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Learn How The Dallas Morning News Uses Cause Marketing to Grow Revenue and Volunteerism With FWD>DFW

The Branded Content Project, funded by the Facebook Journalism Project in partnership with Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium, has challenged the branded content project alpha group to create large action plans and take giant leaps towards new revenue possibilities with branded content.

Our first projects are big jumps toward revenue growth, streamlined processes that save time and money, and content production for new audiences. And we are pleased to report that their innovative plans are already paying off.

These seven teams have jumped into enormous initiatives and are seeing the first round of results come in with exciting success. Graham Media Group’s Taking Off initiative was our first feature and our focus for the second of a seven-part series is a feature on The Dallas Morning News and their FWD > DFW initiative.

FWD>DFW is a forum for connection to critical issues impacting the Dallas-Fort Worth area (DFW) — and how people and businesses can make a difference. At its core, it is a cause-marketing platform of The Dallas Morning News used to share the impact and stories of other companies’ cause-marketing initiatives.

Together with The Dallas Morning News, FWD>DFW sparks awareness, conversation, and measurable improvement in the equitable education, health and wellness of the community, and reaches more than 1.6 million people every week.

It’s a channel to create a stronger and more prosperous community.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing and most successful markets in the country, North Texas has one of the widest economic disparity gaps. The Dallas Morning News already reports about these challenges as well as the successes and opportunities of the region.

FWD>DFW takes it a step further.

This platform uses the power of The Dallas Morning News to make a difference with the best tools they have: storytelling, audience and relationships.

Together, with their partners, they provide content that educates, informs, and impacts North Texas and beyond. Today their audience continues to grow and is comprised of the most educated and influential citizens.

It’s about how to move FWD — together.

How it works

FWD>DFW provides a customized, multi-year cause-related marketing (CRM) campaign for leading brands to leverage their corporate social responsibility (CSR) platforms across DFW through the power of The Dallas Morning News, and the greater digital marketplace.

They are focused on three key pillars — Education, Health, and Wellness — which impact economic advancement to make the community stronger.

The Challenge: #WhatMovesYou

Simply put: Increase awareness and participation in volunteer activities.

Volunteering connects companies, causes, and the community to serve and impact others for the good. FWD>DFW, together with VOMO, offers a one-stop place to find volunteer opportunities, providing the connection to making a difference.

The challenge was to drive awareness and increased volunteerism, along with offering a successful platform, to make an impression on the community-impact sponsor prospects, nonprofits, and other companies interested in elevating volunteerism initiatives.

Why is this significant?

Dallas is a very generous city in terms of money donated, but not very civically engaged. We rank #32 across 50 major cities in volunteerism.

“When a brand’s messaging is based on things that really matter, consumers engage differently and even volunteer their attention. It’s a move from ad interruption to ad attraction,” said Rachel Watkins, senior marketing manager, Belo Media Group and The Dallas Morning News.

What’s the Solution?

MarketChorus is a platform that targets relevant, strategic audiences based on content they are already consuming. They targeted people who engaged with community service content as well as other community-based activities, nonprofits, give-back initiatives, and more.

They saw massive success with this targeting, which was solely done through Facebook and Instagram.

  • 4.9% unique click-through rate for ads, which is astronomical compared to the industry national average of 0.2%

  • 649 ad post saves and 488 ad post shares were a surprise; who saves or shares a Facebook ad?!

All in, 1.1M impressions and 14.4K engagement were very encouraging numbers for the volunteerism campaign. So, too, was the fact that the MarketChorus-targeted audiences had the highest average session and lowest bounce rate of all the media in market, including print, digital, social, native, SEM, and billboard.

“We drove these initial results by targeting audiences who had read and engaged with content related to charity events, human interests, and some articles contextually about Klyde Warren Park, Dallas Independent School District, AT&T Performing Arts Center, and other things like SPCA/animal shelters/Operation Kindness,” said Watkins.

About the FWD>DFW Marketing Campaign

Their partners’ campaigns are amplified with a FWD>DFW marketing campaign that includes print, digital, social, email, OOH, and more.

Phase 1 of the #WhatMovesYou volunteerism campaign has been in market since May 2019.

Phase 2 launched in September and features leaders from partner companies as well as other community influencers.

“Custom stories, innovative messaging, and strategic targeting all can amplify CSR initiatives while generating a significant halo effect and driving competitive advantage, brand awareness, consumer acquisition and loyalty, and targeted business results,” Watkins said.

Moving FWD

Next steps for FWD>DFW

  • Continue to sign new advertisers to the platform, including multiple lower-level community-impact sponsors in addition to founding/signature partner level sponsors

  • Renew founding partner agreements and use the success stories of engagement, impressions, and volunteerism traction as additional selling points

  • Continue to engage the community at-large toward volunteerism through marketing campaigns, community panel discussions, Facebook Live, and other strategic event partnerships

  • Continue to strategically target audiences based on MarketChorus learnings about audience engagement and behavior.

Final words from the team at The Dallas Morning News

We asked the team why other organizations should consider building a cause marketing initiative. The reason?

“The message behind a brand is more important now than ever, with 90% of consumers saying that they want companies to tell them how they are supporting causes and making a difference,” Watkins said. “Consumers expect businesses to invest in their community and beyond, making civically minded and socially responsible companies the ideal partners for branded content.”


We’re hosting a branded content innovation mission in New York in November!

Rachel Watkins, senior manager, strategic partnerships and experiential marketing at Belo Media Group, will explain the opportunities for new revenue and audiences through cause marketing initiatives. She will show us how FWD>DFW sparks awareness, conversation, and measurable improvement in the equitable education, health and wellness of the community — and reaches more than 1.6 million people every week.



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