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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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Opening Words Part 2

Roger Gomoll

The landmark Audience 98 study said two things that every on-air fundraiser needs to know:

One: Valuable public radio programming attracts listeners.

Two: Listeners contribute because they find the programming valuable.

So what does this have to do with the first 30 seconds of our pledge break?

When you open the mike to begin a pledge break, we must assume that listeners are paying attention because the programming they just heard was interesting and they found it valuable. 

Maybe it was Beethoven or Brubeck. Maybe it was a story from Beirut or Boise. Or maybe it was the weather forecast or a time check. People listened because there was something interesting to listen to.

What do you say to keep them listening?

 

As on-air pledge hosts, it is our job to try to extend our time with listeners.  If we spend 30 seconds saying something that is NOT interesting, they'll find something else to do.  In short, it’s our job to stay interesting so listeners don’t wander off.

 

Even shorter: Don't be boring. 

How do you do that, you ask?

Share the listener's perspective. You must demonstrate that you share an appreciation of what was just on the air. Even just a word or two referencing the story or the music or the weather report keeps your listener’s attention. 

Share the listener's purpose in listening. Mention that the station is a daily habit, and meets their needs as a dependable source of news or music.  Listeners expect your station to provide insights on breaking stories, national and world news, politics, business, science, technology, and extended coverage of major national and world events. 

 

Use listener comments. Read comments  from the pledge forms. "Dependable". "Insightful." "I start my day with …" Endorsements from fellow listeners are powerful. 

Give them a reason to stay tuned. Mention the great programming that is coming along soon as a reason to keep listening.

Point with pride to the public service that the station that you AND your listener both appreciate. And point with pride to the public support that makes it happen.

The next thing you know, you’re in the pledge break, talking about the mug or the challenge grant.

The most important thing is to understand that the opening words of a break CAN’T be scripted!

Some call the skill that enables on-air talent to make that connection “Hostiness”. To Program Directors it is a major skill exhibited by great announcers. For on-air fundraising talent, it is an essential quality.

 

How can you develop this essential skill?

Listen. Learn. Practice. 

1.  Listen for it on your own air, or on other radio or TV stations. The Cable News channels are really great about forward promoting a story that will be aired following the commercial break. 

2.  Talk to your Program Director. PDs are skilled in coaching talent in "hostiness" skills, including transitions  or “Pivots”. A Pivot is a word or concept from what was previously said or heard, and using that concept to introduce the next topic. Example: After a weather forecast, one might say- “and the forecast for the next few minutes is that you’ll make a contribution to this station”.  Another example might be: “Music of Mozart that can only be described as ‘passionate’. Show your passion for all the classical music you hear on this station by becoming a member right now.”

3. Practice. Come up with your own transitions and forward promotes, and try them out. Remember that the key to effective transitions and promos is to make them short. Many coaches also suggest that talent write out short promos or transitions at first. 

Being a great on-air fundraiser starts with being a great on-air host. Learn the skills and you’ll help reduce the minutes and hours and days that it takes to meet your fundraising goals.

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