NPR's multiple campaigns aim to boost awareness

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

news-gathering organization.'

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.

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