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Rewards programmes: 5 minutes with… Mike Halstead

Publishers are forever looking for ways to increase engagement and build brand loyalty. One proven way is through a rewards programme. We grab five minutes with HH&S’s Mike Halstead to get his advice on setting up a successful programme.

By Mike Halstead

Rewards programmes: 5 minutes with… Mike Halstead

Q: How can a subscriber rewards programme drive engagement and retention?

A: Engagement is driven by presenting subscribers with offers and competitions that are of interest. A rewards programme, via regular engagement, can foster higher levels of loyalty from a subscriber.

Rewards need to make a subscriber feel special and valued. Too often, publishers only engage with their subscribers when notifying them of a price increase or a renewal. A rewards programme is an opportunity for engagement with subscribers and to give something back without asking for them to spend more money.

Q: What are the hallmarks of a high performing rewards programme?

A: A good rewards programme is more than just giving out freebies. It’s about rewarding subscribers with competitions and offers which are aligned with their interests and those of the publication. You also don’t need to give readers hundreds of different offers. As long as the offers and competitions relate to your readership, then a small selection works well.

Another key consideration is the communication strategy and mechanics including emails, social, mailings and, of course, in publication advertising.

Q: When considering setting up a rewards programme, what do publishers need to consider?

A: The main consideration is not to underestimate the time it will take to run and manage the programme. Once you start offering rewards to subscribers, you need to maintain a regular programme (be it weekly, monthly or quarterly) and sourcing offers and competitions is time consuming; you need to consider internal resource implications or ring-fence budget to outsource it. You also need to consider what you can offer potential partners who are providing you with discounts and / or competitions. The relationship needs to be equitable for everyone to get the best out of it. Although it isn’t a form of back-door advertising, there should be an offering to partners in exchange for them offering a discount or competition to your subscribers. This can be in the form of rewards advertising or data capture of competition entrants. This should also be considered with regards to the communication strategy and how you are going to inform subscribers about the rewards.

Q: What types of rewards work best?

A: Competitions, from hotel and spa breaks to cash prizes and luxury “treats” drive the greatest response from subscribers. We have consistently seen rewards open rates over 60% and high response rates with over 10% of a subscriber base engaging with the rewards.

The type of offers that work best depends on the type of readership. A garden bulb offer would do well for a national newspaper but probably not so well for a celebrity magazine. Offers do need to be tailored to the subscriber profile and there should be a variety, so hopefully there is something for everyone.

Q: What should publishers do to increase subscriber participation in their rewards programme?

A: Keep them informed and update the offers frequently. We advise our clients to change the offers on a monthly basis. As mentioned before, you don’t need to have lots of offers but you do need to ensure those you do have are relevant and don’t become wallpaper, and that your readers aren’t seeing the same brands and offers time after time. You also need to keep them informed of what offers and competitions are available. We recommend sending two emails per month summarising that month’s offering and also to run advertisements in the publication too.

Q: When assessing the success of their rewards programme, what are the key metrics publishers should be looking at?

A: Engagement is the most important metric and the reason for running a rewards programme in the first place. You can measure this in different ways, how many competitions entries you get, how often subscribers log on to the rewards website, how many emails are opened, how many times an offer code is redeemed. All of these are examples of ways in which a subscriber may engage with the programme.

Q: What’s in the pipeline from HH&S?

A: We have now successfully rolled out rewards to our three largest publishing clients and now are looking at building on the frequency of these activities. In terms of our subscriber management, we have made some recent developments to our platforms, one of which allows publishers to manage more of their subscriber communications electronically. We are now looking at other ways in which we can develop the platform to streamline processes and make further cost economies. But it’s really the job of sourcing the right offers and having that consistency of reward offering that is one of our big future investments.

About us

HH&S is an innovative subscriptions services and marketing agency offering publishers a fresh approach to marketing and servicing their subscriptions. We have been in business for over 30 years providing publishing clients with the subscriptions and marketing services they need. We work with some of the UK’s biggest publishers handling 400+ daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazine titles.

Contact: Mike Halstead (