SCPR Final Report: Making a Community Connection and Celebrating Nonprofits

Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) has completed the development stage of its scalable model for native advertising by public media and is implementing the project.

The original vision of one sponsor for a single native advertising campaign has evolved into a complex but more dynamic and sustainable plan. The station’s philanthropic web portal, called Community Connection, will celebrate nonprofits and promote volunteerism.

SCPR is optimistic about the opportunities that this model creates for revenue sustainability, public service, and community outreach and engagement. But given the shift in approach, the development and build out of Community Connection took longer than originally contemplated in the grant agreement, and SPCR plans to provide the resulting data later this year.

Methodology

SCPR initially contracted with the advertising agency Sensis to provide research, benchmarking and possible implementation of a native advertising project. Staff decided to enhance these findings with their own independent research and analysis, taking into account the unique nature of public media. SCPR formed an internal working group from its editorial, digital, development and underwriting departments.

This task force determined that the best model for native advertising would be a philanthropic channel separate from the editorial news service. Through this web portal, SCPR could help connect nonprofits committed to social service with a vast local audience with the means and interest to sustain the important work being done in Southern California. The connection could happen through compelling storytelling and via integrated platforms that enable SCPR to share content.

As part of the exploration process, SCPR contacted nonprofit news organization the Voice of San Diego, which has a smaller-scale initiative called Partner Voices. Based on that research, SCPR saw that many nonprofit native advertising projects generate low revenue because they lack sufficient staffing and the more assertive pricing of commercial media such as Buzzfeed and The New York Times.

SPCR sought to improve this model — and make it replicable for other nonprofit news organizations — by rethinking the structure to build in actual project costs and identify sustainable levels of support. They also realized that a native advertising portal could add another dimension to public service by not only enabling nonprofits to share information about their good work but also establishing a valuable resource for direct participation in these organizations.

SCPR selected Community Connection as the brand name for this web portal. Their developer designed a logo and created mockups of the site. In addition, the task force produced guidelines for project implementation and sales.

Product specifications: the impact on the SCPR website, mobile apps and newsletters for SCPR’s designers and developers to wireframe, design and build needed components

Pitch deck and rate card: visual mockups, sample screens, and suggested pricing to give our underwriting department the tools for engaging potential buyers

Key performance indicators: SCPR’s own internal definition of success as well as the outcomes expected by potential buyers

Implementation

Community Connection will create strategic “cause marketing” opportunities for Southern California nonprofits and the businesses that support them using a multi-tiered benefit and pricing structure offering significant flexibility. Participation options will range from title sponsorship, with logos in the site header and acknowledgments in on-air promotions, to listings as Featured Nonprofits or in a searchable Nonprofit Directory facilitates volunteerism across the region.

Independently produced feature articles and post articles will appear on Community Connection throughout the year. Feature articles are longer stories that include high-quality images produced by a freelance photographer, while post articles are brief stories about upcoming events or nonprofit overviews. Other benefits will include social media sponsored posts, member newsletter ad placement, and banner ad promotion.

All content will be produced by a staff of independent writers managed by SCPR and will highlight philanthropic activities only by nonprofit organizations, either those working with our project team directly or those supported by sponsoring companies.

SCPR will promote Community Connection on air and online, as well as via social media and newsletter. This model will reach a desirable but hard-to-reach demographic for businesses and nonprofits alike: public media audiences, which tend to be highly educated, philanthropic, active, informed and involved in their communities.

Our overall goal is for the site to be revenue generating. SCPR’s underwriting department is actively cultivating potential title sponsors, with an eye toward a full site launch in late 2015.