PBS: Made Possible by #ViewersLikeMe Amanda Fulton

Campaign Objective

PBS is an independently operated non-profit organization that creates and distributes programming to public television stations around the United States. PBS is funded by member station dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, government agencies, corporations, foundations and individual citizens. PBS is a popular program, with 3 in 4 voters wanting funding for public television increased or maintained at the current level. PBS is a huge force for education, especially among lower-income children: 68% of all children 2-8 watched PBS last year.

Unfortunately, PBS is at risk for losing much of its government funding. Political attacks on the non-profit have detracted from its goal of providing high quality public television. Through this campaign, we aim to unite former and current PBS viewers to share their stories of how PBS helped them grow as a person, as well as donate to finance the day-to-day needs. We will also encourage fans to fill out an online petition which will take their zip codes and email their representatives.

We will use the hashtag “#ViewersLikeMe” to encourage the sharing of stories. In addition, everyone who tweets a story with this hashtag will be automatically entered to win certain prizes: five viewers will win T-shirts; four viewer will receive free membership privileges for two years; three will receive a gift basket filled with PBS swag, and free membership for two years and DVDs of PBS shows;’ and one will be a guest star on Sesame Street (in conjunction with the Sesame Workshop.) Furthermore, we will also write quizzes that determine which Sesame Street character you are (for example). At the end of the quiz, a box will pop up that explains that, as much as we love these characters, we wouldn’t know them without “viewers like you” who donate. There would then be a link to donate.

Our objective is to increase support for PBS through increased donations to member stations, increased followers of the social media accounts, and calls and emails to representatives that express support for the program.

Target Audience

The campaign target audience are 20-60 years old Americans who are diverse in terms of race, gender, and other identifying factors. Twenty to thirty year olds are more likely to be on Twitter and Snapchat, and older audiences are more likely to be on Facebook. The post times have been chosen to make sure the post have received a bit of traction by the times people are going to work, at lunch, leaving work, and at night. The campaign will take place during the month of June, to commemorate the 47th anniversary of PBS on June 23. Also, children are more likely to watch TV during the summer, as they are not in school and might not have access to camps or other programs. We will engage the nostalgia of now-adults who might have watched PBS during the summer. Politically, we do not want to engage one party or the other on purpose, but surmise that more liberal-leaning people tend to support public broadcasting more and will be more likely to donate or call their representatives.

Literature Review

The UNICEF campaign is harsh, but makes a good point: no matter how many people change their profile picture or like a post, the point is moot unless there is real action. I intend to bring in compelling graphics like these through quizzes that tell you what PBS show, character, etc. you are, then end with "You know and love those characters/shows/etc, but they wouldn't be possible without viewers like you." There would then be a donation link.

Current PBS Approach

PBS’ current approach to the issue of fundraising is occasional drives done by member stations. Furthermore, they have been recently begun releasing graphics of information about public opinion of PBS, but do not attach any actionable items to it except a link to a website. A difficult aspect of this campaign is that, to succeed, it must focus on the "fun" parts of PBS, which is mostly children's programming. This ignores some of the very important educational programming PBS produces, but allows us to narrow in on the nostalgia factor necessary for this project.


Change.Org Petitions

Change.org petitions allow anyone to form a petition and share it. By selecting the intended audience of the petition as the House of Representatives, the platform sends an email to each signature's representative depending on zip code. This will be the model for my project, and has been used successfully in several cases. In one case, Congress enacted legislation on "puppy mills" because of a viral petition (created by the Humane Society.)


47,000 calls and/or signatures to elected officials by June 23, 2017, the anniversary of the founding of PBS

10,000 tweets/Facebook posts with the hashtag #ViewersLikeMe

4,700 NEW donations/members of partner stations by June 23, 2017.

Increase overall followers on Twitter accounts @PBS and @PBSKids by 20%

Increase Facebook likes by 10%

Calendar of Social Media Outreach Plan

Sample Posts

Some followers might not realize that one of their favorite shows is produced or distributed by PBS.
After finishing a personality quiz, this graphic would appear and prompt the person to donate (or sign the petition).


PBS has relied on viewer donations since its inception - but it needs a fresh look. Compelling graphics and social media posts, personality quizzes, and a chance to tell one's own story will help this campaign grow. Even if someone is not able to donate, they can easily sign a petition and let their representative know how they feel. In a time when PBS (and the truth) are under attack, it is important that we support credible media organizations - but they cannot survive without funding.

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