Taking Control: KCET Staying Top of Mind — and Mail Pile
Life as a PBS station is a tough gig. Providing much-needed programming related to news, history, the arts and education made possible by hard-won donor support, public broadcasting easily can be taken for granted amid the mass of television channels available today.
PBS direct-mail campaigns face a similar challenge, with stations battling each other and nonprofit organizations of all kinds for top billing in a potential donor’s mail pile.
In such a competitive atmosphere, there was no time to waste when Los Angeles-based KCET, community television of southern California, noticed the response rate for its control mailing declining.
“There’s a plethora of charities and nonprofit organizations Competing for our dollars,” says Louis Newman, director of marketing communications for KCET.
“Media consolidation continues to increase at an alarming rate. Yet in a world filled with tragedy, uncertainty and lack of connection, KCET continues to positively impact our community with tangible, useful information, benefits and direction. Public television deserves and needs our members’ support, but it’s an ongoing battle.”
For several years KCET had mailed — and mailed well — a 4-inch-by-91⁄2-inch outer envelope affixed with a yellow Post-it note with lasered, red copy reading, “Dear KCET Viewer, Take advantage of our special $29 membership offer. Details inside.” Additional copy above the address window reiterated the offer.
Sent to donor prospects and deep-lapsed donors who had not renewed their support in at least two years, the mailing focused on the “great bargain” that is KCET’s $29 membership offer. Included was an 81⁄2-inch-by-101⁄2-inch letter, a 21⁄2-inch-by-6-inch coupon that donors mailed back to the organization, a 31⁄4-inch-by-81⁄2-inch reply card and a BRE. The control was averaging a 0.45 percent acquisition response rate, a $35 average gift and raising $166 per thousand pieces mailed.
A different wavelength
KCET turned to Plymouth, Mass.-based direct marketing firm DMW Worldwide and began testing against the lagging control in February 2005. Test packages included an invoice-like package, a survey, a premium package and an “action-needed” urgent appeal. Newman says that, for the action-needed piece, the organization revamped the look and tone of both the packaging and the messaging, with a focus on urgency rather than getting a bargain.