I have done multiple marketing campaigns that range from traditional outreach such as billboards and signage on public transportation to complete digital campaigns pushed through social media and emails. My close friends and friend see these messages and are eager to text or call me with excitement, but one group I did not receive much response from was the actual targeted group—Georgia State graduates, faculty, and staff.
With my first campaign, we did a raffle for a ticket to an Atlanta Braves game. We figured a prize for mentioning our ad on social media would a surefire way to gauge success. There were only two responses over the three months the campaign ran. I was mortified! All the time, money, and creative energy spent to get exposure felt like a waste. It did not occur to me that in a city of millions where traffic is the worst nationally, maybe the traditional methods were not as effective alone.
I approached my second campaign with a little more wisdom. In addition to the billboards and bus tails, I decided to reinforce the campaign through social media and search engine optimization (SEO). As the ads were seen across the city, there were similar paid promotions pushed through Facebook and Instagram with messaging that appealed to the specific audiences. With SEO, we were able to pay to have our website rank at the top for any google search. Unlike your average product that can be sold on a tangible benefit to consumers, an alumni membership has an intangible value that rests on the idea of having an affinity for your alma mater. Alumni Associations typically base the success of any campaign off of the amount of revenue brought in or the number of attendees at events.
However, my office did not begin to see an increase in both of these areas until I made a conscious effort to track our influence using analytics from the social media platforms and our website’s activity. In one of the readings this week, Caroline Black gave a few ways to measure the impact of PR campaigns: online listening tools, web traffic via Google Analytics, analytics from social media platforms, search engine optimization Activities, and integration with sales teams and platforms. Seeing that I actively use three of the five recommended methods reassures me that my work is not in vain.
With each communication campaign, I had to be calculated in the frequency and tactics to ensure momentum is not lost. From this aggressive approach, we received some complaints, but more importantly, there were more calls, emails, and face-to-face praises from alumni. A marker for success in my case is the positive response from those that noticed the changes. Looking from a data standpoint, when we send out a mailing asking for new or current members to sign-up, our return on investment (ROI) must be as close to 1.0% or higher to be seen as successful. When a campaign reaches more than 20,000 people at a time, that can be a difficult feat. What I began to do is segment the groups I wanted to reach by age, past interest, and giving history. Those that are engaged with the university in any capacity are more likely to respond than someone that has had no connection since graduating. Expecting 1% of 20,000+ to answer is not a reasonable expectation given that most are not currently involved in some way. When I began segmenting our mailings, it was a continuous growth in ROI to almost 4%.
Measuring success may vary based upon what you hope to gain from a campaign. As the marketing and communications strategist, I look for engagement from graduates, faculty, and staff as an indicator of the effectiveness of my work. When a campaign fails by the standards aforementioned, I examine the results for what may have caused it to fail and what can be done differently. Modifying campaigns to resonate across segmented groups can impact the success of a campaign. The analytics in conjunction with strategic messaging will upsurge success.