WASHINGTON: National Public Radio has embarked on a PR spending
spree, initiating several concurrent campaigns with a number of
different agencies so far this year.
The radio network's most recent deal is with DC-based McKinney &
MacDowell Associates to increase its profile among African-American
audiences. An NPR source put the value of the account 'in the very, very
low six figures.'
The campaign is described by Jessamyn Sarmiento, NPR director for public
and media relations, as a 'grass-tops' effort, designed to reach its
potential audience through African-American leadership figures and
organizations, starting with an NAACP convention later this month.
'We're focusing on reaching out to African-Americans through opinion
leaders in the community,' she said. 'Our research shows that we do have
a sizeable number of African-American listeners, but there is room to
Last month, NPR tapped Fleishman-Hillard and its newly acquired
advertising firm Greer Margolis to handle a general branding campaign
focusing on its news service.
Zubin Bamji, senior brand manager at NPR, described the theme of the
campaign: '(Fleishman) will be branding NPR as a prestigious, viable
Bamji added that part of Fleishman's job will be to increase NPR's
visibility. 'Our research shows we reach only 12% of our potential
demographic, meaning people with high levels of education and income
generally between the ages of 25 and 54. Too many 'NPR people' don't
even know we exist,' he said. However, he disclosed that 'almost all' of
the campaign will focus on advertising, with PR playing a supporting
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of NPR's news show All Things
Considered. Ketchum, which works with the station on several
long-running projects, will be handling PR for the celebrations.
NPR indicated that the current campaign to reach African-American
audiences is only the first phase of a comprehensive push to reach more
diverse audiences. It remains unclear at this time whether other
agencies will be sought to handle that work.