Scripts Hosts Won't Hate

Never Stop Improving

John Munson

If you’ve read the article Roger and I co-wrote about Hosts that Hate Scripting, one of the questions you may be asking is how do I write those scripts?

Great question.

To continue the jazz metaphor, good improvisation requires that all the players know what’s going on at all times. Knowing when/how to end your solo requires communication with the other players and relies upon a plan of action.

Applied to pledge drives, that means we must provide well-written scripts with clear messages stacked in a logical progression.  Again, the question is how do we do that?

Other articles here in PledgeLab have talked about the need to incorporate and thoughtfully rotate message ideas from pretty much every major area of the radio station.  This is a crucial aspect of establishing the foundation of your drive.

Here’s another crucial step. Program Directors are in charge of your station sound. So meet with your PD and ask them how they could help make pledge breaks better. Pull a meeting together with your PD and hosts  and find out what they need to make the pitch breaks sound like the programming that listeners expect from your station.  Incorporate the required elements of standard stop sets/breaks into the pledge scripts and leave room for hosts to transition into specific fundraising messages in ways that sound natural and in tune with the station’s sound/identity.

Ask them to consider that they may be (and probably will be) working with pitch partners who don’t have their on-air experience.  Give them some time to think about it. If staff time allows, consider conducting some mock break sessions. The goal of these would be to find ideas that work. 

If your station has a talk format and uses producers, it is fair to expect that they will have some ideas that may not occur to hosts. Add them to the mix as well.

Above all, remember that four 4-minute breaks per hour is a substantial part of your broadcast day. Treat your breaks with the same respect that your station gives to the programming that contain them. Your 7:19AM pledge break in Morning Edition is still Morning Edition in your listeners opinion.

This prescription sounds time consuming. And probably is. But it is worth it. Start with one show or one host and see how it goes. Over time, add other hosts/shows into the mix. Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Don’t expect to accomplish all of this in one drive or even two. Take what you learn each time you innovate and incorporate that into the next drive.

This is also a good place to remind you about the importance of air-checks after each drive. These are terrific opportunities to capture new ideas and to discover which things didn’t turn out the way you thought they should.

Don’t try to air-check each show/host after every drive. Rotate through all shows/hosts over a one year period (three or four drives). Listen to what they tell you about what worked or didn’t work in the scripts. Talk about improvisation that went wrong and why, or what was inspired improvisation and what made it so compelling.

Here’s a quote from W. Edwards Deming, the father of Continuous Quality Improvement: 

Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.

The CQI cycle posits three things that lead to improvement:  develop, implement, evaluate. These three ideas occur in a continuous cycle. The moment you stop striving to be better you begin to fall behind.

Deming forced manufacturers to listen to the people who did the work on the shop floors. Public Radio stations need to consider that same principle when developing pledge messaging.

The goal should be to make pledge pitching align with the sound of your programming.  In order to do that you must involve the same people who deliver the programming to listeners in the creation of compelling messages to potential contributors. Those messages MUST be in tune with the station’s image/positioning/sound.

Not sure how to go about this? Hire a consultant to help you. Use tools like PledgeDriver® to help globalize your ideas across all breaks. The return on investment (ROI) is worth the risk.

Develop, implement, evaluate.  When I read these words I immediately think of the Lowe’s tagline, Never stop improving. When it comes to on-air fundraising, THAT should be our mantra.


 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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