The above quote is written on the top line of a piece of paper in a notebook I dragged all over TechCon 2015 – a notebook I now keep close by at all times. I don't remember who said it, or what session I was in when I quickly jotted down notes about hairy goals, but I know the session was part of the digital track at TechCon. The line under it reads, “Digital as a distribution platform, co-primary to broadcast”. Being awarded a scholarship to attend TechCon opened my eyes to the work PBS is doing to support stations who are trying to move forward in the digital world, and because of TechCon, I have my own big, hairy, audacious goals at WNIN Tri-State Public Media.
I have always thought of myself as a radio person; I’m proud of the work I’ve done in community and public radio. To be honest, I never gave much thought to PBS beyond something good for kids to watch on TV and a channel to turn to when I wanted to watch something that wouldn’t make me later feel guilty. All of that changed when I became the Vice President of Development & Marketing of WNIN almost a year and a half ago. I had to start caring about TV and PBS; it was in my job description.
My knowledge of PBS came slowly, I still found myself tooting the horn for NPR and public radio and not quite knowing what to say when speaking about public television. I then started watching our programming and I was hooked. Soon I found myself asking my neighbors and friends if they had seen specific documentary films on PBS, or were they watching Nature? Or Downton Abbey? Being able to toot the horn for PBS gave me a very strong tool in my development tool bag and I use it frequently.
At the end of March I was asked to attend a PBS RegionalMeeting in Nashville and while I was happy to learn more about PBS, I also didn’t know what to expect. What I learned is that PBS is really focused on the future, and specifically the future of individual stations that air PBS programming. Stations that are growing more nervous every day because their membership numbers are down and their own board members and employees talk about watching favorite PBS shows on Netflix and Amazon. Because of these changes in how people are watching television, PBS is spending time and resources trying to figure out what the future of public broadcasting looks like. They want the input of member stations and they want us all to walk into the future together, successfully.
At TechCon 2015 I learned even more about the digital side of PBS and every idea I had at WNIN about moving our programming, development, and marketing in a digital direction – someone at PBS or a larger member station already had and ran with it. So I took notes, lots of notes. Who is doing what very well and how can I adapt that to Southwest Indiana and Western Kentucky? My B.H.A.G - big, hairy, audacious goal - for WNIN is to move us in the direction where our audience has already gone, and to think of brand new ways to reach brand new audiences. At TechCon I was surrounded by people who understand those goals, agree with them, and are doing the work to get PBS and member stations to achieve them. The experience was similar to walking into a bar where everybody knows your name, or being surrounded by friends who just “got” you. For a person who worked in the lonely world of community and public radio, it was a breath of fresh air.
TechCon not only made me feel understood in my goals for WNIN, it also gave me the opportunity to make friends in public television, friends that I now look forward to seeing at PMDMC, or next year’s TechCon. The last night of TechCon some of those new friends from North Carolina, Tennessee, Boston, D.C., and South Carolina took me to downtown Las Vegas and showed me how to gamble. I walked away from the roulette tables $150 richer and ended up having a fine Italian meal at 2am. TechCon gave me knowledge, camaraderie, connections, friends, and most of all, goals. Big hairy goals, but with the support of PBS, absolutely attainable goals.