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Our PBS CSPI Mentor Program Experience

By Susan Tran posted 09-17-2019 08:47 AM

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MENTOR: @Susan Tran
Director of Corporate Support; Marketing Manager; Special Projects Producer
Maine Public | Portland, ME
MENTEE: @Amy Zellers
Director of Corporate Development
WVIA | Scranton, Pennsylvania

Before the program…


In the summer of 2017, my minimal PBS knowledge had been obtained by watching many hours of family programming with my two children and working PBS character meet-and-greet events with my local PBS member station, WVIA public media, in my role as marketing director at an area shopping mall. As you might imagine, there was quite a learning curve to navigate through when I began my career as a Corporate Development Representative at WVIA that summer. I was extremely excited to soak in as much program-related information as possible so I could share it with all the businesses that I knew would benefit from sponsorship. This job was awesome, and I was achieving success in numbers.

By the spring of 2018, I was honored to accept the role of Director of Corporate Development. Stepping into this selling manager role was challenging. Having only 9 months of non-profit sponsorship selling experience under my belt, I was still new to the non-profit world. My team consisted of two reps that were also new to working in public media, each having only five months of public media experience. To add to this, my promotion was not well received by the team. Adding even more to the challenge, there was a hiring cap in place, so technically my promotion put the team down one sponsorship rep. To say the least, I needed help.


When I applied to be a mentor in the CSPI Mentor Program, I was entering my 15th year in Corporate Support at Maine Public. I’d joined Maine’s statewide radio and television network as an Inside Sales Rep in 2003 and risen through the ranks over the subsequent years, next as a full Underwriting Sales Rep, then the Sales & Traffic Coordinator, finally earning the role of Director of Corporate Support in 2011.

Throughout my tenure at Maine Public, I’ve been grateful for the valuable feedback, pro-tips, and candid advice shared by some of my colleagues at member stations across the system. When I became director, I was tasked with recreating our team and protocols from the ground up. Having the opportunity to learn from peers in the system – informally, as well as through conferences and webinars – gave me a wealth of insight to add to my own experience. As a result, I was able to confidently rebuild our program and systems based on a deep well of public media, sales, and development knowledge. Because of the generosity I benefitted from, I’ve maintained a personal goal of both reciprocating and paying-forward this collegial support. The CSPI Mentor Program seemed like the perfect way to take this goal to the next level.

The Mentorship…


The program did not disappoint. From the start, I was impressed by the level of thoughtful planning and communication provided by Toanya and Beth at PBS. At our launch, I felt set up for success with our sessions on leadership, mentorship, and communication. Plus, having the opportunity to revisit the CSPI program was incredibly valuable – in my work as a mentor and in my work with my team in Maine.

I felt super fortunate to be paired with Amy. Similar to my experience, she was tasked with rebuilding an underwriting program and team from the ground up. Despite being new to her position and relatively new to public media, she faced this mission with an inspiring energy, enthusiasm, and poise. Even when Amy encountered obstacles (I’ll let her get into those), she was undeterred.

The first 6-8 months of our work together was really focused on this work: hiring strategies, pay structures, underwriting rates, Nielsen ratings, onboarding, teambuilding, and packaging. In truth, despite meeting regularly, we only scratched the surface of our intended CSPI-focus. But it seemed wholly necessary to backburner the sales tool while the sales team was under construction.

And in the meantime, back in Maine, I used my own CSPI refresher as the motivation  for sharing the CSPI program with my team. Over the course of 8 weeks, I carved out 30 minutes of our weekly team meetings to use my rejuvenated knowledge for mini training sessions. While this was certainly no replacement for the real thing, it gave my team a taste of the CSPI methodology to use in their daily work with clients.


When I was accepted as a Mentee in the PBS Mentor/Mentee program, the help I desperately needed had arrived. The PBS Mentor/Mentee Program gave me the CSPI tools I needed to properly train this young team in sponsorship sales. I also received a super power- a Mentor. Her name is Susan Tran.

Shortly after the program began, one of my two Corporate Development Representatives left the organization. Luckily, the hiring cap was lifted, and I was able to hire two sponsorship reps. Susan and I quickly began the process of rebuilding the department. The process took roughly six months from start to completion. Susan and I started by critically restructuring the current three books of business and creating four well-rounded client books that would set up the future reps for success. We looked at the commission and bonus structure, which added additional incentives to drive team goals.  At the same time Susan walked me through the entire hiring process, such as script writing for hiring messages, posting suggestions, interview prep paperwork, and guidance on candidates to say the least.

After a new Corporate Development Representative was hired, Susan shared her on-boarding tools with me. Using her materials, the CSPI training materials and my personal on-boarding materials from when I began employment at WVIA, I weaved together a new hire on-boarding training binder fit for a rock star! As of April 1st, my full team was in place. The team’s first month’s sponsorship sales results quadrupled the proceeding quarterly average!

The results…


Every step of the way, my work with Amy gave me a tremendous opportunity to turn the lens inward and take a closer look at my own team, management style, protocols, materials, and packages.

My work with Amy has been more rewarding than I would have thought possible. It’s such a tremendous opportunity to have regular calls and e-mails with a peer in the system. And as an added benefit, I’ve gained so many new friends and colleagues from across the county through the program. Everyone has been so open and willing to share – it’s like having an amazing Corporate Support brain trust just a phone call or e-mail away!


I was accepted into the PBS Mentor/Mentee Program at a critical time in my career at WVIA public media. I cannot express how grateful I am. The sales tools that I gained from attending the CSPI training, coupled with the support from my mentor, Susan, truly put me on the path to achieve success for not only me, but my entire Corporate Development team.

1 comment



09-23-2019 07:59 AM

I wonder if you can share that binder with other stations that are building their sales teams? Would be insightful and helpful to all, I"m sure!