Award-winning membership communications show one size doesn’t fit all

Dan Linstead Branded Content, Loyalty December 1, 2017 Leave a reply

The only charities to win at this year’s big content awards – both Immediate clients – prove targeting is the key to success

This week’s International Content Marketing awards were the most diverse ever, drawing over 400 entries from 23 countries. The content being judged included print magazines for airlines and supermarkets, a microsite for a US tyre company, a heritage engagement campaign and a social strategy for a frozen food brand. The Grand Prix went to a Norwegian road safety video. What can we learn from such a dizzying array?

Perhaps just this: that the range of entries reflects the diversity of audiences and channels out there, and that successful content marketing now demands an ultra-targeted approach. At Immediate, we were delighted to see two of our projects for major charities pick up awards on the night, both of which reflect that thinking.

Engaging families with the RSPB

Our portfolio of membership communications for the RSPB won bronze in the Best Membership category, the only charity to feature in the list. The RSPB has long been a trailblazer in segmented membership comms, publishing not one but 4 magazines, for adults and children of different ages, for many years. Many adults still go a bit misty-eyed when recalling their years in the RSPB’s junior ranks, as a member of Wildlife Explorers, the Young Ornithologists Club or – before 1965 – in the Junior Bird Recorders Club.

Our work with the RSPB over the past three years has focused on honing their message to different age groups and demographics to improve retention. For children, we have focused content around tighter age profiles, linked to school Key Stages. This has been particularly successful among families in the typically attritional first year of membership, where more relevant content has improved retention by 3%.

Other audiences have different needs from the RSPB, and over the past year we have also completed a major web migration project to ensure a variety of smooth user journeys through the website. Parents, teachers, kids, conservationists and – yes – serious birders will now find it easier to get the particular membership experience they want.

Finding new audiences with English Heritage

Our other charity client to win at the awards was English Heritage, whose 1066: Year of the Normans campaign won Gold in the Best Content Campaign category. This superb integrated project was designed to mark – and stake ownership of – the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, a milestone in English history. Brand activity included hiding 1,066 wooden arrows around the country, commissioning a new Bayeux tapestry from children’s author Liz Pichon, and a re-enactment of King Harold’s fateful 300-mile march south from York to Battle.

The content supporting this activity was equally imaginative, ranging from members’ features and videos (produced by Immediate) to a Facebook standoff between #teamsaxon and #teamnorman.

Part of the ambition of the campaign was to reach younger audiences, which led to collaborations with YouTubers Yogscast (who recreated Dover Castle in Minecraft) and TV historian Dan Snow, who broadcast live to schools on social media from Battle Abbey on the anniversary itself. The results were dramatic both in terms of immediate engagement and long-term value. Search for ‘1066’ in Google, and English Heritage used to appear around page 10 in the results. Try it now.

So, two very different, but both award-winning pieces of charity communication from Immediate and our forward-thinking clients. And the takeout? Like that historic arrow flying towards King Harold’s eye 950 years ago – it’s all about targeting.

5 challenges for charity loyalty comms in 2017

Dan Linstead Branded Content, Loyalty January 23, 2017 Leave a reply

With donor retention rates stubbornly low, improving long-term loyalty has to be a priority for charities this year. Here are five key challenges your content strategy needs to address

1. Build trust

Numerous studies have shown that trust in an organisation is a fundamental factor in loyalty. If we donors believe our money is being well-spent in pursuit of the right aims, we are far more likely to continue giving. But trust in the third sector is at a low ebb – the lowest ever according to the Charity Commission.

Their 2016 Public Trust and Confidence in Charities survey found 33% of UK adults had less faith in charities than a year previously, following high-profile fundraising and data protection scandals. Furthermore, trust in small, local charities is higher than large, globally active ones, creating an additional challenge for many household name organisations. Rebuilding trust – through words and deeds – is a key challenge for 2017.

2. Beat the first year slump

Charity retention rates are typically a bowl-shaped curve – good engagement from donors in their first year or so, a rapid dwindling over years 2-3, and then a corresponding increase in loyalty as tenure grows.

From a fundraising perspective, that’s “lousy”, according to Adrian Sargeant, Professor of Fundraising at Plymouth University:

“Over 70% of people that we recruit into organizations never come back and make another gift, so we’re caught on this treadmill where we have to spend lots of money on acquisition which most nonprofits lose money on anyway, just to stand still.”

A key challenge, then, is the development of better nursery programmes for new supporters in that crucial first 18 months. Give new donors the right mix of content and experience, and you could have them for life.

3. Articulate your cause

 All charities have a cause – it goes without saying, doesn’t it? Well, no, it doesn’t. That cause, that higher purpose, needs communicating more clearly and distinctively than ever. In 2017’s fast-moving, “post-truth” media landscape, high-impact, short-term campaigns will always be required to get cut-through to donors. But if a charity’s long-term mission gets lost in all the local initiatives, expect donor loyalty to suffer too.

That goes double for charities which offer a lifestyle benefit as well as a cause – heritage, culture and wildlife organisations, for example. If your donors’ lifestyle changes and they don’t value your wider mission, you’ll lose their support.

And of course, that mission has to resonate personally. As marketing guru Seth Godin puts it: “We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.”

4. Reconnect with ‘Brexit Britain’

 How well do you really know your supporters? 2016 threw up new and dramatic divides in British society, crystallised in the Brexit vote, which confounded pollsters by cutting across traditional demographic categories. So better data and – even more importantly – better insight from that data are going to be vital for charities who want to stay relevant to their supporters’ lives.

Data crunching has a big role to play, but so too does old-fashioned listening. When did you last do a supporter survey? A set of focus groups? Or get properly involved in a social media conversation with donors? Old assumptions about what people value got swept away in 2016. 2017 is a year to learn afresh.

5. Make it personal

 Personalisation is the media buzzword of the year, and it raises a host of connected questions for charities. Even assuming you have the data (see point 4), can your CRM system effectively join the dots between, say, a site visit and a legacy enquiry? Do you have enough – and the right kind of – loyalty content to engage different audiences? And are you giving your supporters the opportunities, platforms and incentives to talk back to you? As software becomes more sophisticated, 2017 will be the year when a personalised relationship with charities starts to become more than a nice-to-have. Loyalty will depend on it.

Immediate works with many of the UK’s largest charities and not-for-profit membership organisations, including the RSPB, WWF, English Heritage and the Scout Association.