I have been an Umpire in the Corporate Support Performance Initiative (CSPI) twice. Once when most of the Corporate Support team was new at WTIU in Bloomington, Indiana in 2004, and then when I was the new CEO at ValleyPBS in Fresno, California in 2015.
Umpiring CSPI is not the walk in the park that some participants thought. We had to read the cases, we had homework, and we had to follow the structure of the program in giving feedback. There were also participants trying to find any advantage over their peers, which included flattery and bribes. Fending those off took some effort — I was not used to all the attention.
Which leads me to my first observation: Natural salespeople are very good at making you feel good. In the first couple of rounds, some of the participants relied solely on their charm to make their presentations. Which was fine, but that strategy was not going to get the highest grade from me (for some reason in both the Indiana and California sessions, I was perceived to be the toughest umpire). One of the reasons the CSPI methodology resonates with me is that it combines both quantitative and qualitative reasoning. You’re supplied with all the data about sponsoring PBS programming, and then you can add your own layer of emotion to seal the deal.
Then there’s my second observation: Before taking the CSPI training, most of us were winging it. We might know a couple of statistics and throw in an anecdote here or there, mixed in with some renewals, and that’s how we rolled. The CSPI model gives you a proven template for prospecting, answering objections and making the sale. I particularly appreciate the amount of time and effort spent by PBS Development to compile the history of our system in the pre-reading and all of the research they commissioned to demonstrate that we are a strong media buy and a worthy cause.
Observation #3: We have some very hard-working, smart and creative people in the system – we need to work just as hard at retaining them. As a CSPI Umpire, you mostly hear variations on the same theme. But occasionally, someone would add a unique twist or present something from an entirely different perspective that I hadn’t considered. Those were the participants I gave the highest marks. Unfortunately, a lot of those people no longer work in public broadcasting. They left for various reasons, but I know we need to invest more time and effort in retaining our highest performers.
Finally: We need more professional development, for all disciplines. As an Umpire, you could see when the light went on. When a participant “got it.” They could hardly contain their excitement, and they went back to their stations with a new purpose and the tools to be successful. Why can’t we do that for other disciplines, like Membership, Marketing, Online, Programming or Production?
And when those training programs are launched, I would be more than happy to be an Umpire.