Yellow Pages Publishers Association Turns to Webcast for Convention

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When the Yellow Pages Publishers Association was forced to cancel its annual convention in October because of travel restrictions imposed after Sept. 11, the organization scrambled to find a way to notify the participants of the alternative date and location. Instead of canceling the meeting, which was to take place in Anaheim, CA, the organization held it as a Webcast in November. This was the association's first attempt at Webcasting.


The YPPA sent a series of three rich media e-mails to members to apprise them of the changed schedule for its convention and to give them a taste of the meeting's agenda. Two of the messages were sent prior to the meeting.


After the live, 40-minute Webcast was completed, a third message went to association members that included links to audio from the meeting. The message also encouraged members to go to the YPPA Web site at www.yppa.com to access an archived version of the meeting.


The first message, sent to 2,116 YPPA members Oct. 29, featured audio from association president/CEO John Greco encouraging members to sign up for the Nov. 1 meeting. The message garnered a 32.9 percent click-through rate and was forwarded 95 times, the association said.


"We had 800-plus people coming to Anaheim, CA, with a very rich agenda," said Frank Capozza, the YPPA's senior vice president of communications and government relations. "We had to get the information to people very quickly."


The second e-mail went to 2,088 YPPA members Oct. 31. It was forwarded 43 times, and the click-through rate was 24.8 percent, the association said.


After the meeting took place, the third e-mail went Nov. 6 to 2,205 members. It was forwarded 21 times and had a click-through rate of 32.3 percent.


Surprisingly, the association found that some of its members, including Verizon and SBC Communications, had never used Webcasting.


"This was the most effective communications delivery system we have ever come up with," Capozza said. "We'll factor it in our plans for 2002."


Though only about 500 members signed up to attend the Webcast, he said, the organization estimates it drew more than 2,400 people. For each member who signed up, the YPPA estimates four or five additional people were gathered around their computer watching the Webcast.


"We usually have three, four or five people from each organization participate in the YPPA," he said. "This helped us broaden our member base."


Capozza also said the YPPA plans to open its membership by introducing an "individual" category, which will be less expensive than its current company-wide membership option.


"It allows us to reach down a couple of levels into the organization," he said. "This is a tool that turned out to be a remarkable way to extend our reach."


He said that as a direct mail and online advertiser, the YPPA is always concerned with broadening its reach. The organization found that e-mail and Webcasts were a less-expensive way to accomplish this. The association's annual convention, he said, would have cost the organization $2 million to $3 million. The Webcast cost $50,000 to $75,000.


"So many people couldn't participate because of travel restrictions," Capozza said. "The effectiveness [of the Webcast] was broadened significantly. We became absolutely infatuated with rich media e-mail."


The YPPA also tracked member sentiment about future Webcasts through an online survey that included four questions. About 89 percent of those surveyed said they found the Webcast useful and 90 percent said they would participate in others in the future.


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