Idea Engine: Joint Licensees – Using Passport on Radio

By: Barry Nelson

Now that PBS Passport is going to have wider adoption by TV & Joint Licensees, it’s a good idea to look at how we can best use the new benefit to attract first-time members, increase re-joins and spark Sustainer adoption.

The first question is whether to offer Passport to radio listeners.  Given that there is an overlap between public radio listeners and public TV viewers (radio listeners being more likely to view PBS than PBS viewers are likely to listen to public radio), the Passport benefit not only has value, but it has power.

By that I mean that the value associated with the rich content available to members has a level of magnetism that draws those with innate curiosity and worldliness, ie, your radio listener.

At stations where I have worked, occasionally the myth will float around that public radio listeners “don’t watch TV.”   That might be the result of anecdotal evidence gathered from volunteers or event attendees, plus the fact that we have the most highly-educated audience in broadcasting.

But of course it isn’t true that our listeners eschew TV, as we know from sources such as the Jacobs Media Tech Survey.   Excuse me while I editorialize for a moment:

  • Educated people watch TV and consume digital content
  • There’s lots of good stuff to watch
  • There are many places to get good content
  • One of which is public television

The cool thing about offering PBS Passport to your radio audience is that you already know there is an alignment in terms of values; now you can make the relationship even stronger by providing the donor with even more quality content, delivered in a way that suits their lifestyles.  Recently the data suggested stations acquire younger members through Passport as well.

But how to market the concept?  PBS has guidelines available at the site.  There are rules –Do’s and Don’ts—one of which is that stations should not liken Passport to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.  That’s a valid point, because Passport is not a subscription service.  It is among the benefits of membership.  However, it is an on-demand product, much in the way those services are, and allows for binge-watching and access via mobile devices.

The challenge for those of us who market Passport is how to explain the concept so that Passport will fit the “digital on-demand” frame listeners already have in their brains without using the aforementioned shorthand.  I’ve written scripts to help your station convert listeners to donors in pledge drives using language that generally fits the frame.  You can use them as part of a comprehensive Passport marketing plan to reinforce the concept, like these radio spots.

Once you have instituted your Passport benefit, I suggest you check out our archived webinar that introduces a new CDP project: Member Analytics Engine.   In it, we address the potential value of that data and how CDP can help your station use viewing behavior for targeted marketing and donor cultivation.


One thought on “Idea Engine: Joint Licensees – Using Passport on Radio

  1. At Illinois Public Media, We have seen an uptick in new members by offering Passport via radio spots (thanks to our membership director John Steinbacher for making this happen). In the same way that most of our donors identify as radio + TV, there’s surely an affinity for public radio listeners to watching PBS programs. Love it when it all works for the common good.

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