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 Pledge Lab is a collection of articles and essays dedicated to improving the practice and effectiveness of public radio pledge drives.

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Michael Arnold

Wisconsin Public Radio 

Chief Operating Officer and Director of Content

I have to make a confession. I used to hate scripted drives.

 

I was one of those on-air talents who believed deep in my heart that free-forming it was the way to go. Back then, I thought all I needed were a few talking points and a phone number. I mistakenly thought that the freewheeling approach was part of what made the drive fun and attracted pledges.

 

Boy, was I wrong…

I started to realize I was wrong in the weeks after pledge drives when I listened back to airchecks of my work. While some breaks had positive moments, I noticed that there were times when I’d rely on well-worn phrases and occasionally drift into odd sidetracks that did little to advance the message of giving to the station. At times, I was downright self-indulgent.

As a program director, I also heard from listeners who complained about the drives. Their complaints often reflected my observations from the airchecks.

 

Despite the fact that the feedback and my own listening created some cognitive dissonance, I remained convinced that unscripted was better.

Then it happened. A new boss mandated that we use scripts. While she made very logical and intelligent points, my heart was convinced she was wrong. So were many of my fellow staff members. As a result, my first scripted drive was a train wreck, largely because of me and the rest of the mutinous staff. We read the script like a hostages forced to read words written by our captors. We sounded robotic and unhappy. As a result, the drive was less than effective.

Then something clicked. As I reflected on that first scripted drive, I realized that it sounded bad not because of the scripts, but because of how we approached them. From a content perspective, the scripted breaks were stronger and more focused. While the hosts may have sounded low energy, the messaging was strong. We consistently took our listeners down the giving path and positioned the station well.

None of this should have surprised me. As a program director, I often talked about the value of good preparation and good writing. I was an advocate for the core values of public radio and coached staff to be thoughtful about the work they do. Every day, I stressed the value of good writing to tell stories.

It was at that point that I became a scripted drive convert. If we are taking regular programming time away from listeners, we owe it to them to be focused and professional. We don’t freewheel it with the rest of our content, so why should we with the programming that helps make it all possible? Good scripting helps novice pitchers start off on the right foot and provides the tools to veterans to make their work truly shine. It also shows that we are making the best use of the time we take away from regular programming for pledge.

As a scripted drive convert, I know that I will never go back to the bad old days of unscripted pitching. And I will always be grateful for Pledge Driver for helping making planning a scripted drive much easier.

COO & Director of Content Wisconsin Public Radio

michael.arnold@wpr.org

    Michael Arnold

    How I learned to love scripted drives

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