Best use of FastStats® 2015 Award Finalist

Using FastStats PeopleStage to create follow-up communications, with over 650 variants, that were sent to Members of Parliament and their constituency voters

Company overview

The RSPB was formed in 1889 (as the Plumage League) to counter the trade in plumes for women's hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species whose plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era. Since then the Society has enjoyed strong long-term growth and a widening of its aims. The RSPB has a long history, a track record in conservation and has over 1 million members. But more recently, income growth was starting to stagnate, at a time when the threat to nature was increasing exponentially.

The Objective

The Vote for Bob (Bob) campaign was created to mobilise public support to save nature and keep it high on the agenda during the election. The idea was that the public could lodge their support for Bob, and email their MPs, encouraging them to give more thought to natural habitats and the UK’s wildlife. A website was created to collect the ‘votes’ and to help people contact their MP and their prospective parliamentary candidates more easily. The site also displayed the number of people who had voted for Bob, globally and at constituency levels, and enabled any MPs and candidates who wanted to lodge their support for Bob to contact the site and do so.

It was publicised to over a million RSPB members in our quarterly magazine, Nature’s Home, and via a regular e-newsletter. A regular email newsletter was set up for people who had voted for Bob, or had emailed their MPs or (nearer to the election) their parliamentary candidates. This activity was supported via a social media campaign.

For the Bob campaign, and many other communications, Discoverer and PeopleStage have helped us enormously to achieve one of our core aims of creating relevant, personalised and timely communications, whilst maintaining a strong reputation and brand image.

RSPB Bob Campaign

The Solution

Throughout the campaign, RSPB designed and sent out a tailored version of the regular newsletter keeping people up to date on the Bob campaign trail, and encouraging them to pass on the message. PeopleStage made this very straightforward – a single campaign was set up and let to run each time, simply changing the message it sent.

RSPB also ran a three-way test of send times – on Friday evening, Saturday lunchtime and Saturday evening. Until this point RSPB hadn’t sent any emails at weekends, as there is no weekend cover in the team. The FastStats applications gave RSPB the confidence to set a schedule on the sends and leave them to run – with no one tied to a computer! Splitting the campaign into three was relatively straightforward, and this has become even easier with more recent PeopleStage releases.

In addition to this, RSPB planned and scheduled two sends set up to run on Christmas Day (‘Bob’s Christmas Message’) and New Year’s Day, despite the offices being shut from 25th December to 5th January. This represents a significant step forward for the RSPB in terms of operational capabilities.

It was decided that RSPB should exclude their Scottish supporters from the communications during the independence referendum. This was also very easy within the FastStats applications, as RSPB simply selected the relevant geographic areas from a selector field. However, their most innovative use of the FastStats applications was through the follow-up email sent towards the end of the campaign to inform Bob’s supporters of what their MP had done, and what the campaign had achieved.

The follow up email

The strategy at the end of the campaign involved devising the best way of approaching and informing people of how their vote had helped raise awareness of nature, during the General Election and Vote for Bob campaign.

The intention was to personalise each email to the constituency of the supporter. To facilitate this RSPB assembled a list of all of the MPs elected in May, whether they had lodged support for Bob and what they had said when they did so. Discoverer’s Import Data function was used to create the variables needed.

RSPB already had a Westminster Constituency Code variable as part of the data associated with all postcodes, so were able to relate this directly to the values collated in the spreadsheet. Five fields were created, for:

  • MP’s name
  • Constituency Name (for consistency with the website – this was already in place in our postcode data)
  • MP Commented Y/N
  • MP Backed Bob Y/N
  • MP Comment

RSPB then passed these values straight through PeopleStage, adding some fields to indicate the behaviour of the individual (whether they had just voted for Bob, or had emailed their MPs, or both). 

After some data manipulation on the MPs’ comments field they were ready to send a single message with 650 variants based on a mix of the following:

  • constituency, 
  • the individual’s specific behaviour (what action they had taken)

In addition to this, throughout the campaign RSPB were also able to vary text based on:

  • supporters’ membership status with the RSPB (‘by supporting Bob, [and by being an RSPB member], you’re helping save Nature...) 
  • or their membership type (so for family members ‘you are helping secure our country’s habitats for your children and their children’ instead of ‘...for future generations’),.

With RSPB's previous data capabilities and email tools, they would have only been able to do this by separating all variants (potentially thousands of combinations of behaviour and location) which would have taken hundreds of hours, and been prone to error and to source data going out of date. With the FastStats tools, RSPB can incorporate all of these variants in a single email, with only a few hours’ additional effort (at most) over and above a single send.

The Results

Clear results are difficult to quantify for an awareness campaign like this. That aside, RSPB managed to hit a 32% open rate, and a 5% click rate, on a blanket newsletter mailing with an unpersonalised subject line.

In addition, because of the personalisation FastStats allowed, feedback from members highlighted that supporters feel more valued.

Overall results for the Bob campaign:

  • 120,819 votes for Bob
  • Over 50,000 messages sent to politicians
  • 1,098 parliamentary candidates backed Bob
  • 143 of the 650 MPs elected in May backed Bob

And perhaps most importantly

  • According to research conducted by NFP Synergy, the campaign was recalled by 7% of MPs, making it the most memorable prompted campaign. Bearing in mind all the correspondence MPs get from constituents, Bob has shown that simple messages with engaging visuals can significantly stand out to MPs.

Sarah Houghton – Vote for Bob Project Manager

“It was really valuable to the campaign team to be able to tell constituents in the ‘contact your politician’ email whether their incumbent MP in their constituency had backed Bob or not.  If the MP had done so and given a reason why, we were able to include this in the email to the constituent to bring it to life. Where MPs hadn’t backed Bob, we could encourage constituents to contact them again asking them to do so. This helped increase the number of signups from MPs. Feedback we received from MPs suggested that the main reason they signed up to the campaign was because their constituents had asked them to.”

For the Bob campaign, and many other communications, Discoverer and PeopleStage have helped RSPB enormously to achieve one of its core aims of creating relevant, personalised and timely communications, whilst maintaining a strong reputation and brand image in a difficult marketplace.