How Nonprofits (And Others) Can Best Integrate Digital and Print in Their Next Campaigns
How can nonprofits integrate their print and digital efforts to generate better results? That was the focus of a webinar I participated in recently with Emily Morris, PhD, who has nearly 30 years of experience in nonprofit/higher education communications.
Morris is the VP of marketing and communications and chief brand officer for Chautauqua Institution. She’s also the executive producer of CHQ, the digital expression of the organization.
Located on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State, Chautauqua Institution is an education center and community that celebrates the best in human values and enrichment of life through experiences in the arts, education, religion and recreation.
Both print and digital outreach play a crucial role in the organization's mission. In fact, I was so impressed by Morris’ valuable insights on integrating print and digital that I wanted to share them with you. (You can watch the full webinar here.)
Proof Print and Digital Are Stronger Together
To prepare for the webinar, Morris examined the approach and outcomes, including analytics, for a number of recent Chautauqua Institution campaigns.
One thing was especially clear from her analysis: “Print and digital work together tremendously well — and most often, they don’t work well alone,” Morris said.
Here are some illuminating examples of what she means.
The ‘Heartbeat’ of a Campaign: A Simple Tri-Fold Self-Mailer
As I’ve written about before, a self-mailer brochure is a multi-paneled, all-in-one piece that combines a brochure and a return envelope thanks to a perforated, sealable adhesive strip. And these self-mailers can work great.
Morris provided an excellent case in point. For Chautauqua Institution’s centerpiece event, a nine-week summer assembly season with more than 2,000 different events and programs, she and her team used a tri-fold self-mailer in conjunction with an email component and a corresponding website landing page.
Morris said she likes the self-mailer format “because it’s ... inexpensive and effective.” Take a look at what she means by effective:
“Each of those spikes,” explained Morris, “represents a print piece drop or a print piece in tandem with various points in our sales cycle. It’s like print becomes the heartbeat of our engagement.” (Note: This was for a pre-COVID-19 campaign in 2019.)
Specific tactics Chautauqua Institution used that could be helpful for your next campaign include the following:
- Putting a user-friendly URL in the self-mailer’s call to action. “We found that works best for our population, which leans greatly 55+.” She also suggested that QR codes are making a comeback and could work especially well for younger audiences, considering the ubiquity of smartphone use.
- Using a high-quality landing page. For the user-friendly URL’s destination, Morris and her team made sure they had a dynamic landing page with informative video components and exceptional mobile functionality.
- Being strategic with the calendar when releasing new pieces. Morris says their experience demonstrates how the tandem of print and digital can work particularly well when there’s a time-sensitive call to action.
- Tracking data. Make the effort to track and quantify your marketing efforts. Morris said the efforts of Chautauqua's marketing team last year led to their most successful campaign in recorded history. And they had the data to prove it. The “ability to show how our investments lead to the desired results for both earned and philanthropic revenue has resulted in deeper investments in what we do.”
Failure and Recovery: Lessons Learned From a Glossy Magazine
Great insights don’t always come from immediate successes.
Last year, Chautauqua transitioned from a newspaper-style print piece to a four-color glossy magazine. With its gorgeous photography, strong editorial copy and compelling feature segments, the magazine was, according to Morris, intended to be a real showpiece of Chautauqua Institution.
“The only thing is I can’t really tell you about its impact,” she said. “Because we had no companion digital space for the magazine, it effectively disintegrated once it hit mailboxes.”
Morris explained that they had neglected to plan for ways to encourage conversation about the magazine and its components. That also meant they didn’t have a way to track engagement.
But more than a year later, still confident in the quality of the content itself, the marketing team launched a digital version of the magazine as a blog on Medium.com, leading to a “brilliant recovery,” Morris said.
“Now we can see how people are engaging with the content, and we have an internationally linked digital resource for this and future content.”
When it comes to something like a magazine, which doesn’t have a particular call-to-action, Morris pointed out that “It’s difficult to expend resources on something you can’t measure.” Giving your print pieces a digital life, as in this case, can give you data to measure success. “And it also extends the life of your print pieces,” said Morris.
Making the Most of Restricted Resources: Low-Cost Ways to Stay Engaged With Your Constituents
Morris also shared several valuable ideas on how nonprofits can make the most of limited dollars:
- Keep the donor recognition booklet alive with a digital version. When you can’t afford large booklets, Morris suggests opting for email distribution. You can send people to a landing page where you house the document. This will also enable you to, at the very least, track views. Another tactic is to supplement the email effort with postcard mailings directing people to that landing page. Also, remember to track if this gives your digital effort any lift, Morris said.
- Think of less expensive ways to get your brand in the hands of your patrons. According to Morris, even a simple refrigerator magnet can make an impact. “We use them for our annual calendar of events, and the centers pop out so they become a frame for your favorite picture.” Other examples include calendars and bumper stickers. As always, look for ways to track resulting engagement.
- Look to your printer as a key resource. “Your printer doesn’t succeed if you don’t. That’s what I love about this particular marketing relationship,” said Morris. Pick your printer’s brain on a regular basis, she says, to find out what’s new, what’s worked with other customers, what can save you money and how to time your mailings.
The Ongoing Challenge (and Opportunity): Allowing Print and Digital to Complement One Another
As a printer who’s dedicated nearly 30 years to creating win-win relationships with nonprofit organizations, I’ve seen it firsthand: The best nonprofit marketers aren’t looking to cut print. They’re striving to find ways to use it more strategically in a digital age.
Without question, that’s going to be an ongoing effort. But Morris’ insights are a powerful reminder that it’s an effort worth making.