The Washington Post experimented with different ways to promote and position the railroad association’s content.
One particularly successful way was a 300×250 ad showing a piece of the infographic. Users could click through to view the whole post, and did so at above-average rates, showing that “when you combine traditional advertising with native placements, it increases traffic more than just with native placements,” said Kelly Andresen, director of advertising innovations and product strategy for the Post. They also tried embedding the content into the Post’s “Know More” section, where it was contextually relevant.
Both the Post and AAR used paid Outbrain placements to drive traffic. After each week’s posts were up, the railroads team would add paid Outbrain posts a week later, so the organization could tease apart the impact of organic reach and paid reach.
“Outbrain performed extremely well for us,” Smith said. “We did [a geotargeted] local D.C. Outbrain, and continued to promote it our for the past two months. It’s the power of The Washington Post brand through Outbrain that keeps people coming back.”
The results of the campaign exceeded its expectations. Since the AAR was aiming to reach just a small audience that could actually enact change, “really less than 600 people and their influencers,” Smith said, the campaign delivered on that and then some.
During the campaign, 1,480 hours were spent with our content. At the same time, people spent just 364 hours on FreightTrailWorks.org. The posts drove 31,885 unique visits, 40,000 page views and 2,000 social shares. Videos within the posts were viewed 633 times.
While Smith said that relatively few people clicked through to the organization’s website, those who did were highly engaged, spending three minutes and going four pages deep into the content, Smith said.
The campaign also provided useful takeaways for the future. Smith’s team learned that some headlines, like “No One More Capable And Committed,” were “too soft,” she said. Those pieces or titles could be switched out on Outbrain for a more compelling title that drove more traffic.
The team discovered that the articles were being shared on LinkedIn, so “we relaunched our LinkedIn page, because we saw so many LinkedIn shares,” Smith said.
Even after the campaign’s flight date, the content chugs on. The AAR continues to promote the posts using Outbrain. The Washington Post brand helps drive traffic much better than content that lives on the organization’s websites, validating its choice to place the association’s content within a site consumed and valued by D.C’s discerning policymakers. But the real test will likely come in December, when the AAR makes its case not through native advertising, but in the courtroom.