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The Guardian marketing boss on how ‘Hope is Power’ will attract another million supporters

The Drum 11 Oct 2019 12:20
The Guardian: 'Comment is free, but facts are sacred'

'Hope is Power', The Guardian's first brand campaign in seven years, was editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner’s self-described ‘mission for journalism in a time of crisis’. Now this rallying call fuels the brand’s marketing strategy as it pursues a further one million supporters.

Chief executive David Pemsel was behind a reader revenue model overhaul four years ago that turned a £57m deficit into a £0.8m profit this year.

In 2015, the consensus was that The Guardian needed to restrict access to its journalism and go behind a paywall to ensure its future. It set itself the momentous challenge of converting 156 million browsers (10 million regular visitors a month) into supporters of some description.

Back then, The Guardian had 12,000 members and 175,000 print and digital subscriptions; but by the end of 2018, it had reached the magic one million regular supporters milestone. But that is still just 1/156th of its total audience. So it's set itself a new goal.

The past three years of developing its reader revenue model have shaped a team capable of strengthening support acquisition and retention. "We keep building, learning and fine-tuning it every week," she said.

"Strengthening our relationship with our readers, combined with award-winning journalism that the world needs right now, along with our huge reach globally is how we'll get the second million."

“We took the purpose essay and worked out what it really meant for us as a brand,” Sudhakar explained. “And from there we were able to put together a brief based on a tight definition of what The Guardian stands for today.”

"They came to us and said we've got this new editorial vision," explained Leonard. "They said, now we've proven our business model works, we want to reach one million more, with a view to what we do at The Guardian being too important to lose.

The resulting campaign was called Hope Is Power. In the Guardian's defining yellow shade, the print campaign contained positives quotes to rally its readers to take action against the backdrop of a bleak and turbulent era.

Building on the relationship The Guardian has with its readers, 'Hope is Power' will continue to be the platform through which The Guardian highlights the crucial role the newspaper plays in giving people information. It wants to enable them to challenge the status quo, to come up with fresh ideas and to develop opinions that hold power to account.

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The GuardianSonia SudhakarNils LeonardKatharine VinerViner