Updated: Jan 22
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the Stairway to Given. It’s been a helpful tool in understanding our listeners’ path to membership for over three decades.
But I find it hard to implement the Stairway in fundraising scripts.
Should a script only touch on one of the steps? Should we make sure to cover all of the steps in a single break? And if we teach these steps to our on-air talent, will they remember to use them in their pitching?
By in large, the talent at my station didn’t know what to do with this list. The Stairway to Given is an analysis of the listener’s journey. It wasn’t a guide for pitchers to lead listeners on the journey itself.
In the 1990’s I worked for Barbara Appleby at Minnesota Public Radio. Barbara was one of the brightest and most focused people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work for. In one of our meetings about messaging during drives, I shared that the Stairway to Given wasn’t particularly useful in the hands of on-air talent.
A few days later, Barbara waved me into her office and said she had found the solution to conveying the Stairway to our listeners. It wasn’t a list of steps, but a logical syllogism that was easy to remember. And best of all, the talent could use this framework in an number of ways. They could read it verbatim on air, or use it to construct a brief, complete 30 second case message that starts with listening, and ends with giving.
We didn’t script drives in those days. A lot of the themes we used in drives were printed on signs and posted on the walls of the studio. I made a bunch of signs containing the syllogism and posted them. I suggested that if pitchers ever ran out of ideas during a break, they just read the sign. Or if they needed a way to start a break, use the opening line in reference to what was just on the air and run from there. It could also serve as a quick 10 second filler to hit the post at the end.
The change in the sound of our ad-lib pitching was instant, and noticeable. It was more focused on news and music and the relationship between the listener and the station. And the messaging moved effortlessly from listening to giving. More focused messaging meant more effective pitching. We were able to drastically reduce the number of drive days , and still meet and exceed our goals.
USING THE SYLLOGISM
Once on-air staff is comfortable with the syllogism, you might suggest that they kick things up a notch by riffing on "You Listen" By "riffing", I mean changing and adding. Like a jazz musician adding notes to a tune or bending a melody to make it more interesting.
After "You Listen" add a program name or a place. "You listen to Morning Edition". Or "You listen in your car." Or "You listen every day." Or even "Your Saturdays are not the same without 'Wait Wait'.."
Riff too on the word "Listen". Change it to "Consume", "Rely", "Depend", "Learn from", "Engaged by". There's a million ways to turn those two words into an earnest person-to-person ask that reflects what's on the air right then and encourages listeners to give.
Most every script I write for pledge drives contains at least a hint of the three-part syllogism. I put them in a folder marked “The Basics”. When I schedule messages during the drive, my rule is to include a script from “The Basics” in every other short break, or in every break that is longer than four minutes. Scripts in this bin describe the public radio mission and the funding model.
Life is Better
Life is better with WXYZ.
When you listen, you’re exposed to engaging ideas and conversations. You’re invited to participate and discuss. Everyone has something to share.
During our membership drive, we’re asking you to contribute to WXYZ.
Your donation will be used to make new connections and keep you better informed.
Life is better with WXYZ. And WXYZ is better with YOU. Contribute online at WXYZ dot ORG or call 8XX-222-8000.
Love of Learning
You listen to public radio every day because it engages you.
It’s radio that appeals to your sense of wonder, your love of learning.
And now, here’s one more appeal: Please consider contributing to this radio station – right now during this fund-raising week.
The dollars you give pay for appealing programs that you enjoy all year long.
Call now. 8XX-222-8000. Or contribute on-line at WXYZ dot ORG.
Encourage your on-air staff to have fun with these eight words. Personalizing the script while sticking with the core message is the key to a better sounding and more productive scripted drive.
Want to know more about fully scripting drives? Click for the 3 part series Scripting Made Easy
OnAirFundraising LLC, creator of PledgeDriver firstname.lastname@example.org 651.797.2161