The 2019 Community Media Conference is coming soon.
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“I skate to where the puck is going.” 
- Ice Hockey star Wayne Gretsky

I’ve got little sprouts of new ideas coming up like crazy in the fertile soil of my brain these days.
The primary idea sprout I have been working with is the notion of relevance. It’s a word we throw around all the time in community media. It holds a great deal of interest because it is an essential piece of our collective aspirational goal to have a solid place in the hearts and minds of the listeners and communities we serve.
I’m happy to report that our 2019 Community Media Conference will feature a keynote from Nina Simon, who just wrote a book called The Art of Relevance (hence the idea sprouts in my brain).
Here is something to think about this season as you head into pledge drive and summer programming preparation. Simon maintains that, “Relevance is a key that unlocks meaning. It opens doors to experiences that matter to us, surprise us, and bring value to our lives.” She adds that research indicates that there are two primary criteria that make information relevant: how much effort will it take and how much meaning will I get? That’s the core we have to get to if we want to understand engagement.
The question that keeps percolating up from Simon is, “how do we matter more to more people?” That simple question has replaced my foggy notion of relevance that was more about asking, “how do we get more listeners and more donors?” How do we skate to where the puck is going and not around in small circles? The puck in this case is what holds meaning for folks and we, dear radio lovers, are the hockey team.
I hope you enjoy all the great information and features that Ernesto is serving up for your spring salad mix. I look forward to picking up the relevance conversation and more in San Diego at the 2019 Community Media Conference, and I hope to see you there.
Happy Spring,

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters


A closer look at the 2019 conference

In less than three months, community media managers, volunteers, producers and supporters will descend on the city of San Diego for the biggest community radio gathering of the year.

The Community Media Conference, a three-day event, takes place June 18-20 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina Bay Tower. With at least 30 sessions, three deep-dive intensives, keynotes by author Nina Simon and attorney John Crigler, and more in store, the conference is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

The way people access and relate to information and music is in a period of rapid change. In the face of this shifting landscape, station devotees are dedicated to making an impact for our communities, our volunteers, and our local partners through informed conversations, inclusive cultural exchanges and fresh perspectives on the trends in our world. The Community Media Conference is focused on building on our strengths, tackling our collective challenges from new angles, and tapping into your community’s potential like never before. Please review the conference agenda to see how speakers will help you to reimagine the future.

Take it from veteran community radio leader Mary Oishi, who recently shared her view on the importance of the conference as part of our February newsletter. “I used my vacation and paid my own transportation to be able to go. It’s that important. The camaraderie, the fresh ideas, the connections you make will refuel you for the rest of the year. It’s too easy to just keep your head down and plow by yourself or with the same few stalwarts. But it’s also hard to do that month after month, year after year without burning out or growing stale and stuck. Find a way. It will keep you sharp and energized and up to the task. Plus after hours it’s a big party! (And, as Emma Goldman said, ‘if I can’t dance, I won’t be in your revolution.’)”

Tracks on content, revenue, engagement and organizational capacity dig into addressing core needs at your station. Whether you help an all-volunteer station or lead a large outlet, our conference sessions provide resources that can be tailored to your size, role and needs. You will come away from your conference experience with exciting ideas and transformative knowledge.

Some sessions of interest:

  • An audio production intensive. Join your colleagues and fellow producers for an extended (four-hour) intensive on creating immersive stories with sound. Award-winning journalist Dale Willman brings a wealth of production, journalism and visioning experience to the table for this hands-on session. He’ll work with you on the mechanics of preparing for an interview, the basics of making the recordings of the interview, and then the preparing of material for editing, and finally, editing. You’ll leave with a new toolbox of skills, trial access to Hindenburg software, and fresh knowledge from a distinguished journalist for creating strong programming.
  • A major gifts intensive. Every station, whether large or small, should be thinking about how to cultivate large contributions to meet essential revenue goals. This intensive will delve into the language of major giving, the development cycle and how major gifts work in your pipeline, and how to apply strategies you may already have in your annual giving efforts to a major giving program. You’ll learn about getting your staff, GM, and board on the fundraising page with you. And you’ll get to build a case for support and learn how to make the ask in a real-time exercise and practice opportunity. Join fundraising professional Gwen Colwell for this three-hour interactive session.
  • An intensive on human resources management. One of the most challenging areas for community radio stations is the matter of human resources. The cost of ineffective management of staff and volunteers can be tremendous: lost productivity, decreased donations, talented people departing for greener pastures, bad word of mouth and litigation are among the outcomes when relationships sour. In this intensive, attendees will learn about core practices for optimum human resource management, such as mediation and conflict resolution, safe/civil workplaces, individual evaluations and smart hiring. Along the way, Jeannie Smith will answer your most perplexing questions and guide you through solutions.
  • Building a successful underwriting program. Whether you have a new underwriting program, one that’s hit a plateau, or one that hasn’t quite gotten off the ground, this session will give you a comprehensive framework for optimizing a program at your station. You will learn how to audit your underwriting program, extract the data you need, and discover ways to assess what you find, so that you can ensure that your program realizes its potential. Join one of the best minds in underwriting as she coaches you through building up this revenue stream, while offering simple systems that aren’t expensive and help you with workflow. Attendees are encouraged to bring a list of your underwriters to use in this interactive session.
  • Database/member/volunteer management systems. Many stations tend to leave membership/donor database matters to development staff and fail to involve the rest of the organization in data management issues that impact everyone. Public media veteran Deanna Mackey will help you to examine a set of questions that your station needs to ask when choosing a database, ways to avoid overspending on the software and support, and scaling you should consider in setting the system up. Learn from an experienced colleague about how to avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that derail your best effort in tracking, managing and engaging your station’s members and donors.
  • Digital strategy for community radio. Building a digital workflow with your limited means is a challenge facing all of community radio. KUNC Digital Editor/Producer Ashley Jefcoat will show you her proven techniques for how to focus those efforts to make the most impact. From trends in social and digital media, to podcasting, smart speakers and apps, you’ll leave with actionable ideas and strategies to help you maximize your resources and get your digital game running like a top.

You will learn how to engage your audiences around events, create better programming, connect with peers around common questions, and find vendors offering services your station needs to expand. You can register to attend now. In addition, you can reserve a room at the host hotel. With so much happening, you will want to be in the center of it all.

We hope to see you in San Diego!


Ellen Sugg, KKRN

Ellen Sugg was born and raised in Washington, DC. She went to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and graduated with a degree in Economics. After one year in an office job, she moved on to helping start and run an experimental high school in the early seventies in Baltimore, MD and became an educator for the rest of her working life, starting in Maryland. She moved to California in 1977 and taught there, first in the city and then for 30 years in rural Shasta County. There, she lived "off the grid" in a remote area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest for 15 years, had a family, including two children, and travelled 35 miles each way to teach elementary school. She also became involved in a local community project to start a primary care health clinic in the nearby small community of Round Mountain, serving on the founding board (1983) until the present time. In the meantime, she moved to Burney to be closer to her work. The month that Ellen retired from teaching, KKRN Community Radio went on the air. She had been involved in the establishment of the station, but after retirement she began to take on major roles as a volunteer, becoming the Business Director in 2013 and then the Station Manager in 2016.
What first drew you to community radio?
Good programming on NPR attracted me at first. Then I learned about Democracy Now and was able to see it on Free Speech TV around 2005. There was no way for me to listen to Pacifica stations or community radio in my local area, Shasta County. I longed for a local community radio.
What is your first memory of KKRN?
In 2006, I was part of a new local organizing group called Cascade Action Now. A local woman involved with CAN and other local progressive organizations came to our meeting to tell us that a frequency for a non-commercial educational radio station was opening up in our area. We were all thinking - LOCAL COMMUNITY RADIO!! Do we want to support the application effort? was the question and the answer was absolutely YES. In short order we and others had all pitched in to pay for application process and that was the beginning of KKRN.
We applied in 2006, had the construction permit by 2008 and the license in 2011. KKRN went on the air on June 28, 2011. Much work was needed, but we had an audacious group of people who had the will and determination to lead the way and to help however we each could, to write the grants, have the fundraisers, and build a radio station one step at a time.

How would you describe the station’s hometown and the cities it serves?
Our studio is in Round Mountain, CA. It is a small town of less than 400 people surrounded by 4 other small communities that make up our broader Mountain Community. Many of our founders had already worked together successfully in starting a much needed community health clinic in 1985 known as Hill Country Community Clinic in Round Mountain. By 2008, Hill Country Clinic was a remarkable health and wellness center and a Federally Qualified Health Center serving the medical, dental and counseling needs of an highly underserved rural area.

The vision of this clinic included building a healthy community and so they offered space to KKRN to build 2 studios and 2 small offices on the clinic campus. Thus, in a small rural town, there is a community radio station and an amazing clinic that serves the community in many ways beyond traditional health care and attracts people from all over the county. This environment is a wonderful home for community radio. Our mission is to foster positive social change and healthy communities. KKRN also has a production studio, listeners and volunteers  in Redding, a city of 90,000 people, about 30 miles away and in our listening area. Revitalization of downtown Redding is bringing more culture and community to the area. We are right in the middle of Redding's Designated Cultural District. Shasta County, like many rural counties, has a lot of conservative people and voters. However, there are also many progressives. So we have the "divided nation" at play here. I consider it an opportunity to "know the other," and find common ground with at least some of our community members who do not see things the way I do.
How is your station volunteer community special?
Other than a few professional subcontractors, KKRN is run by volunteers, so the volunteer community is all of us, from two women who are Station Manager and Program Director to 11 committee members and the nonprofit board, Acorn Community Enterprises, considered  woman-owned because the majority are women, to 15 local programmers and 5 - 10 more volunteers who do other important tasks to keep us going. We have a total of about 40 people. Having so many dedicated volunteers doing so much work is pretty special.
What are you most proud of as a manager?
I am proud that we were the first Pacifica Radio Affiliate in Shasta County, the first to bring to the airwaves shows like Democracy Now!, The Thom Hartmann Program, People's' Pharmacy, Peace Talks Radio, Making Contact, Eco Shock and so many other unique voices that were not heard in our area. I am also proud that women manage KKRN. I am proud that we have managed to earn all our operating expenses from many listeners, some local businesses and our fundraising events. Finally, I am proud that we have made connections and partnerships with musicians, artists, theaters, schools, community groups, festivals like Indigenous Peoples Day, Earth Day, International Women's' Day, and Pride Day in our area.
If you could tell another station to steal one of your successful ideas, what would it be?
We finish our Pledge Drives with a Community happening/fundraiser - an All You Can Eat Pancake Breakfast. It is a celebration of KKRN's community of listeners and volunteers. We can talk about it throughout the Pledge Drive and we usually have a good turn out, people bring in pledges and more donations. We have local music, and bring in fun items to give away as door prizes. We have a great time, cultivating community and making a little more money!
Which challenges do you feel closest to overcoming, and how?
We continue to make progress in the mechanical and technological aspects of to stay on the air during power outages due to storms, fires, etc.
Complete this sentence: “the one thing I can’t live without as a community radio manger is ____.” (and why do you say that?)
The KKRN mobile app so I can listen a lot more than I would otherwise be able to.
What’s the best advice you got that you still apply to this day ?
Join NFCB and utilize its resources, especially when you are starting off. Build a foundation by writing governance documents and modify as needed.
Where do you expect community radio to go in 10 years?
I hope and expect that many people who love community radio will still be alive and listening and promoting and supporting the medium of radio. Methods of listening may continue to change. I hope that our communities all over the world will retain local control and access to grassroots, independent media.

Telling your story

Your pledge drive asks are organized, your social media is ready, but what is your elevator pitch to total strangers? It is a relevant question. With global trust in media tumbling, communicating to our communities about who we are and what we do has grown even more important.

Telling your story well and ensuring people can relate is crucial in a media saturated world. As longtime organizer Marshall Ganz reflects, effective storytelling is a timeless skill. As more people become "organizationally illiterate," he says, and assume markets will sort out the best choices, the clearer the need to recapture the narrative of collaboration and building community is for local groups. Whether you do music, talk or a mix, your ability to connect with listeners around what you do can make a difference. 

Poynter indicates that media, at its root, must help audiences understand what it does and its processes for delivering information. Beyond filters and people, articulating its best practices and workflow help media organizations engender trust. The organization whose advocates know its story and can present it as a trustworthy entity will best position it for the future.

As with everything in our space, this examination means cutting through the noise and figuring out how to most clearly distill all we do. With debates over the media raging, this is no simple task.

Why does understanding what your community radio station does matter? First and foremost, donors want authenticity and transparency. They want to know they understand what you do and can have faith that you'll meet your promises. Donors who distrust you, believe you to be inauthentic or to be using bad faith to lure them will stop giving.

Some reads on helping audiences (and ourselves) understand what we do, and how we can do it better include:

  • How the public thinks media happens and the reality can be quite different. The Media Insight Project found a major gulf in understanding among the public. “The findings… reveal problems of miscommunication, as well as opportunities. They highlight shared ideals: for example, the public and journalists want the same things from the press — verified facts, supplemented by some background and analysis. But they also reveal dissatisfaction: many Americans think what they see in the news media looks largely like opinion and commentary — not the carefully reported contextualizing they hoped for.” How can your station clear up confusion? The Project offers recommendations.
  • “Explain your process” suggests a study from the Center for Media Engagement. Using a box on each page, websites explained how a story came together. The results were stunning. “[P]eople who viewed an article with the box rated [the article] significantly higher on 11 of the 12 attributes of trust compared to people who saw the same story without the box. These attributes include being more transparent, informative, accurate, fair, credible, unbiased, and reputable.”
  • How do stations walk the careful line of impactful media without partisanship? One study points out a direct correlation between organizations seen as biased and those perceived to lack credibility and trustworthiness. Although there are arguments that suggest it is time to rethink media, it is increasingly clear that the public wants the media to fill a particular role. How your station meets those needs is up for debate.
  • Kyle Pope argues that repairing misunderstandings requires media makers stop focusing on ourselves and instead get back to what got us here. “Journalism, after all, is supposed to be about the airing of ideas, about empathy, about listening to what other people think, even, and especially, if they’re not like you. That’s where the best stories live. But because of our natural instinct to huddle together and protect our pack, we fail to do what we desperately must: step away and start reporting on people in realms outside our own… Journalism’s next great project has to be not looking in the mirror (which we’ve become quite good at over the past two years, first obsessing over every flaw and blemish, then staring in awe at our own self-importance) but honestly assessing how others see us, and how we can see them better.”
  • The Arizona State University News Co/Lab recently surveyed journalists and found few see their role as helping audiences understand the information choices before them. This is a missed opportunity. “By positioning themselves as a resource for cutting through the clutter, journalists can engender trust and help improve community news fluency.”

NPR Public Editor Elizabeth Jensen will lead a session on ethics and community radio at the 2019 Community Media Conference. It should be a lively conversation. Be part of it when you register for the conference. See you soon!

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