Radio Hed: Public Radio Copy

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

People listen to public radio. Some advertisers want to reach the public radio audience. There are some pretty strict guidelines about what you can and cannot say in sponsorship mentions on public, not for profit, non-commercial stations.

Keep in mind, that the aforementioned media outlets will be the first to tell you that these mentions are NOT advertising!

The purpose of the sponsorship mentions is to build a special relationship with the public radio audience as a supporter of programming and an underwriter of operational costs of the station.

However, several of my clients, newsletter subscribers and teleseminar listeners have asked me: Is it possible to create effective copy within the strict guidelines? Hmmmm…

The guidelines read like a list of rules against almost everything I advocate for effective copy.

I am not a lawyer, although I have played one on radio. The following information is not to be construed as legal advice. Please seek the counsel of a qualified communications attorney before stumbling into the tar pit of creating sponsorship mentions.

Copy Guidelines for Public Radio (paraphrased)

Underwriting announcements are intended to identify the sponsor, their products and services and their contact information.

You are allowed to: Establish organization’s name and location. Describe your main products or services. Include a telephone number or website. Mention a well established, recognizable corporate slogan in use for at least six months. Make value-neutral statements about your product or service. Broadcast how long you have been in business, if you wish. State that you support the public radio station or one of the programs it airs.

The FCC asks you to avoid: The use of comparative, qualitative or suggestive language. Addressing the usefulness, convenience or advantages of the product or service. The mention of prices, interest rates, or indications of savings associated with products or services. Any use of the first or second person. Employing inducements to buy, sell, rent, lease, borrow or loan. Any calls to action. Advocating any matter of public interest.

“OK” I thought to myself, “I like a challenge.” Knowing that sometimes restrictions can lead to creative solutions, I came up with what I thought were ways to make even sponsorship announcements interesting and result getting… then I did some more research.

I’d like to share with you some links to articles and presentations to help clarify (or obfuscate) your understanding. The sponsorship examples and comments will be revealing. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, only to increase your knowledge of this topic: www.cathyives.com/fundraising.html  (download 2005 Late Night); www.gsblaw.com/resource/pub_result.asp?ID=1820437272006 (click on It’s a Copy Mardi Gras!!!!); www.wlrh.org/PSAs/policy.asp; www.wmot.org/corporatesponsor/Why%20Sponsor%20WMOT-rich-test.rtf.

Oh boy… each of my clever ideas could be construed as breaking the rules.

Public Broadcasting Consultant Cathy Ives suggests that sponsorships under the auspices of a station’s fund drive may have more flexibility with message content. Check with the station for specifics on this.

I don’t have a good answer to the question, “Is it possible to create effective copy within the strict guidelines?”

If you’ve had success creating compelling sponsorship copy, please email me with examples, techniques or comments. This is a topic that deserves more discussion.

© 1997-2008 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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