COVID Subsumes KUAR Fundraiser; Arkansas Tourism Pauses Media Plan

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The COVID-19 pandemic’s pummeling of media and advertising is leaving collateral damage everywhere, from newspapers to TV newscasts to radio, including public radio and statewide tourism marketing.

The public radio arm of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which offers KUAR news radio and classical music on KLRE, canceled its on-air Spring Fund Drive April 6-10. Delivering news on the coronavirus was just too vital to be interrupted by pleas for money, Development Director Vanessa McKuin told Arkansas Business last week. Nearly half of the stations’ operating budget comes from listener donations, which continue to come in.

As the travel and hospitality industries continue to suffer, Travis Napper, director of Arkansas Tourism, delayed all media plans for his agency and its industry partners from May 11 to June 1.

“We are making necessary adjustments to our marketing plan,” Napper said in an email to the industry. “Late last week it was decided to shift all potential media from the previously anticipated date of May 11 to June 1. This will allow us to reserve the needed media inventory and will provide time to gauge how the current situation evolves, as well as travel sentiment.”

Napper said Arkansas Tourism would “continue working closely” with Little Rock marketing agency CJRW, adapting plans and creative messaging. Officials are surveying industry leaders on that messaging, the email said.

McKuin, of UALR Public Radio, told Arkansas Business that all resources for now are directed to covering the coronavirus and its effects. “We have added national programming … and are airing the governor’s daily briefing and have simulcasted PBS’s “Arkansans Ask,” which covered pandemic issues and accompanied daily staff updates and unique stories on the pandemic’s community effects.

“Producing on-air fundraisers relies heavily on staff and volunteers being in the station,” McKuin said, saying that obviously was not an option. “We want to ensure that our staff and members of the public radio community remain safe and healthy.”

She said fund-raising goes on, and that the help is needed now more than ever. “We have a $15,000 match from an anonymous donor to encourage listeners to give during this critical time,” McKuin said. “We are fundraising in a different way by relying on recorded messages rather than the community members who normally help us live on air.”

Taking note of what public stations have done nationwide, she said only a few have forged ahead with regular fund-raisers. She called her stations’ decision “difficult,” but best for the circumstances.

“As to the bottom line, KLRE and KUAR are listener-supported services,” McKuin said. “We’re working to adapt, as everyone is, to the current situation. Our fund drive goal is $110,000, and we still hope to raise that by June 30, which is the end of our fiscal year.”