The (Marketer’s) TV Guide

Television is woven into the fabric of American culture. And public broadcasting has a special place with its worthy mission of airing content that serves the public. WGBH in Boston, the top producer of content for PBS, creates and distributes several TV favorites—from costume drama Masterpiece: Downton Abbey to docufilm series Frontline. Like all public broadcasting stations, WGBH depends heavily on support from its viewers; and providing a good experience for donors is crucial to the station’s survival.

But some donors were having poor experiences instead. Cate Twohill, ?senior director of CRM services at WGBH, explains that some donors who use multiple channels to contact and make contributions to the station were getting solicited several times over—as if they hadn’t previously donated to the station or as if they were different people on each channel. Simply put: WGBH’s records didn’t recognize individual donors across varying channels.

“We have so many different ways that we can hear from our local constituents. They can call while we’re on-air; we knock door-to-door; we borrow lists from other nonprofits,” Twohill says. “[And] there are so many different ways that we can collect the names and addresses from our local constituents.”

As a result, she says, the station’s databases were plagued with more than 80,000 duplicate contacts because each data set was treated separately—creating silos and potentially annoying donors. “Once you have a duplicate account introduced, you dilute your ability to have a strong conversation with that single person,” Twohill explains.

Marketers for the station realized that WGBH needed to clean its constituent management system. So the team turned to RedPoint Global, a marketing automation platform provider. The goal was to help the station clean up its data and provide one connected experience for donors.

“Donor management is the lifeblood for WGBH,” says George Corugedo, CTO of RedPoint Global. “And [the marketers at WGBH] were having trouble with getting all of these databases to work together; they had a donor database, historical databases, data from events and canvassing or their donation drives. And they couldn’t bring any of this data together.” He says that even if a donor gave $25,000 a year, it was highly likely that the generous constituent would get a solicitation for another $100 donation with the promise of a modest thank-you gift, such as a coffee mug: “It was the nightmare scenario. And it was happening all of the time.”

So with tools from RedPoint, the marketing team at WGBH set out to get a consolidated view of its donors. “The first step in our project was to bring all of that data together,” Corugedo says. This began with linking data sets and donor information. Corugedo says contact history, previous conversations, mailing lists, and even social data were connected to create a more holistic view of each person. In essence, WGBH began to layer each data set on top of each other.

“All of a sudden, we were able to see the viewer,” WGBH’s Twohill says. “Clean databases enable a seamless omnichannel experience.” She says the station’s marketers determined how many of the duplicates were active in more than one channel or perhaps had donated in the past year. The marketing team then dubbed those interested viewers as priority donors for whom they should craft specific communication.

The marketers also made sure that all new information was connected through methods such as recognizing name history or address changes for donors who may have, for example, gotten married or moved. “We matched online records to station membership,” Twohill says.

The results, she explains, were nothing less than impressive: “We did really well,” Twohill says. WGBH saw a lift in donations and overall responses to its marketing efforts. In fact, when the station’s marketers sent emails and followed up with direct mail pieces to encourage people to donate through electronic funds transfer, they saw a 30% response rate: “Through that omnichannel marketing, we were better able to target and then communicate with those donors,” Twohill says, adding that renewals are up, and revenue remains strong. “I think people are acknowledging that we’re doing a better job of communicating in the way that they wish and with the information that they’re interested in.”

Now WGBH is focusing on converting one-time donors to sustaining givers. She says to do that marketers at WGBH are showing donors that the station knows them. “Having this clean data is helping us have that better conversation,” Twohill says. In addition, WGBH is working to help public broadcasting stations around the country clean up their dirty data. “It’s no longer just WGBH’s success,” she says. “It’s a success for public media.”

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