Monday, October 02, 2006

E-mail and On-Air Fundraising

Not long ago a prospective client asked me how many e-mail blasts should be sent during a pledge drive.

E-mail has become a powerful tool during pledge drives because the station can send listeners special offers and notifications of matching grants and get their immediate response. It's not unusual for medium-sized stations to earn a half-day's pledges from one e-mail blast.

So I was a bit surprised when the station balked at my suggestion to send 3 e-mails over the course of its 9-day pledge drive. They argued that three e-mail appeals would be intrusive, offensive, and disrespectful of the listener.

But interrupting the programming for 9 days was not.

What makes the listener's mailbox holier ground than his radio?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shared this with some people here at the station, and one noted, "[But listeners] can choose not to listen...they can't really choose not to look in their email inbox....."

--Nathan in SA

5:26 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Nathan, I think your colleague's response might actually reinforce my point. An e-mail that is immediately deleted is a 10-second (at most) intrusion. The recipient can delete without opening. And for most stations, the recipient gave the station permission to send such e-mails.

A pledge drive is a series of 3-10 minute intrusions, 3 to 4 times per hour, over 9 days.

No "permission marketing" option here. The listener's only choice is intrusion or to not listen.

The issue that I'm getting at here is respect. Somehow we're getting to the point that we respect thie listener's e-mail environment more than the programming environment we create for him. Why shouldn't equally high levels of respect be given to both?

6:55 PM  
Blogger Aaron Read said...

John, what you're describing is essentially spam. It's well-intentioned, but it's still spam. Spam often causes a real visceral reaction from the recipient; I suspect that many listeners would feel like they "couldn't escape from this damn fundraiser". Especially if they received emails while not listening to the on-air begging. Even more so if they're getting emails after they've already donated.

11:09 AM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Aaron said, "what you're describing is essentially spam." Oh, I'm not disparaging the concern over too much e-mail. I just a find it really interesting that e-mail boxes are held in higher regard that public radio programming environments. That it is okay to "spam" the programming 3 times per hour but not the e-mail box 3 times per week. (btw - stations are actually pretty good at sending e-mails to only those who give permission)

10:33 PM  
Blogger Aaron Read said...

Well, I'm probably speaking beyond my age and experience, but I think the difference is not that public radio airtime is held in lower regard. Far from it. The total percentage of spam to your total email is perceived as being much higher than the percentage fundraising makes up of the total number of hours on the air.

To explain, let's take WBUR. They fundraise actively for about 4-6 hours per day, approximately, during a 2 week fundraiser. That's 84 hours, times six fundraisers a year for 504 hours total. Add up all the little 30 second announcements year-round and I'll guess you get another 30 hours or so, annually. There are 8736 hours in a year. So only 6% of the year is spend fundraising.

My inbox today will have about 60-120 emails, and the junk filter will probably end up with about 40 or so. So 33% of my email is spam.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Betsy Harman said...

Interesting discussion here. I agree with John that 3 e-mails would not be too many to send. The key here is to be strategic and to craft effective messages both for your e-mail and for your on-air messages and to use the two mediums together to leverage one another. Most stations using e-mail for their fundraising efforts are using powerful software tools that enable them to track open rates, click thru rates and unsubscribe rates. If you get a big jump in your number of unsubscribes that could be an indication that you are sending too much e-mail. Also most of these tools allow you to customize ask amounts, send a second message only to those who didn't click the link the first time etc... and yes you do need to use opt in permission based practices. There are a few examples of e-mail appeals used in conjunction with pledge drives on the DEI website.

5:08 PM  

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