Three BizLab stations have launched products positioned distinctly from their public radio station’s identity: WAMU’s new monthly membership to the DCist is separate from a membership to WAMU; Louisville Public Media similarly launched a do502 events membership; and Capital Public Radio is about to launch an agency that sells state-wide sponsorship and underwriting.
In this panel each station discussed their reasoning behind keeping the product distinct from existing station offerings, how they made the case internally, and the pro’s and con’s of launching a new brand.
- Candice Springer, Assistant Director of Community Engagement, WBUR
- Lisa Cooper, Underwriting Executive, Capital Public Radio
- Tracy Karem, Corporate Marketing Representative, Louisville Public Media
- Rachel Sadon, Editor-in-Chief, DCist
Our panelists provided written answers to audience questions not covered in the live discussion.
Limited resources in marketing has come up a lot…. How do I convince my VERY busy marketing person to create a new brand communication plan?
- Lisa (Capital Public Radio): In the CapRadio BizLab project we stumbled in that regard. At first, we did not know that our network was even on the marketing team’s docket and the marketing team did not know we were razing the old model, beginning anew, changing the name of the Network. Marketing had invested significant time and effort in ensuring the Network was included in the stations’ new branding plan. This meant a lot of their time and resources were already invested when we told them we of the name change. It is taking time and dialogue to for us to get on the same page. Moving forward, we are working closely with our marketing team to ensure we are in agreement as we continue to consider a name-change, website, and marketing for our project. We have found there is no such thing as over-communicating. I realize how basic that is. We were very excited to move forward with a new name which appeared to be a dismissal of all the work our marketing team had already done. That was not our intent. Rather than being put into a position of damage control and mending fences, you should first get a new brand communication plan get on the radar of your very busy marketing person. Get their take on it, then take baby steps – make sure you talk in detail and start at the very beginning. Discuss the importance of your vision and how it aligns with their goals and the overall success of your operations. It takes more time than I’d imagined.
- Rachel (DCist): We’ve struggled with this exact issue, and in a lot of cases it has just meant taking these kind of projects and work on ourselves.
Do502 found a distinct part of the D502 Audience that was NOT part of the LPMedia Audience. Did the same thing emerge at DCist? Please talk more about that.
- Rachel (DCist): We don’t have as much data on this as I’d like, but we definitely see a substantial part of our donor base hadn’t given to WAMU.
How much did you rely on your legacy platforms to promote the digital platforms?
- Tracy (LPM): We promote Do502 on the three stations of LPM, especially on the music station. We announce ticket giveaways on WFPK, telling folks they need to go to Do502 to register to win. We also rotate promos, telling people to go to Do502 if they are looking for something to do.
For DCist, are the membership donations generated by your digital product eligible (Usable) to receive CPB’s CSG grants the same way the radio $ is used?
- Rachel (DCist): I don’t officially know the answer to this, but I imagine that they are? We are wholly owned by WAMU.
What’s wrong with “millennial newspaper of record?” How are you broadening the DCist brand appeal? 2. Is it possible to create a brand that serves everyone?
- Rachel (DCist): I’m just not convinced that the things millennials want from their news is all that different from what everyone else wants; we see all demographics increasingly looking to mobile, consuming newsletters, wanting to know how to spend their weekend, enjoying well-written content, etc. Marketing to just millennials also runs a major risk of alienating a lot of people — including longtime Washingtonians — who would otherwise get a lot of value from the work that we’re producing. No, I don’t think it’s possible to create a brand that serves everyone, everywhere. But I do think that it’s possible to cover a city the size of D.C. holistically, in a way that all Washingtonians can find something that appeals to them and their needs.
Tracy – how many staffers did Do502 have prior to BizLab and how many would be ideal?
- Tracy (LPM): Do502 came with one staff person, who is still with us. Since acquiring Do502, we’ve added two additional people. One is the Digital Director, she is in charge of Do502, but also in charge of the digital for all the properties. What we have now seems to work really well, so I doubt any more staff will be added
What other kinds of potential acquisitions are you considering or are being discussed in your organizations?
- Tracy (LPM): No other acquisitions at the moment. Apparently, we get approached a lot about buying other brands, but I think if we were to buy another property, it would have to align very much with our mission.
How do you create success when Human Resources are limited and there is no budget to expand.
- Tracy (LPM): For LPM, it did require some people, including myself, going outside their role in the organization. If resources are limited, talk to underwriting about ways to sponsor what you have in mind. They may have some ideas and relationships in place that can make the process go easier, especially if you start small with the experiments. The beauty of experiments is that you can try things on a smaller scale, so no one is being asked to do that much more.
- Lisa (Capital Public Radio): Similarly, at CapRadio, we were given an opportunity that had not previously been available to our Corporate Support team. That meant we had to stretch our underwriting roles to include statewide buys. Knowing this would increase revenue in the future, we have had to be patient as it has affected pur regular and new business income in the now. This patience must also be exercised by management since we are building for growth that will show up later. We are stretched very thin at the moment – a sacrifice we make for said growth.
Curious what the motivations are for acquiring a brand if you want to change its brand reputation and associations anyway?
- Lisa (Capital Public Radio): Within the world of prospective buyers, the CapRadio Network didn’t have a brand to speak of. With the exception of a couple of hand-picked grantors, the Network had been marketed to stations, not buyers. with the intent of ensuring participation based on content in exchange for units. We knew the Network had real potential for revenue – it had been built that way – and without specific effort and marketing to buyers, its revenue potential would likely continue to founder.
- Rachel (DCist): I don’t think that WAMU/DCist has done this at all (if that’s what was being implied here). We have kept the strategy the same largely as it was before. This wasn’t the case at our sister publication, LAist, where they have change the brand, etc. I suspect the motivation there and in other cases is the large platform already built in and strong brand recognition.
How do you find a marketing/branding consultant who isn’t largely full of crap? (Not a joke Q)
- Rachel (DCist): Ooof. Bring as much of it in house as you can? Come in with a really strong vision and seek more help in the execution? If you find the answer, tell us!
Thank you to our thoughtful panelists and engaged audience members!