Jul 13, 2012

Ford-backed marketing campaign aims to boost pubradio listening

SEATTLE — The Ford Foundation will provide a $750,000 grant to NPR in support of a new marketing campaign designed to build awareness and listenership of local stations.

The grant, announced by NPR President Gary Knell during a Friday (July 13) luncheon at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, will help NPR respond to recent research findings that measured high trust rankings for NPR among news consumers, yet also revealed that a sizable portion of the potential audience — 25 percent ­— isn’t aware that NPR exists.

Four stations to participate in the campaign have already been identified: KERA, Dallas; WFYI, Indianapolis; WMFE, Orlando; and KPBS, San Diego.

Harris Interactive conducted the national brand study in late 2011 with 2,500 adults aged 18 and older, according to Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s chief spokesperson. News consumers who knew of NPR rated it very highly among other top news brands, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and cable news outlets CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, she said. Only the BBC had higher trust rankings.

“But the downside was our visibility,” Rehm said. “If 25 percent of adults do not know who we are, we’ve got work to do.”

The Harris study’s findings echoed those of earlier audience research — the 2010 Audience Opportunity Study — which found that millions of news consumers who shared the same values as public radio listeners were not aware of NPR.

To test the effectiveness of the campaign on a national scale, NPR chose stations for geographic diversity, Rehm said. It also sought stations that with no public radio news competitors in their markets.

The marketing campaign has not yet been created, but will be designed to increase the cumulative audience of each participating station as measured by Arbitron, as well as the numbers of people listening to the station’s web stream. The campaign will place billboard and digital ads in each market.

NPR has solicited proposals from ad agencies and is in the process of deciding which will win the contract, Rehm said. The campaign launch is set for later this fall.

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