How can your data drive your creative campaigns? The cart doesn’t have to be ahead of the horse! Look back at previous work you and your team performed to analyze how to move forward. This article will provide a case study that shows how analyzing such data can work to your benefit.
In 2016, the city of Petersburg, Virginia, endured its worst financial crisis since the Civil War. A group of citizens, historians, and former city employees banded together to form a 501C3 to operate the museums the city had closed due to the aforementioned crisis.
Through a variety of grants by the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), the museum group retained Lythos Studios to create a marketing campaign that would recapture visitors to its three museums. Part of the tourism budget was spent on writing a monthly blog about a variety of historical stories about each of the museums, their contents, and their significance to the city of Petersburg.
During the first year of blogging, the museum website utilized a national tourism medium through VTC, formerly known as RootsRated. The blogs informed its audience of many topics, including the history of the Tiffany windows at Historic Blandford Church. The blog also highlighted previous residents of the city of Petersburg, such as Elizabeth Keckly, who was the modiste to Mary Todd Lincoln. Keckly was African American and lived briefly in Old Towne Petersburg.
The blogs correlated to radio ads purchased nationally on NPR’s A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts. In addition to airing on radio, segments were uploaded to SoundCloud, a digital platform mainly dedicated to music. The medium was chosen years prior when the Facebook platform didn’t handle audio files as easily as it does now. SoundCloud offered a means to upload a shareable MP3 file. The result was astounding, with over 20k global followers within a year.
This figure is not surprising, as A Moment in Time airs on over 150 NPR stations in the US and includes the Armed Forces Radio Network, which is worldwide. Through research performed by Lythos Studios staff, it is estimated that A Moment in Time is heard by over 5 million listeners per day.
As the city of Petersburg offered few hotel accommodations, the marketing efforts were narrowed to day-trippers within a 100-mile radius of Petersburg. Many digital platforms were utilized, such as Facebook, Google Ads, RootsRated, Taboola, and Virginia.org. Television marketing included local station CBS6 airing ten minutes of preroll on its website.
We tracked each of the digital formats, plus visitation rates, museum sales, and meal taxes. It should also be noted that the HBO movie premiere of Harriet occurred on November 1, 2019. The movie was filmed in a variety of Virginia locations, with a concentration in Petersburg. The most unexpected result of the marketing campaigns was the increase in meal taxes. The average monthly collections for 2018 and 2019 were $310,695 and $378,539, respectively. However, the tax collection in November 2019 was $869,494, and according to the city, there were no special late or past due payments made that month.*
The city of Petersburg is also host to Petersburg National Battlefield Park, which doesn’t track the number of visitors because it is open 24 hours and can be visited without entering a visitors’ center. However, the museum itself did track its visitors, noting a 25 percent increase from 2018 to 2019
The most-read blog post on the PPTF website and the RootsRated referral service showed that the blog on Elizabeth Keckly was the most interesting read. When the AE2019 grant (American Evolution grant through VTC) became available, the data pointed to Keckly as a dominant person of interest among readers. The grant campaign was designed to promote walking tours around Old Towne Petersburg, specifically walking by the home Keckly rented while she lived in Petersburg prior to moving north.
Banner ads were purchased on Google Ads, and Facebook boosts were purchased to further promote Keckly’s story. And as mentioned, the city of Petersburg increased its meal tax receipts by over $500k during a single month in November 2019. Data can and should support creative campaigns. Another way to state this enormous increase in visibility is mathematically. That is to say, a $500k increase at a tax rate of 7 percent resulted in over $7M additional food sales in one month.