As the 2021 PMDMC came to a close, we found ourselves reflecting on the memory of a colleague in public media who once asked “we keep talking about the same stuff year after year and nothing changeswhen are we going to do some of these things?”

Like many of you, we’ve always left these conferences with three to five inspiring new ideas about how to update our program, and we considered that to be the earmark of success.

This year felt different. This conference had a focus. 

The thematic priority of the 2021 PMDMC was clear from the outset. Diversity. 

From pledge to marketing to fundraising, we heard voices from all over the system across generations; inclusive of BIPOC experiences; and representing different backgrounds and perspectives. Most importantly we experienced a different tone.

These conversations are long overdue in our industry, but they must also be met with action. It’s not enough to talk about what we can do and why we should do it. Stations must collaborate on a national level and work tirelessly on the local level to bring a much greater level of diversity to content, staffing, and audience. 

After all, we are the national media organization that prides itself on being inclusive and accessible to all.

To assist with this, we recommend public media leaders involve and work closely with leaders from communities of color to gain a better understanding about how to serve those communities and build audience and support from them.

Examples like those from Rocky Mountain Public Media and their successful and growing hip-hop station, THE DROP, are illustrative of the possibilities that exist when we get out of the proverbial box.

Stations must also understand the implications of such moves.  What is the potential financial uptick in this approach and are there any threats to existing audiences?  The hope is “no,” but we live in a very divided and highly opinionated country right now.

Building new audiences is a must. Period. Diversity won’t come just from asking. 

An investment in programming needs to happen to build not just an audience, but trust! Commit to create a brand and an organization that is more fully tied to the diverse communities you serve.

Introducing new communities to who we are and how our mission intersects with evolving and shared values will be critical to the future of public media. Tell your story and share the power of your station in person whenever possible. 

Show your audience the details too. Who you are, how you are funded, and how you are making a difference in their community. Your community! 

Marketing and Fundraising—as well as Programming, Production, and Leadership—teams should work hand in hand to ensure that this approach is reflected throughout your entire messaging strategy and station engagement.   

These efforts need to be reinforced over time as a continuing narrative and at NextGen our team is ready to help. We can work with you to  build  your case for support through fundraising appeals and multichannel messaging. We can also help you build a more diverse prospect base and understand how your member/donor portfolio will be impacted through this type of growth. 

While not my only takeaway from the 2021 PMDMC, I think it encapsulates a lot of what I kept thinking about while attending many sessions. Establishing the case for support for a broader audience is going to be key for the future of public media. 

This may be a long-term process for our system, but the work must begin now. 

Our hope is that next year when we gather for PMDMC there are many more actionable examples of how stationsand the system at largeare exemplifying our brand mission and story.