use Survey Monkey and send via Constant Contact’s integration capabilities.

We offered a bonus schedule of $500 in underwriting to those that completed the survey.

We received 15 very thoughtful responses which I’ve been able to use in our underwriting marketing on LinkedIn and other materials, and to follow up on potential underwriting opportunities.

One of the big performing arts centers in our region hadn’t done very much with us over the years, outside of some paid underwriting for a few shows and sponsorship trades for their fundraising dinners. Their executive director filled out the survey and submitted the below response to the question “What’s one reason you choose to promote your brand on WKMS?”

“We believe WKMS gives a good representation of our programming and like us WKMS’s format is designed to open hearts and broaden minds. They raise cultural awareness and tell the good stories that need to be told to lift us up as well as keep us informed. We feel like WKMS is THE BEST format to promote the arts.”

We had no idea that she felt this passionately about WKMS! After following up with the director, they have started promoting more shows with us, with both on-air spots and digital ads, and in five months they’ve increased their underwriting by more than 180% (with more plans in the works for the rest of the year). We’d like to believe that this is all because we asked that simple question and followed up with her.

Station audience surveys are helpful too. If your station surveys listeners about programming, listening habits, news, etc, ask about including a question or two about how listeners feel about underwriting. In February of 2021, WKMS sent out our bi-annual audience survey and I asked station management to add the below question:

“Do you hold a higher opinion of businesses and organizations that support WKMS?”

91% responded that they have a positive opinion about the businesses heard on WKMS.

So now I’ve added this to our business sponsorship kit as a localized result of public radio’s Halo Effect.

As public media stations, it’s important for us to engage the public to see how we’re doing and how we can serve them better. Since so many of them are also listeners, this certainly includes station underwriters too. A short and simple survey can be just the trick.