'We Are Thinking Differently'; Crisis Mode May Mean Innovation Mode

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Our condo association told us that we have to get our dryer vents cleaned out this year. A neighbor put up a sign recommending we call this company for a group rate. So I called. They told me that the date they’ve set to come is Saturday, Oct. 24 because people can be home. I said, 'Maybe that was true in olden times (like 2019), but I know I’m tied to my laptop and condo Monday through Friday and try to get away a bit on Saturdays, so that wouldn’t work. How about another day?'”
 
“Well, we barely have anyone signed up that day so I don’t think so—we need to fill that day first.” Argghh. 
 
The pandemic has brought on circumstances that require we change many of the ways and habits we have become accustomed to or to innovate and start a new habit. Here are positive examples that I’ve seen.
 
Double down on content. When the pandemic hit, Morning Brew launched a guide telling readers how best to work from home. It quickly became a pop-up, three-days-a-week newsletter, The Essentials, with tips on how to be active, healthy and happy during quarantine.” More than 75,000 subscribers in the first three days later, and it’s now sponsored by a cold-brew coffee company. “Another example of our mission and how we’re being a resource to readers…,” said Alex Lieberman, CEO and co-founder. “We are thinking differently about the media landscape.”
 
Create new reports. InsideARM, which addresses the debt industry, is promoting a free whitepaper titled Succeeding in Collections Today Requires More Agility. “Collection Operations of all sizes need to be more agile in order to handle the growing number and frequency of changes they will have to make in the NEW NORMAL.” I can hear the clicks now.
 
Build crisis hubs. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking for the coronavirus news hub on any site I visit. Spidell Publishing has an excellent one, replete with tax information and Spidell webinars that address that information. Almost every publisher I've interviewed has said their coronavirus hub has brought increased engagement—and goodwill because most are paywall-free. Of course, we all hope that nothing takes over our lives like COVID-19 has. But the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around big-ticket or charitable topics.
 
Run virtual demos. According to a Brand United report, B2B publisher HousingWire has been hosting virtual software demo days to educate its audience of mortgage lenders and real estate professionals about technology solutions that enable business continuity during the pandemic. “We looked at the environment, we looked at what our clients were looking for, we looked at the needs of our audience, and were able to bring together a product that we’re going to repeat again and again and again that solves a lot for those needs on both sides of the equation,” said HousingWire CEO Clayton Collins.
 
Don't just virtualize but redefine your events. With in-person events, we mostly traveled to a place, so the dates of the event were finite. For virtual events, there really are no time limitations. For their Virtual Divorce Conference, BVR added bonus sessions both before and after the main event. So there was a 50-minute conference preview on Aug. 27, then the actual conference Sept. 9-11, and then three 100-minute, follow-up programs Sept. 17, 24 and 30. “We feel that people are getting a lot more value this year,” said Jared Waters, training director for BVR.
 
Add more webinars but make them shorter. The Association of Proposal Management Professionals initiated a Power ½ Hour Webinar Series. They are free for members and $75 for non-members. For a time, they also increased their standard one webinar a month to as many as four—some of those are sponsored—knowing that members needed more information to navigate the crisis. 
 
Mail swag boxes to members/subscribers. Hearst Group Autos launched R&T Crew (Road & Track) Magazine in January with a subscription box geared to kids. The first box included a beanie with a designable patch, trading cards featuring different cars, socks with auto graphics and a car kids can put together and paint. Subscribers receive six boxes for $225/year. Of course, adults like cool stuff, too, especially now. If you can get a sponsor, mail out some of the swag that people would normally get at your events. Michelle Panzer of Hearst Autos said, "The goal is to find 'white space' in the market where you can fill a need that no one else has already identified."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…