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A Regency-Era Crowd Pleaser

“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that Jane Austen and her timeless novels draw devoted fans from around the world. Followers swoon over her brooding, leading men and delight in her witty and colorful female characters. The stories written 200 years ago are timeless and readers find the plots captivating to this very day.

At WHYY, the PBS broadcast and NPR news station in Philadelphia and my current employ, we had the opportunity to acquire a number of BBC programs for streaming on our on-demand digital platform. By offering them through Passport, which gives access to exclusive programs for a donation to the station, we were able to utilize these programs for creative and engaging membership campaigns.

Recognizing the draw of Jane and her following, we selected the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, featuring the smoldering Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and the lighthearted Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. We outlined goals to attract new audiences, grow our membership file, reactivate lapsed donors, and provide existing members with a unique online experience. Thus, ‘Ardently Austen’ was born.

With the objective to reach a wide range of constituents, from the mildly interested to our most engaged donors, we aligned the campaign activities with every level of the growth funnel for a comprehensive initiative that appealed to all.

Introduction: Two Events

We featured two events, open to the public and members alike. The first was “Jane at Home,” a virtual evening with Lucy Worsley, British historian, author, curator and host of many BBC programs including Lucy Worsley’s Royal Myths & Secrets on PBS. To over 115 people, she virtually guided audiences through the homes and history of Jane Austen and her family, while revealing little-known facts about Jane and her writings. “Lucy and Jane – my two favorite things,” wrote one participant.

The second was a virtual tour of the Jane Austen House in Chawton Hampshire, England. Lizzie Dunford, ED of the museum, led over 450 attendees through the quaint rooms of the home where Jane wrote and revised her six famous novels, including Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie shared stories of Austen family life at the home and revealed many of Jane’s treasures. We arranged a split of the proceeds to help “Save Jane’s Roof,” a campaign to replace the tiles of the home, which require major repairs.

Cultivation: Trivia

To elevate interest in the campaign and encourage engagement, we introduced three weeks of Pride and Prejudice trivia as well as a personality quiz that hilariously captured the spirit of Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane and Lady Catherine. Participants had the chance to win an “Austen Essentials” prize box filled with a Pride & Prejudice cookbook, playing cards, mugs, egg cups and a pencil pouch. 

Acquisition: Email & Music

Utilizing ads, paid search, website popups, and the trivia promotion to encourage email signups, we launched a weekly newsletter authored by Patrick Stoner of the movie review program FLICKS. With his own twist on little known historical facts and personal experience, he included backstage-pass recaps of each episode. As part of the newsletter, we featured an ‘Ardently Austen’ Spotify playlist with songs contributed by WHYY staff members. The music spanned genres from waltzes to classical waltz, rock and funk to disco, pop and hip hop.

In addition to the recaps and playlist, the newsletter promoted the events, the weekly trivia questions, and linked to other delightful tidbits such as books, articles, and related programs.

Value Exchange: Member Benefits

The donation component was centralized around making a donation to access Passport and watch the 6-episode series of the program, even though we did raise additional revenue through the events. We focused on the marketing efforts mentioned above to reach our goals and featuring the program on the ‘Ardently Austen’ landing page.

Stewardship and Partners: Special Offers

To focus on the benefit of membership with WHYY and to strengthen the relationships with our local community partners, we worked with four MemberCard retail shops to offer members discounts on exclusive items including tea bundles, regency period coffee and pastry pairings, and luscious Austen-esque chocolate pairings.

Overall Results

Through the newsletter, ads, and events, the campaign raised over $14,637 with 215 new members in total: a fantastic pool of donors we can cultivate for future efforts!

Over 1,100 people signed up for the newsletter with an astounding 69% average open rate. Nearly 450 people played trivia over 720 times. We had 45 new signups, re-engaged over 30 lapsed donors, and over 390 existing members participated which strengthened our relationships and underscored the value of WHYY membership.

During the campaign time frame, over 830 people watched the program equating to $50,160 of annual revenue and a lifetime value of $167,200. The partners received strong promotion through our marketing channels and enjoyed the benefit of new business.

Integrated Campaign Benefits

As you can see, crafting integrated, multi-channel campaigns that span the growth funnel helps maximize these opportunities to the fullest, ensuring a strong return on investment. In addition:

  • A concentrated effort to simultaneously acquire, engage, cultivate, renew, and steward donors and partners offers operational efficiency and expands the penetration of an otherwise very crowded landscape.
  • Utilizing a comprehensive, branded initiative that resonates with all audiences extends the reach beyond that of the organization, allowing greater opportunity for participants to share with their peer networks.
  • Integrated campaigns strengthen the relationships with our donors and the community, offering solid foundations for future sustainatility.

For another neat integrated campaign idea, check out Bob Ross FTW. And don’t miss my tips on Crafting a Digital Campaign.

P.S. All of this is covered in my book! Check out chapters 7, 9, 10 and 11 on growth funnels, engagement and revenue campaigns, and ambassador programs. Don’t have my book? Get it here

This campaign would not have been possible without the support of the incredibly talented WHYY staff in membership, marketing, digital and events. They brought it to life. Deepest thanks for their hard work, and to the WHYY leadership for taking risks and supporting innovation.