Consistent, Multi-Channel Passport Promotions Yield Results for Houston Public Media

In comparing month-over-month Passport activations, we observed that most of our top 20 stations saw declining numbers from April to May of 2017. Only one station showed a significant increase over the previous month: Houston Public Media. Were those activations the result of a careful, deliberate strategy to promote Passport?

Not exactly. “It just kind of all came together,” says Ty Wilson, Digital Fundraising Specialist at Houston Public Media, which includes television (TV-8) and radio (88.7 FM) broadcast arms. In fact, Wilson downplays the effectiveness of any singular promotion or focus.

“We didn’t blow any one strategy out of the water,” he says. Instead, the member station quietly used a variety of cross-promotional, multi-channel efforts to inform viewers and listeners about the value of Passport. “Every time there’s a good opportunity to plug Passport, we tried to take that shot,” Wilson explains.

  • An April 26th preview screening of The Vietnam War featured live appearances by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. More than a thousand people attended this screening—and received a guide with a back cover promoting Passport as a way to watch the series starting September 17.
  • An April radio drive that lasted into the first week of May included frequent mentions of Passport as a member benefit of Houston Public Media.
  • Short, on-air promos described Passport and its features throughout the month.
  • Houston Public Media dedicated digital ad space to Passport in its email newsletter.
  • A “5-Buck Friday” email blast on the last Friday in May highlighted Passport.

Wilson says promoting Passport is a natural subject anytime the station talks about the benefits of membership, whether that occurs during a radio drive or while introducing a new Ken Burns series. “If we’re going to talk about member benefits, Passport is one of the most tangible ones,” says Wilson. “For anything that has TV-8 in it, it’s a must-talk-about. That’s where it’s at. We haven’t been steering it as a top-down kind of strategy, but it’s incorporated into everything else we do.”

After a big push at the end of 2016, Houston Public Media had nearly 500 new members join through Passport in January 2017. Another 416 joined in February. While that number has tapered off slightly since then, Passport remains a consistent source of new memberships. Because of this, it has become a universal focus of almost every marketing material the station produces.

“I think that’s just a best marketing practice in general,” says Wilson. “When you have a message worth sharing, you say it across every medium you have available to you. Do it in a similar way every time and it is going to draw eyes and attention to what you’re trying to promote.”

In other words, sometimes the most successful approaches aren’t an all-out blitz. Sometimes a solid, consistent approach week in and week out can yield surprisingly positive results. “That’s what converged at the end of April and the beginning of May that was able to keep us growing,” says Wilson.