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Mailbox Monday


WGBH, Boston's beloved public television station, wants us. They want us bad.

We received two different solicitations recently, one dated April 2020 and the other dated May 2020. The packages are similar: #10 window envelope, double-sided letter, personalized response slip, and a return envelope.

Both leverage the COVID-19 pandemic. But, in different ways.

The earlier package uses a teaser that we've seen (and actually responded to) before: "Special Offer" reads an orange burst. "You Decide! Contribute any amount and receive a WGBH membership ..."

Inside, the personalized letter (visible through a standard window on the OE) reinforces that offer in a Johnson Box that says, "Special Offer - A contribution in any amount makes you a WGBH member with a full year of member benefits!" The body of the letter introduces the current situation in a paragraph that feels like it may have been added at the last minute:

As we all adjust to the realities of COVID-19 and the uncertainties we face, we would like you to know WGBH is here for you. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, WGBH will continue to serve as a trusted source of information you can depend on.

There are a couple of other allusions to the pandemic: "... even through the most difficult times," and "a safe place where children can go ..." The first P.S. (oddly enough, there are two) brings the letter full-circle back to the opening:

"Your choice to support public media at this critical time, ensures that everyone in our community has access to important updates moving forward ..." It ends with the message "Thank you again, be well and stay safe." The response slip allows us to assert "WGBH can count on me to do my share at this critical time!"

The second package has an oversized window on the envelope, through which, in addition to name and address, we can read a quote from PBS superstar Fred Rogers. "I'm always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in the world."

(Uh oh. If anyone can make you feel guilty for not caring, it's Mr. Rogers.)

The letter begins with its own allusion to COVID-19: "The past few months have been a challenging for everyone in New England, just as they have been across the nation and around the world." The rest of the letter reads like a typical fundraising letter with many references to "these uncertain times," "this difficult year," "these recent and unprecedented challenges," "during a crisis," and "the daily disruptions to our lives."

Finally, the response slip has us saying, "I want to keep WGBH strong for my community!"

Except for copy, the packages are nearly identical. And, as we already pointed out, they both mention COVID-19. But, the first is very much about what we'll get: all the benefits of membership for whatever price we want to pay. The second is more about what we're giving: support to the community that is relying on WGBH for information, entertainment, even digital educational programs.

Both packages are elegantly written and quite persuasive. The membership offer of package one is tangible and attractive. The list of ways WGBH is supporting people in package two is believable and relevant.

So, both packages get a thumbs up. But, our thumb for package two is a bit higher.

They had us at Mr. Rogers.

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