Quality audio spots are an integral part of a successful fund drive. That’s because produced audio can do things that live pitching can’t… or shouldn’t. Here is what a well-produced spot does best:
Humor is hard to get right spontaneously. Some of the most memorable fund-drive moments have come from funny audio spots that might include a memorable story, or something with terrific sound effects and more than one voice. Creating humorous spots gives you the benefit of obtaining feedback from others while you craft and edit them, without the pressure of having to land the right tone and delivery in the moment.
Storytelling is what radio does best. It’s the most powerful experience we offer. To take full advantage of our medium, stories must be well-written and well-produced. Many of us know what it’s like to retell what felt like an incredible moment only to end with, “You had to be there.” If a story isn’t told using the right sequence, and appropriate details and context (but not too much of either!) it loses its power. It’s just plain hard to tell a truly memorable story during a live break. Plus, many stories come alive with the help of a well-chosen music bed, natural sound, or other audio elements.
Listener testimonials about the value of your station and its service are much more effective than station staff being self-congratulatory on-air. Listeners love to hear from each other. They can meaningfully connect with someone who shares a similar feeling about your station, the format, and your community. Also, since most listeners are not familiar with speaking on-air, being able to record and then thoughtfully edit their testimonial will make it shine.
Fundraising spots can be labor-intensive to create, especially when done well. So it’s best to develop a library of spots with a long shelf-life that you can weave into your pitch breaks as needed. A well-crafted spot can be a part of your library for years.
Messages that lend themselves well to recorded spots
Sustaining membership: Make the case for why to become a sustainer and ask for upgrades.
The value of your mission: You really can’t have too many ways to share why your station and public media’s mission is worthy of listener support.
The importance of listener support: Your programming is for listeners, supported by listeners. Use this opportunity to explain that a small fraction of your funding comes from state and/or federal support; local listener and community support are critical.
Thank-you gifts: Keep the description of a gift short and sweet in these spots; the focus should be on the mission, not on selling the gift.
Challenges and drawings: If you have a day-long or campaign-long challenge or drawing during a fund drive, create some spots to add to the mix. These will be a big help to pitchers, and add variety and clarity to messaging.
Recipe for a Great On-Air Spot
2 cups of PURPOSE
1 cup of COLLABORATION
1 cup of PREPARATION
½ cup of PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE
Determine the purpose of the spot. What message is it intended to communicate, to whom and what outcome do you expect? You have a limited amount of time to embed this message in the consciousness of a busy and distracted listener, so the message must be clear and unambiguous. Determine the intended outcome before you begin and keep that purpose front and center as you create.
Effective fundraising production does not happen in a vacuum. Audio producers are typically not trained fundraisers and fundraising professionals are typically not experts in audio production or broadcast basics. You MUST work in partnership with colleagues in other departments to ensure the production achieves its intended outcome.
Effective fundraising production also does not happen overnight. It takes time to find the right people for testimonials, to craft the right question, write the best copy, allow for an editing process and produce something of quality. Last minute production should be the exception to the rule. Proper preparation and planning prevents poor performance.
The spots you are producing are intended to be heard on the radio and in many cases will be heard during an on-air drive. Mechanics are important, so don’t forget about call letters, phone numbers and websites when you create a spot. Technique also includes elements like length, tone, pacing, diction, sound effects and audio quality. It all has an impact on how effective your production will be.
Download and keep this checklist handy summarizing the recipe for a good spot.
Listen to Award-Winning Audio Spots
Strengthen your library of audio spots by listening to these examples of well-written, well-produced, and award-winning audio spots from stations around the country.