Case study: America Cooks

“Christmas Cookie” idea—the best gift of all…

In mid-summer, Sara Campbell and the editors of America Cooks decided to run a Christmas cookie contest; the winning recipes would be featured in the December issue. The call for recipes went out via her website (a well-done Mequoda Internet Hub) and a free email newsletter.

By mid-September, readers had submitted several thousand recipes. Just over 200 recipes were selected for testing and scoring in the magazine’s test kitchen. By mid-October, 25 winners were selected. Only the top ten were featured in the December issue, but all 25 recipes were published on the website and in a 32-page, downloadable booklet called America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005.

By late November, America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005 was available from the homepage of AmericaCooks.com and from its own Rapid Conversion Landing Page at AmericaCooks.com/cookies2005. To get a free copy, readers were required to register an email address. The booklets were distributed via an emailed link in order to verify that the validity of the email address.

In addition to the free copy of America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005, a masterful online order flow offered visitors the opportunity to receive:

  • A free subscription to the free email newsletter, America Cooks Daily;
  • A free copy of the print magazine, America Cooks; and
  • A one-year, risk-free subscription to America Cooks, which could be canceled at billing for any reason.

Using PR

Meanwhile, Sara and her PR team contacted editors of newspaper food sections and TV and radio producers far and wide. The story was an easy sell, as winners were from across the country. Local media outlets were happy to feature a local winner —and the 22 honorable mentions—of a national cooking contest.

The December issue of America Cooks offered readers the opportunity to go to the website and claim their free copy of America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005. Articles began to appear in local newspapers across the country and Sara was featured on several local radio and TV morning shows. Downloads quickly hit 2,000 and then 5,000 per day and everyone was very pleased with the Christmas Cookie Internet Marketing PR Campaign.

MPP

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Then came the call from an associate producer at NBC’s “Today Show.” Could Sara and the three top cookie makers be in New York City the following Monday? A segment on the show would feature the top three cookie recipes and mention that viewers could get all 25 winning recipes by downloading America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005.

With no small effort, Sara and the three winners were at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City at 6 a.m. that Monday morning. The segment ran for just under two minutes and showed the AmericaCooks.com website URL on screen for 10 seconds near the end of the spot.

The conversion

Between 10AM and 11AM EST, when the segment has aired in all three U.S. time zones, downloads for America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005 peaked at 17,467 for that hour. By December 31, the massive increase in targeted website traffic had resulted in the following key metrics for Sara’s Christmas Cookie Internet Marketing PR Campaign:

  • 356,000 downloads of America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005;
  • 252,987 new, opt-in email subscribers for America Cooks Daily, the free email newsletter through which, during their first 12 months, readers will spend about $12 ($3M) on magazines, books and special reports published and marketed via America Cooks Daily’s high-frequency email editorial and promotional efforts; and
  • 51,846 new gross orders for America Cooks magazine, of which, an estimated 14,000 will pay up—generating $280,000 in immediate sales.

At The Mequoda Group, we have seen many other examples of publishers achieving rather astonishing results from PR programs similar to the “Christmas Cookie” Internet Marketing PR Campaign—which we have used here to illustrate the astounding effect of a single, brief appearance on national TV.

Privacy Note: We must note that the names “Sara Campbell,” “America Cooks,” and “America’s Best Christmas Cookies 2005” have been changed to respect the privacy of one of our sources and the sanctity of their program—a mutually agreed-upon prerequisite for allowing us to cite the results. Key elements of the program are true and the principles are accurately reflected.

This article was written by Don Nicholas with the help of Jane E. Zarem in a series on PR & Earned Media 101. See the rest of the articles in this series below:

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