Enhancing Audience Engagement w/ Brooke Phillips
Speaker 1: One of Meredith's best, Brooke Phillips. Brooke, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself.
Brooke Phillips: My name is Brooke Phillips. I am the Director of Audience Retention for our growth team at Meredith. I specifically focus on Meredith digital properties. My team is responsible for our email program, as well as our notification program. Browser notifications, as well as Apple notifications. We have a team of writers, so folks who are putting together and packaging all of the great content that we have into our emails, as well as our notifications. Then we've got a team of people who are responsible for the production side of things. So working in the Cheetah platform, getting all of those messages and campaigns set up. We also have a team that is responsible for the strategy for each of the programs aligning with the other stakeholders on the brands. So with the editorial teams and the GM's of the brands, and then the people on the growth team, we all work together to really establish what it is we're doing and the goals that we're setting for each of the brands. It's a big team and we get a lot of work done, and a lot of notifications and communications out to our users. We also work really closely with other members on our growth team, our platform team, who really make sure that the data is flowing back and forth between the Meredith database and our various platforms. Then we've got a team of conversion folks who are primarily focused on the acquisition of our email addresses that we use for our email program.
Speaker 1: Sounds like your team plays the role of gatekeeper over there at Meredith. How do you manage what content is presented to your audience?
Brooke Phillips: We're reaching millions and millions of people through our various notifications and email program. We've got lots of people that want to use those outlets to reach our audience. So we have to sort of have these gatekeepers to really get an understanding of what are the goals that we actually need to achieve and sort of be that filter of saying, yes, we should be reaching our audience with this information or, we need to find a different outlet, but you're right, we are the sort of gatekeepers to decide if this is an ask that we really should put in front of our audience, or if it's something that maybe we should look elsewhere. When it all comes to the data, as well, we want to make sure that we're collecting the correct data, we're collecting the right data that we're going to actually be using, and that we're transferring the data from our database to our third parties like Cheetah, or what we use for notifications, the right way and the way that we're going to execute on it. So it really does have to all tie together from collection, to transfer, to actual execution. That's why we are such a cohesive team, that we work so closely together to make sure that that's as seamless as possible. We really can't execute on anything or do anything without the communication and the way that we're set up to be able to make things actually happen. We can't do the programs that we want to do without the upfront collection of the email address, and then the pass to the database, and then the pass to our system. We just can't execute unless we're all making sure that our ducks are in a row.
Speaker 3: What does online engagement look like for Meredith?
Brooke Phillips: What it means for our team and the retention team on the digital side, we have those basic metrics, right? We're looking at open rates, we're looking at click through rates, we're looking at then on- site engagement, page use per visit, time on site, video views, all that good stuff too. One of the big metrics that my team is focused on is really that long- term engagement. I mentioned that our cohesive group of people that work so closely together, our conversion team works so hard to gather those email addresses from the various sources that we collect email addresses. It's so important for us to make sure that we can keep those email addresses as long as we can. Collecting them, sending out an email, and then them never engaging is worthless to Meredith. We want to have people that are quality users, that come in, engage with our content, but not only engage with it right away, engage with it for a long period of time. So we're looking at time periods of six months to a year, and really making sure that we can slowly but surely make that experience better, and keep them on file longer, by various different leverages that we can pull through steam, their personalization... We're monitoring that longterm engagement very closely so that we can keep those people that we've worked so hard to acquire, longer.
Speaker 1: How does Meredith look to keep its fans engaged over a longer period of time and introduce them to other brands and titles?
Brooke Phillips: Well, the thing that's really a pretty unique to Meredith is we have such a large breadth of brands that are sort of at our disposal. So if we see that someone might be starting to phase out on one of our brands, we can give them an offer for one of our other brands to try to re- engage them, keep them a member of Meredith, but take them in a different direction. If we see someone coming in on the parent's brand and we see that their child is hitting that 18 month mark, and they're starting to become unengaged, can we hit them with an offer for one of our food brands? Or one of our home brands? To try to take them in a little bit of a different direction, but keep them engaged with Meredith overall. Keep them coming to one of our various sites that we have. You know, that's a big goal for us is to sort of cross pollinate or to expand our memberships per brand. Ideally it would be our goal to have, that you'd be part of not only one of Meredith properties, but multiple. Within our messages, within our newsletters, within our programs, within our Cheetah experiences, we're not only collecting opt- ins from a single brand, but we're collecting opt- ins and bringing promotions to light from our various properties. For example, we, within our Glow newsletter, which is one of our beauty focused newsletters that's a cross brand newsletter, we're driving people to about four or five different sites at Meredith. So once they're, collected onto that list, we're then promoting them to InStyle, or HelloGiggles, or to Shape, or to Help!. So learning about the various properties that Meredith has, and then potentially getting hooked onto one of those other brands newsletters. We're also just doing promotion within our existing newsletters to say," Hey, this is a food newsletter and we're featuring vegetarian this week, maybe you'll be interested in our eating well- balanced newsletter". We're trying to always get people aware of the various brands that Meredith has by doing that cross promotion within our existing promotions that we have.
Speaker 3: Correct me if I'm wrong, but you hit the email, and newsletters through email, we've got interactive experiences. Are they quizzes or sweepstakes along those lines?
Brooke Phillips: Quizzes, photo contests... We're starting to sort of dive into that polls, various things like that that were using the experiences for.
Speaker 3: Then, obviously we have Social, but the one that I find particularly interesting that you guys are using very well, is browser notifications. Could you just, mainly to educate me a bit, if anything else, could you just tell me a bit more about that?
Brooke Phillips: We launched our browser program about a year and a half ago. We now have it on about 18 of our properties. We decided to keep it with the retention team and the team that's focused on email because it really is that outward communication to those who have opted in to have a communication pipeline with us. So it really makes sense to have the same team working on that. I'm really glad because there's so many similarities to browser and email, in that you can create segments, do targeting, collect keyword information. It's a really similar type of way of communicating with an opted in, or a hand raiser. Our team, people who are actually putting together our emails, are also then setting up our notifications. So, we've got an email that's coming out about some trending new pumpkin spice cookie, that's coming out. Maybe it's a great opportunity to then take that brand new piece of content and push it out as a notification. They're learning what content's doing well from one particular channel where we're reaching out through email, and applying that same knowledge to our notifications.
Speaker 1: If you're seeing their engagement kind of trending down, when is the perfect time to start asking them to cross pollinate?
Brooke Phillips: There's always free engagement programs, some brands we have them and some brands we don't. Honestly, we don't feel at that point of right before we start to filter them off or scrub our lists, I think it's too late at that point. So really, we want to try to cross pollinate almost as early as we can. Our mentality is, really focus on those more engaged users. If we do have someone who is going to lapse, they're probably going to lapse, right? If we have someone who is engaged and has been engaged, that's the most optimal time to get them to then convert to something that we are pushing towards them. If they are viewing us as a trusted brand that they're already engaging with, they might trust that promotion a little bit more, to then engage with one of our other brands versus someone who's kind of lax, and not as likely to take one of our promotions. Our targeted selections to get people to cross pollinate is more so focused on the highly engaged people, because then we can ultimately just keep those highly engaged people engaged longer.
Speaker 1: As a media company, you guys have a really unique opportunity where you can capture so much data. You have all of these different angles you're coming off of. What's been your focus when trying to build that database up?
Brooke Phillips: It's a really fine line with data collection, specifically for our team, and what we're focused on. It's trying to understand that balance. We want to make the barrier to entry as low as possible so, I think you have to be really mindful with how much data we are needing and wanting to collect upfront. If that's going to put people off, is there an opportunity to do progressive profiling and try to get that information later on? Once you've built up a little bit of trust, let's then see what kind of information you're willing to give us, that we can then make your experience a little bit better. What we're focused on, on the growth team, is really those data points that are going to make a user's experience better and feel more personal to them. We don't need to collect a bunch of data that we're not going to be using. So I think it's really important to say, okay, if it's a must piece of data that we need to collect at the conversion stage, that needs to be really important data that we need to use to either execute our program or, it really doesn't make sense to not collect that. For example, on our Parents website, all of our messaging for Parents is broken out by, the age, or are you pregnant, or are you trying to conceive, you have a one- year- old, a three- year- old. We need that information upfront to be able to make our messages relevant to the user. That's a piece that we feel is pretty important that we need to collect upfront rather than after the fact. Obviously we're really focused on behavioral data. Data that's... At a user level what are you doing? Are you opening? Are you clicking? What are the actions that you're doing on site? What kind of information is it that's going to put you into different buckets of power user, core user. Which is all behind the scenes, and that's information that we just use to make the experience better.
Speaker 3: It's always interesting to hear what's going on behind the scenes. Could you elaborate a little more?
Brooke Phillips: It's kind of an interesting project that we're doing to cross- pollinate and to make the experience better and longer for people. We're calling it our tagging project. We're using Cheetah tagging, campaign and URL level tagging. We're starting to slowly build up a little mini database of behavioral tags on various topics. As we do it, we're learning the degree of detail we need to have in our keywords or tags. We don't want to go too broad, but we don't want to go too narrow, where then our segments are super small. We're starting to build up these various keywords that now we can create different segments on, and do different targeting, or different messages, or different promotions with dynamic blocks. An example with the new pet site, we, over the last probably four or five months, have been tagging campaigns or links within our other brands newsletters that is relevant to pet information. A lot of our home brands like Better Homes& Gardens and Martha Stewart do a lot of pet content on their sites. So anytime anybody's clicking on those, they're getting pets added to their profile within Cheetah. What we're doing now with Daily Paws rolled out as a new site, we're starting to create these segments to put in promotions within our newsletters for those people who have previously been engaged with pet content on our other brands, promotions to sign up and check out our new pet site. We're also doing dedicated messages to say" Hey, come check out our new pet site, opt into our newsletters and engage over here as well, because we know in the past that you've liked some sort of pet content from one of our other brands".
Speaker 3: Can you talk to us about how you digitally support the relationships you have with your affiliates and Meredith? Which is obviously a very important part of the business.
Brooke Phillips: We have a lot of affiliate content and a big affiliate program at Meredith where a lot of our content and on- site is linking to various affiliates, and that's a big part of what we do from email is offer different types of products that have the stamp of approval from our brands. Our editors are saying, we like this product enough to write about it, or we think that this product is good enough that you should go check it out. So again, that might be another opportunity to put in front of someone, instead of that cross brand, instead of additional newsletter signups. We're just trying to get some engagement out of them, rather than always focus on one single goal of either cross- pollination or more newsletters. We are able to surface a wide variety of different promotions to people. I think that it all sort of adds up to that, that long-term engagement goal. We want to try a bunch of different things that might work and might hook for somebody. That might then make them stay with our brand a little bit longer, or our company a little bit longer. Not only with affiliates, we're in the advertising business, so making sure that that experiences is good, not only for the advertisers on our sites, but for the users who are visiting those sites. So there is that fine balance there as well.
Speaker 3: My favorite inaudible Terms is like the retention umbrella and how that works.
Brooke Phillips: It's a balance of making sure that they have opportunity to see the promotions. We know that there's so much that people are consuming every day, that they're not going to always see the first time we send them something, or the first time a promotion is shown to them. So, I think it's understanding the right amount of times to push something to someone, but also then saying: Okay, they weren't interested. Let's try something else. Let's not work too hard if this person is not interested. We feel like they have had plenty of opportunities to engage with it, so let's try a different angle. Maybe they're fine with not going to another brand, but maybe they'd be interested in something additional from this brand. Let's not push them to another brand to get them to be members of both. Let's get them to be a deeper loyalist to a single brand. So, maybe that means another newsletter. Maybe that means surfacing a paid product. Maybe that means getting them involved with a quiz or a poll, or just to sort of get some more out of that. I think there's a few different angles that we can take. And again, levers we can pull depending on what we're trying to do, but-
Speaker 4: With all of this, how are you seeing COVID affecting the industry and how do you think that that's going to kind of change the entire future, moving forward?
Brooke Phillips: This has been a wild ride for everybody obviously, and it's been really interesting to see how our various brands have sort of ebbed and flowed throughout those last six months of the pandemic. At the beginning of it with so much unknown and people were literally just ravenous for content, our impressions and our performance was just through roof because people just wanted to consume so much information. For us, for all of our brands, it's been really powerful, especially during the pandemic. In the beginning of it, our food brands, with people having to cook at home, they've been seeing really incredible metrics. People making bread at home, take out recipes, look alike recipes, pantry recipes, things that weren't popping necessarily before, all of a sudden started popping again. Our health brand obviously had an incredible spring because we were just putting out so much good information about what people needed to know right then and there, almost treating it as a news outlet. We even shaped some of our newsletter offerings to sort of cater to that. We basically created a news, a daily... These are the three pieces of content you need to know from health. com today. We created these Corona virus type dedicated messages, right at the beginning of the pandemic to really get that information out to people as much as possible. My hope is that since we were putting out such great and relevant content during these last six months, that people have really sort of built up that trust with our brands. Hopefully as we round the corner out of the pandemic, that they'll continue to look to us for that relevant and trusted information.
Speaker 1: I'd just love to kind of get your take on that trust piece and where, if you have something very important to say, what channel should you be pushing that out?
Brooke Phillips: I think it's important for brands to have their messaging consistent throughout all their channels really. During the black lives matter movement, that was a big moment for brands to sort of make a stance, and surface what they felt was appropriate for their brand. Certainly, Meredith brands partook in that, and we tried to surface that not only on social, but the way that we're writing content on our sites and the way that we're talking about issues. I think that just translates into every single channel then. I will say that email is a little bit easier and that we send our message out and people can unsubscribe.
Speaker 3: The purity of an email unsubscribe is actually a beautiful thing.
Brooke Phillips: Another thing, just to speak about that too, is social and SEO are having to compete with the algorithms, and that's another beauty about email and notifications is, ours is a direct one- to- one line directly to our users where we have 100% control of what they're getting. We're in a really private space, their inbox, outlets like social and SEO are really heavily dependent on those other third party algorithms.
Speaker 1: Great. Thanks so much for dropping by Brooke. We really appreciate you taking the time to share a bit of your knowledge with our guests. Looking forward to seeing some more great work come out of the Meredith team.
In this Media & Publishing episode of Uncaged Wisdom, Brooke Phillips joins Julian and Kayla. Brooke is the Director of Digital Growth & Audience Retention at Meredith Corporation.
Hear how Brooke and her Growth and Retention team approach enhancing digital engagement at one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.
Brooke shares her insight on the following topics;
- What online engagement looks like for Meredith, especially with regards to the long term.
- How Media and Publishing brands should approach collecting and then leveraging data to encourage cross-pollination across titles.
And for anyone who hasn’t watched the full animated panel, ‘Enhancing Digital Fan Engagement - Sports & Media Marketers For The Win,’ find it via the link below: