The 4Ps of Pay For Success Blog Series was the second Pilot Project we launched in an early 2015 effort to test our hypotheses about what makes for effective and impactful social change communications.

Living Cities is committed to making our learning open and accessible to others in real-time, in order to deepen and accelerate promising solutions to social problems. We refer to this practice as “open-sourcing social change.”

Learn more about Open-Sourcing Social Change.

As part of that commitment, our knowledge and communications strategies focus on creating and disseminating tools, resources, content and digital experiences that will advance thinking and spark conversation. The 4Ps of Pay for Success (PFS) Blog Series was the second in a series of three Pilot Projects launched in early 2015 to test our hypotheses around what hat makes for effective and impactful social change communications. We are using our lessons from the Pilot Projects to continuously improve our communications and open-sourcing social change strategies.

Overview and Summary

In this Pilot Project, we released a new Pay For Success underwriting framework through a five-part blog series. The 4Ps of PFS (4Ps) framework is an alternate to the commonly used 5Cs of Credit Framework for underwriting these new, socially-conscious PFS deals.

The 4Ps Blog Series Pilot outlined a set of underwriting criteria that were tailored to the complexities of PFS transactions. We choose a blog series because we believed it would be an accessible and flexible vehicle to introduced our new framework. We hypothesized that the series, which broke the different elements of the 4Ps into “bite-sized” pieces, would simplify the framework and best allow the targeted audiences to absorb and understand each element.

The long term hope of introducing the 4Ps framework broadly was that it would resonate with current and potential future investors in PFS projects, and live on in underwriting independently of either Living Cities or TRF’s hand in the process.

We applied a broad array of measurement and analysis tools to assess the impacts of our communications strategies with rigor. This report outlines our findings and lessons learned.

For comprehensive view of our data and insights, download the full report.

Key Hypotheses and Practices Tested

We tested a set of key hypotheses through the 4Ps Pilot:

Hypothesis 1: By introducing a new framework in “bite-sized” piece that build upon one another, we will engage audiences consistently over a set period of time. Practices Tested:

  • Publishing a Blog Series over the course of five weeks.
  • Posting on a consistent day each week.

Hypothesis 2: By leveraging personal networks to refer both new and existing audiences to content, we will spark deeper engagement with the content among our target audiences, and thus generate more robust conversation. Practices Tested:

  • Featuring the Series in Regular Email Outreach from Living Cities and its’ partners with email subscribers who are interested in Pay For Success.
  • Explicitly encouraging comments, among other forms of “contribution” and engagement via direct outreach.

Hypothesis 3: By providing “calls to action” for readers in the text of the blogs, more readers will take the opportunity to discuss the content and provide feedback. Practices Tested:

  • Polling readers to find out if the content helped Living Cities move audiences to take action by investing in PFS.
  • Including discussion question prompts on the blog pages.

What We Measured

We tracked user behavior along a “ladder of engagement.” The ladder shows how we mapped different types of user interactions to analyze traffic trends to find patterns to help grow audience engagement.

Ladder of Engagement, designed by Threespot Media

Top 5 Takeaways

1) A blog series can be an accessible and easily digestible format for Living Cities to present new knowledge and/or new frames to our audiences.

2) The introductory blog (Blog 1) functioned as a key entry point (users who started on blog one were more likely to continue reading other parts of the series) and Living Cities could do more to encourage follow-up actions from that first blog.

3) Explicitly prompting users to comment on posts increased the number of comments and generated more conversation than blog posts where comments were not solicited.

4) Partners’ promotion to audiences already interested in PFS, especially newsletter and website features, helped to both boost traffic to the 4Ps Series and generate broader conversation among the members of our target audiences.

5) Tracking referrals enabled Living Cities to understand what sources were attracting high-quality traffic (users engaged on the second, third or fourth rung of the ladder) to the series. It also allowed us to devise real-time strategies to move those audiences along the ladder of engagement.