WUCF Leverages Royal Wedding for Successful Multi-Channel Passport Promotion Strategy

Last year, we reported how Houston Public Media was seeing an increase in Passport activations due to a broad, multi-channel focus. In short, the station promotes Passport week in and week out. In Central Florida, WUCF had been taking a similarly deliberate approach.

“Anything we’re doing now, we’re trying to include Passport,” says Joshua Hamel, membership manager. “We just really want to make sure we’re hammering it as much as possible. If we have any space in our traffic—even just a 30-second spot or a few lines in a letter—we’re talking about the benefits of Passport.”

Going into pledge drive, WUCF shot pledge-specific Passport appeals as well as evergreen spots. It mentioned Passport in mailings and email messaging as well as online.

A Matching Grant

One factor that gave the station a built-in advantage was a grant from a local charitable foundation. “Our stations’ major gift officer has been building a relationship with this foundation for many years, and they have invested in a number of projects. One area of investment has continued to be the British programming on WUCF, and these funds have been used as a matching grant challenge in honor of the British heritage of one of its namesakes.”

To take advantage of this, WUCF created spots to promote the grant and the ease of using Passport to watch British programming. Hamel describes these spots as “Monty Python-esque.” They relied on deliberately low-budget animation—picture cut-outs with moving mouths—to promote what WUCF labeled its “British Telly Fund.” The minute-long spots called attention to the ease of watching across-the-pond entertainment. “It’s really just ‘Do you love British programming? Do you love the mysteries and drama? Sign up for Passport now,” Hamel says.

Watch British Telly Fund Promo

The Royal Wedding

A certain big nuptial event on May 19, 2018, at Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom presented a particularly appropriate opportunity to air those promotional spots. “Obviously we took advantage,” says Hamel. “There’s not going to be another royal wedding for, what, 20 years? That’s a situation that’s not going to come up every day.”

WUCF aired the British Telly spot strategically before and after the shows leading up to and including the Saturday morning royal wedding coverage following the national pledge break. The decision brought immediate results. That weekend, WUCF saw a huge spike in Passport, web and phone pledges: 145 pledges totaling $12,302. Forty-three of those pledges were sustainers, for an annual total of nearly $5,000. “Normally on a week this time of year, I might get 10 or 20 pledges,” says Hamel. The week of the royal wedding brought ten times that amount.

Most of the pledges didn’t happen during the wedding coverage itself, but over the course of the day on Saturday and into Sunday. “There was clearly a lot of DVRing,” Hamel says. “There were very few calls. Most were purely through our website and the instant gratification page we set up at PBS.org.” Though the station was also offering a British Telly Fund-related mug as a thank-you gift, very few people donated specifically for the mug.

Hamel attributes almost all of the activity to the wedding.

The New Norm

While the royal wedding may have been a once-in-a-generation event, WUCF aims to continue using the “British Telly Fund” to drive Passport interest and registration. “We are really trying to push this. We’re not just holding it to drives or major events, but pushing this as our new norm,” says Hamel. In addition to the fun ads, the station is beginning to produce a series of spots allowing donors to talk about Passport, how easy it is to set up, and the programming they enjoy watching on it.

Hamel admits not every station will have a local foundation providing a generous matching grant—but every station can be intentional with a multi-channel approach to Passport promotion. He and WUCF believe every opportunity to communicate to viewers is an opportunity to promote Passport.

“We’re just trying to make sure, if we’re going on the air or talking through email or snail mail, then we find some way to mention Passport and information about setting it up,” says Hamel. That deliberate focus just happened to coincide with the matching grant and an event that attracted worldwide attention. “In the end, it came down to strong relationship building, careful spot production and placement, and a little luck.”