Preparing for the Future Sponsorship Landscape

by Admin PRX

Dear Public Media Colleagues,

We are all watching how sponsorship is playing out in this moment.

To help us think about the future, we asked Market Enginuity Chief Revenue Officer Harry Clark to share his expertise. Market Enginuity is the exclusive sales firm for all of PRX’s broadcast and podcast sales. They also manage local sales for many public stations across the country. 

Please enjoy Harry's insight below.

— Shona Koester
Chief Strategy Officer, PRX

The Public Media sponsorship landscape has changed dramatically over the past several weeks. Since mid-March when cities began mandating shelter-at-home measures, sales teams have been working to save business. The uncertainty has put most marketing budgets on hold and caused the pace of sponsorship revenue to slow. At a time when audiences are surging, there is less demand for sponsorship.  

Marketers are in the same economic boat as the rest of America as they wait for more information before making monetary commitments. We anticipate that April and May will be the worst months we have ever seen in local station sponsorship. But feedback from conversations with clients tell us most are planning to return to “business as usual” when budgets open up.

The past two weeks were the first to end with positive revenue across the markets we work in since cancellations began. We’re gaining some traction in emerging categories, but that revenue is not yet enough to offset losses from cancellations and paused campaigns.

Our current view is that things will improve some in June and over the summer compared to April and May, but a continued decline compared to prior years looks inevitable through the remaining months of 2020. That could continue into 2021, but it’s still too early to predict with much credibility.  

So, what can Station Revenue Leaders do now?

  • Plan for a variety of revenue scenarios to maximize opportunity – a series of possibilities that describe potential economic factors, business climate, consumer reaction, and how that impacts our top categories. 

  • Keep looking forward. Public media has a powerful story, and we need to shout it loudly to the marketing community. In a recent blog post, I challenge marketers to include public media in their marketing mix and support critical journalism. Consider sharing it with your teams and other station supporters.  

  • Focus on new emerging categories. Go deeper into healthcare, education, and financial. These have always been top categories, and with shifts in how people are working, we believe those categories will come back faster and present new opportunities.  

  • Share learning. We’ve continued to focus on sharing the learning across our 17 teams around the country and increased our communication internally to share best practices across markets and determine where the wins can be found.   

  • Get ahead of collection issues. Some sponsors will be challenged with cash flow and making payments later or needing payment plans. Leverage electronic invoicing and create special messaging to sponsors reminding them about the critical service stations provide, and that as non-profits timely payment is more critical than ever to continue that great work.  

How can you support your sponsorship team?

  • Take a moment to show appreciation. Salespeople are having a tough time right now, experiencing more rejection as they work to evangelize public media’s value to marketers with budgets on hold. Join your team’s sales meeting. Show them that you’re all on the same team and in this together, especially as they work to change the minds of marketers who may cancel or pause their sponsorship. 

  • Go on-air and thank your sponsors. As a General Manager or Program Director, hearing from you that sponsorship is a critical revenue source will resonate with business leaders in your community. 

No one knows what will happen next, but we will get through this. We may have new categories and sponsorship may look different tomorrow than it did yesterday to compete and succeed. Come together, communicate like crazy, share your learning, and provide support.    

We’re resilient. We’re Public Media. We’re Built for This.

Be well,


Harry Clark 
Chief Revenue Officer, Market Enginuity

Harry Clark is Chief Revenue Officer for Market Enginuity, which manages all of PRX's broadcast and podcast sales. Harry began his public media journey leading sales at WNYC in New York, then KCRW in Los Angeles. Harry served as chair for Greater Public’s Heritage Group for two years and prior to public media, held leadership roles for some of the most iconic brands in commercial media. An advocate for premium, independent media, Harry connects brands with purpose-driven audiences across multi-media platforms, delivering increased revenue for sponsors and content partners alike.