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2018 Mentor Program Blog Post: Of Mice & Elephants

By Charlie Deville posted 29 days ago

  

 

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MENTOR: @Melanie Boyer
Manager | Corporate Sponsorship
South Carolina ETV &
South Carolina Public Radio

MENTEE: @Charlie Deville
Underwriting Account Executive
WDSE • WRPT (Duluth, MN)

Introduction & History:

Melanie

The saying goes, “no man is an island,” but that is exactly how I felt when I first moved to public media a little over 10 years ago.  Prior to that, I’d divided my time between advertising sales and market research, working for a newspaper (remember those?) and Internet sales, plus commercial TV and radio, and now here I was starting anew in the unknown arena of “underwriting”.  It’s a little like going from selling elephants to selling mice.  Both are gray in color, both are mammals, and both mice and elephants have, on average, the same number of heartbeats in a lifetime (according to the interweb), but the elephant, with its slower heart rate, can live to around 70 years, compared to the speedy-heart rate of the mouse, and its 2-year life expectancy.  Similar to each other, but different, too, just as commercial media is similar but different to non-commercial media. 

Charlie

Having been successful in commercial television sales for over 10 years I already had a strong sales foundation when I joined WDSE•WRPT in March of ’18.  Every good salesperson understands that you must know all there is to know about the product if you are to be successful selling it.  I was eager to start the CSPI training so I could learn right from the PBS mothership.  I had only been at WDSE•WRPT for 6 months before being accepted in CSPI, spending most of it organizing and understanding the underwriting system in place.  Getting a big dose of PBS was just what I needed.

Why CSPI training?

Melanie: 

I wanted to participate in the PBS Mentor Program so I could help someone new to public media successfully navigate the differences between selling the elephant and the mouse.

Charlie: 

I was interested in learning what language to use when talking with potential underwriters since I was used to a harder sales technique.  I knew that the CSPI Compelling Research (including the PBS KIDS) would be very useful for fielding phone calls and it has become a go-to when doing so. 

Mentor/Mentee relationship

Melanie: 

I was paired with Charlie Deville, underwriting account executive at WDSE-WRPT, who has a similar background to mine, having worked in commercial TV sales.  Charlie was already experienced in sales, but new to the world of underwriting.

Charlie: 

I have enjoyed the mentor/mentee portion of the CSPI training.  Melanie Boyer, like me, came from a commercial television background so her deep understanding for the TV business made our communication easy.  While I didn’t need much help implementing the CSPI strategies, I was able to talk with Melanie about strategies for bigger clients and bigger events.  Her experience with PBS state-wide gives her a lot of knowledge for the kind of underwriting breakthroughs I would like to have to take me to the next level.

Challenges:

Melanie

One of the biggest challenges in going from commercial to non-commercial media sales is the shift in language.  Yes, a shift in sales language, but also a rather large shift in on-air messaging for advertisers morphed into underwriters. PBS and member-stations are known for their ability to tell stories in a way that educates, enlightens, and informs, and this mission is shared by everyone at the station, from content to fundraising to underwriting.  Working for a member-station of the most-trusted source of news and public affairs in the US gives us an opportunity to get a foot in the door to talk with business decision makers about marketing’s best kept secret: underwriting.  

Charlie

I found the biggest challenge to be with the ‘Initial Value Statement’ (IVS) portion of the training.  Businesses very much view underwriting as a philanthropic investment.  When they see how their values align with PBS’ values, they are much more likely to sign on.  Building was at first a struggle because aligning values was completely new to me.  After participating in the CSPI scenarios and developing my own IVS’s, it has turned into second nature now where I can simply visit a prospect’s website, compare their values to PBS values, write the IVS and make the call.

Goals and Sales: 

Melanie

Charlie’s approach to his new job in selling underwriting was two-fold: first, to contact every current underwriter and reiterate the value his station brings – not just in ratings, but also in community support of a much-loved institution; and second, to contact businesses he had a relationship with when he was in commercial media to tell them about the differences between the elephant and the mouse.

Just as I had been charged when I first started, Charlie also set out to review rates and bring them into line with current market rates, meaning that he had to have difficult conversations with every business that was on-air, reiterate the value his station brings, and nudge underwriters to higher, more equitable, rates.

Charlie has had an outstanding first year, increasing the number of underwriters by 65%, at a 97% renewal rate, plus the average incremental increase for renewals was around 30% of renewals, with the minimum at 20% and a number of underwriters doubled their investment from the prior year. 

Charlie: 

I had some lofty goals for the year and have been very pleased at where I am.  In the most recent financial report (10/1/18 – 7/31/19) I was at 90% of my goal for new business.  I should reach that goal by the end of Sept (our fiscal).  In that time, I have brought in $145,896 in new business which is up 137%.

Takeaways:

Melanie: 

The Mentor Program was an opportunity for me to pay it forward, giving feedback, advice, and encouragement to Charlie along the path of his first year working in public media. Charlie came in with a solid foundation of television sales experience, but I hope, in some small way, that I helped him transition from commercial to non-commercial (from mouse to elephant!).

Charlie:

In many cases I have used the IVS system on the spot where I ask the client/prospect about their values and point out the similarities as they come up.  A few examples would be with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Ballet.  Both had never been underwriters despite the obvious audience connection.  In speaking with the decision makers, an IVS was easy to form and implement.  Now both will be underwriters for their upcoming seasons.

Final thoughts: 

Melanie

Underwriting is the “inside voice” of marketing; like the content that surrounds it, underwriting quietly informs the viewer about businesses that are a good match for them. It never yells, cajoles, or harasses like other forms of marketing. And, surprisingly, it works!  Due in a large part to that “most-trusted source” feeling that our viewers have, and the quiet voice that messages are delivered in, research shows year after year that our viewers tend to support businesses that support us.

Charlie

I found the training in D.C. to be exceptional because I learn best from playing out scenarios.  So, in addition to the scenarios I participated in, I also learned from the other group’s scenarios as well.  I would highly recommend this training!

 

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