A few years ago, Jacquie Fuller worked for Minnesota Public Radio. She was an on-air host for MPR’s popular AAA station ”The Current”. But that wasn't her only job. As MPR’s On-Air Fundraising Manager she was responsible for planning and scripting drives for three 24 hour broadcast streams: the MPR News and Information Service, the Classical Music Service, and The Current, MPR’s AAA station. To top it off, all of those drives ran concurrently three times each year.
You might think that scripting three drives for three different formats at the same time might be difficult. But Jacquie says that her formula is based on having consistent message delivered by experienced hosts.
“The hosts are doing the heavy lifting. They’re announcing. They’re telling a story. They’re speaking to one listener. We don’t change our breaks just because it’s a drive.”
Jacquie's point is that great music hosts engage listeners in a conversation about the music that’s on the air. During pledge drives, it’s essential that the conversation continues. But it is also imperative that the fundraising messages are incorporated into the conversation. The announcers need fundraising language to build into their breaks.
For that, Jacquie uses scripts. Scripts for the case, and scripts for the close.
The case, of course, is the case for giving, and the case for listening. It’s the “why” message. The close is the “how” message. It’s the price, the process, the premium, and any sweepstakes or matches you may have going on. Most stations alternate a series of case and close messages. Stations write their own message points, or use published scripts.
But Jacquie makes sure that every script suits her needs. “I write a lot of scripts. And if I use scripts from Greater Public, I trim them down. I aim for each case or close script to last about 30 seconds and no more. I edit scripts to make them shorter. Even more 'boring'. I use lots of 'You' language- like- ‘You believe that classical music has a spot in this community.’ And I tend to stay away from scripts that are really clever. That gives the hosts more ability to add stories in their own words, and to add color as they are inspired. The key is this: I have a good set of basic scripts that I can lean on. And I have to push on the hosts to be more creative in the delivery of those basic messages, and sound fresh.”
When two hosts pitch together, one host handles the case messages, the other the close messages. Every 30 to 45 seconds the pitch is handed off. Case. Close.
Three of these case/close volleys and the break is done. Four breaks and an hour is done. Twelve hours and the day is done. Forty-eight breaks for each station, every day of the drive. That’s a lot of work.
“Each day I build case messages and close messages, and I customize opens for each day so I can react to how the drive is moving along, and tweak the messaging.”
Script assembly is a daily chore. “I build a day’s worth of scripts the day before. I usually build the first three or four hours or so, and I copy and paste and them into subsequent hours and then add color to those later hours.”
This isn’t done by hand. Jacquie uses PledgeDriver, a software program that is designed to help stations plan their drive messaging. “Pre-planning the drive using web-based software means I don’t have to spend the drive fussing over spreadsheets or cutting and pasting in Word, and I can focus my attention on really listening to the drive and coaching pitchers.” The output of the software is a printed case/close script that can be handed directly to on-air hosts.
The end result is a drive that is more efficient, and more focused. Each break has a message plan, and the theme for each daypart or day is easily established. How should the drive sound? Jacquie is adamant about that. “Passionate and engaged. If hosts are not engaged, none of the drive will be successful. As fundraisers we have not seen the real goal- not the dollars, but listener retention. We’re not going to make our fundraising dollars if listeners are going away."
In Part 2, Jacquie shows us the method she uses to build scripts.