Spreading the News
By Hallie Mummert
While The Christian Science Monitor is not the most conventional news organization, it practices textbook-correct direct mail marketing. Which is good, since Circulation Director Brook Holmberg calculates that direct mail accounts for about 50 percent of the paper's new business.
Through an iterative process of testing and analysis, Holmberg has honed the acquisition side of the Monitor's direct mail program to not one, but two strong controls.
The Self-mailer Controls
In the early 1990s, the Monitor's best-performing controls were self-mailer formats. Postcard formats, in particular, were favored by many daily newspapers—the publications are household names in their markets, and so copious sales copy is not deemed necessary.
The Monitor mailed out a triple postcard, created by freelance copywriter Josh Manheimer, that strove for the best of both worlds. It packed as much copy and direct response techniques into a quick-reply format as possible.
The effort featured personalization, sticker tokens and a response deadline. The brief letter from the publishing director notes the paper's mission, but contains very little description of the editorial content.
When the triple postcard began to show signs of fatigue, Holmberg stayed with the ease of the self-mailer format, but opted for a style that looked more like an envelope package. For this control, the copy, stickers, response deadline and personalization are transferred to an 8˝ x 81⁄2˝ form that folds up to mail at 4˝ x 7˝. When unfolded, a small flap pulls out to the right; it's the order form/BRC. The format lends itself to high-speed production and is economical.
But the economics of a direct mail campaign are dependent on response. And Holmberg was not satisfied that his direct mail was realizing the potential of the newspaper's universe.
It's 1997, and Stephen Gray has just come on board as the Monitor's new managing publisher. Neither Gray nor Holmberg believed they had a control that fully conveyed the spirit of the Monitor to prospects.