What are considerations for a local underwriting approval process?

The process for securing approval for local on-air underwriting credits varies from station to station, depending on how a station and/or its underwriting program is managed and structured. Below are some suggestions for stations looking to set up local on-air credit approval processes:

Key Internal Contacts
Key External Contacts 
Advisory Board
Guiding Principles
Workflow Map
Deliverables Checklist 

Key Internal Contacts
Consider which departments at your station are needed to support and fulfill the terms of a local underwriting contract; be sure to include key players from all of these departments when establishing your local underwriting credit guidelines and approval process. These may include:
  • Development/Underwriting
  • Marketing/Communications
  • Creative Services
  • Digital/Interactive
  • Programming/Traffic
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Legal
  • Research
  • Station Management
  • Station Board
Key External Contacts
Additionally, think about who outside of the station needs to be worked into such a process, especially if you have secured a local sponsor of a nationally-distributed program that has already secured national underwriting, or you are struggling with whether or not to approve a new credit which contains an element for which there is no obvious precedent. These may/should include:
  • Outside Counsel (FCC guidelines)
  • PBS National Program Underwriting Policy  (PBS guidelines)
  • PBS National Producers (local underwriting restrictions)
  • NPR (if a joint licensee)
  • Other National Distributors (APT, NETA etc.)
  • National Public Media (NPM) or Other Public Media Entities (for multi-market or regional buys)

Advisory Board
Consider establishing a board committee or community advisory board with which you can discuss your underwriting policies and approaches. Several stations—including WGBH—employ this approach and use the group effectively as a sounding board for their decisions.

Guiding Principles 
Identify and document common guiding principles and rules that affect the credit approval process.

Workflow Map
Map out and internally publish your on-air (and digital) credit approval process and workflow, detailing distinct roles, responsibilities and deadlines for all involved.

Deliverables Checklist
In conjunction with the internal workflow process map, develop a checklist to keep track of key deliverables from the client along the way.  Such a checklist might look like this for on-air and can be enforced by being set up in your internal CRM database or even in Google docs, Basecamp or other Cloud-based document sharing and project management solutions, where the appropriate staff and managers can sign-off on each step and move the process along efficiently:

  • Station requests treatment from client: X weeks to air. Sign-off: _____
  • Station provides feedback on copy/storyboards to client: X weeks to air. Sign-off: _____
  • Client submits any corrections or changes to treatment to station: X weeks to air.Sign-off: _____
  • Station gives approval; requires rough cut review for final approval: X weeks to air. Sign-off: _____
  • Client submits rough cut for final approval: X weeks to air. Sign-off: _____