Converting Obstacles to Opportunities: Why NPR Listeners Take Action Without “Calls To Action”

By Carol Lawrence, Michigan Radio Account Executive

Why do NPR station listeners take action after hearing a message about a company that does not state a specific call to action such as:  “Call now”, “Visit us at…”,  or “Stop by”?  Let’s start with what NPR is, and why NPR airs corporate messages of support to begin with.

NPR, or National Public Radio, is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of approximately 900 public radio stations.  NPR produces and distributes news and cultural programming that is produced by NPR itself and other content providers such as American Public Media, Public Radio International, and Public Radio Exchange.   NPR is known to present fact-based, independent journalism that examines and airs diverse perspectives.  NPR journalists strive to tell stories in ways that transport the audience to the places where news is happening, and introducing the people affected. These are just two of the reasons that NPR is a unique service that is extremely valued by its members, listeners, and sponsors alike.

As non-profit organizations, National Public Radio stations rely on the financial support of listeners and corporate sponsors who, through their contributions, help make possible the service that NPR provides.  When a company makes a contribution to a public radio station, the station in return airs “thank you” messages, which always begin with…”Support for this station comes from…….”.  The essence of the message IS the very fact that the company is providing financial support for the NPR service in that community.  This alone ingratiates the company into the favor of the NPR listener. The secondary information in the message informs the listener about the funder in a “value-neutral, non-promotional” manner to further endear that company into the heart and mind of the listener.  The message can include things such as how many years the company has been in business, the services the company provides, and how to find out more about the company. 

It is understood that whenever a company shares information about their goods and services, in any form, they are doing so with the hope that you and I will take action and use their goods/services.   In other words, we already know that a company wants “action”, with or without an emphatic “call to action”.  And the good news is that if we do decide to take action we now more than ever have all of the tools necessary to find out anything further we would like to know after being introduced to a company of interest.  Even my 88 year old Mother knows how to use “the Google”!

The next time you hear or see an advertisement that begs:  “Come on by!”…or “Call us now!”…or “Don’t Delay!”…. please take a moment and evaluate for yourself.  Isn’t it already implied that the company wants you to do those things?  Why else would they have told you about their offerings?  Are you more compelled to take action because the company told you to do so?  Or like the NPR listener, are you just as, or even more,  compelled to become a patron of a company who spends all of their treasured time with you speaking factually, one-to-one,  to educate you about who they are and what they have to offer,  leaving you to decide for yourself whether or not to “call now”.

National Public Radio stations and their thousands of new and legacy sponsors are proof that when a sponsor message, sans a call to action, is heard on NPR, the listener responds.  NPR listeners know that, like themselves, the sponsor supports the NPR service that the listener values and trusts.  Secondly, the listener knows that the sponsor wants that listener to use their services. The bottom line is this: NPR and its listeners have trusted, proven, intimate relationships, which deliver time and again for the sponsors.   In such a close relationship, a call to action, truly and simply, goes without saying.

Posted in Branding, Converting Obstacles to Opportunities, Sponsorship Updates, The Halo Effect.