More from the BBG Strategy Blog
By Bruce Sherman
BBG Office of Strategy and Development
The BBG’s major brand names are, of course, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Alhurra TV, Radio Sawa, Radio Martí and TV Martí. There are also various sub-brands such as Radio Azadi (RFE/RL) in Afghanistan and Deewa Radio (VOA) in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Popular BBG programs — Parazit in Iran, OMG Meiyu in China, and Studio 7 in Zimbabwe — often acquire identities in their own right.
Differential branding is beneficial. It lets us position our products for specific markets and target key audience segments (women, youth, etc.). It helps us stand out in cluttered media environments and deal with challenging political realities, including anti-Americanism. All this helps boost our reach and impact — a BBG priority.
Where our brands resonate with audiences, we want to preserve them. Where they don’t, we have the flexibility to invent new ones. Radio Sawa (“together” in Arabic) helped us rebrand our efforts in the Middle East and reach millions of new listeners.
While the BBG sponsors multiple brands at the agency level, local audiences see only one or perhaps two brands in their particular markets. Research shows they usually know one from the other, and often use one more than the other — which is to say, the brands have unique audiences. Preserving those audiences is decidedly in the BBG’s interests.
Our brands, as symbols of our organizations, also reflect our statutory requirements — to do the news (local and international), represent America, and present U.S. policy. They each are established in law and have supporters in Congress. Preserving the brands thus upholds our congressional mandates.
That said, while supporting the brands, the BBG will become an increasingly unified international media network. Each brand will produce value-added content and retain editorial control. Where two brands coexist, they will complement each other so as to satisfy both audience needs and mission imperatives. The BBG will support them through integrated strategy, budgeting, research, distribution, marketing, and administrative management.
This is the “one organization, many brands” vision. The FY 2013 budget proposals to begin streamlining management and ending language service duplications are steps towards realizing this vision. So, too, is the board’s decision to combine the three grantee organizations (RFE/RL, RFA, and Middle East Broadcasting Networks), into one entity and to seek legislation to achieve definitive agency restructuring.