Weekly Features, Podcasts and Faster Load Times Can Increase Retention

Research last year from Northwestern’s Medill Local News Initiative looked at audience data from three major metro publications. Their conclusion, according to NiemanLab, the frequency with which a reader comes back to a publication’s website “is the single biggest predictor of retaining subscribers—more than the number of stories read or the time spent reading them.”
So with that established, the goal becomes to entice your subscribers and would-be subscribers to check in a lot with your website and resources. Here are some ways to make that happen:
Send an email quiz or post a puzzle. I received this email this week from Lessiter Media. “To test your knowledge of soil health practices, No-Till Farmer, with the support of Indigo Ag, created a 6-question quiz, ‘How Much Do You Know About Soil Enrichment Practices?’ Take the quiz.” For a previous quiz, they received 3,346 total submissions from Nov. 2019, through the end of March 2020. About 1,658 were new email addresses and 120 new subscribers. The Wall Street Journal studied how different reader habits affected subscriber churn. It looked into how various products and subscriber actions affected customer retention during the first 100 days after a reader had signed up. They found that “playing a puzzle had a more dramatic impact on reader retention than other actions the team had been promoting.
Start a podcast. This has certainly been a ripe couple months for podcasts. “Podcasts are interesting for publishers because they are much more likely to attract younger audiences, since they can be accessed conveniently through smartphones and they offer a diversity of perspectives and voices,” writes NiemanLab. “The deep connection that many podcasts seem to create could be opening up opportunities for paid podcasts, alongside public-service and advertising-driven models. In our data this year we find that almost four in ten Americans (38%) said they would be prepared to pay for podcasts they liked, and a similar number in Canada (37%).”
Start a weekly content feature that brings people back. Inc. launched a weekly webinar called “Real Talk.” “It’s people who have had success and are willing to give back to entrepreneurs and the small business community and answer questions for an hour,” said Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief. Haymarket’s PRWeek has two that they’ve started during the pandemic: Lockdown Life and Coffee Break. Episodes for Lockdown Life include: three PR people who have recovered from COVID-19; a diverse group of recent grads entering the PR workforce; the challenge of pitching remotely; and fun videos where kids say what they think their parents do for a living. Coffee Break is short, 15-minutes videos with people in the industry,” In one recent episode, Margenett Moore Roberts, chief diversity and inclusion officer at CMG, talks about what it takes to address diversity and inclusion at your company.
Get people “together.” One of our other divisions, AM&P, is hosting virtual get-togethers on Fridays at lunchtime to either talk about a topic—diversity, alternative revenue, accessibility—or just offer each other support. Joanne Persico, president of SIPA member ONEcount, has been holding “Bold Minds Virtual Mixers” every Wednesday at 5:30 pm. “Collaborate with other media execs, CEOs and industry colleagues to learn what others are doing, what’s working and creative ways to keep your customers and employees happy!” she writes.
Reduce your load times. According to a report from Twipe, The Telegraph in the UK found that reducing loading time from 9 to 5.5 seconds led to a 49% increase in subscriber conversion from those who visit the homepage. An initial analysis led them to push for faster homepage load times and a service to send audio summaries and news links to commuters through WhatsApp. Users who regularly listened on WhatsApp were 12 times more likely to become paid subscribers.
Steer people to products or platforms that will continue. Getting a COVID-19 readership bump? Then make sure your new visitors subscribe to at least one ongoing thing—even if it has to be free. Newsletters are a great example. People tune in now because maybe they have more time or because they’re in front of the computer more or feel more isolated. But “if you can get them to subscribe to a newsletter, you have a way to reach them even when they go back to in-person offices and in-person meetings,” said Jeremy Gilbert of The Washington Post. Ragan Communications turned much of their COVID coverage into a Crisis Leadership Board.

‘Be Visible as an Ally’; Blogs Can Achieve Many Goals, Especially Now

Those are two June headlines from a new blog on the American Dental Association site called New Dentist Now. The days of blogs simply conveying an opinion or delivering information have passed. Blogs still do that but they can be so much more. Especially in these difficult times, blogs can give your organization a place to air more diverse voices, offer resources to your community and establish ties with new communities.


“Here are five ways you can become a better ally and ensure your office is welcoming for LGBTQ+ community,” writes Dr. Alex Barrera, who practices general dentistry in Houston. “Be visible as an ally… Little things such as decorating your office for pride month (June), making a post on social media, or advertising in an LGBTQ+ magazine will show your support as an LGBTQ+ affirming dental professional.”


In supporting the black community as dentists, Dr. Yvette Weir, a Canadian general dentist based in the U.S., offered tips. “Dentists can be intentional during this time by setting aside an extended huddle or lunch and share for an in-depth discussion. If the office is not diverse, or if the dentist is not comfortable, he/she, could consider bringing in a speaker/facilitator to guide the process.”

Here are a few ideas for more successful ways to use a blog:
Be of the moment. I like BVR’s post from April titled, How BVR Is Helping to Keep You Connected During Coronavirus. “Here are some ways BVR is supporting the valuation community during this unpredictable, uncertain time.” There’s nothing wrong with letting people know you’re doing good stuff. The Million Dollar Round Table has run posts titled, “Virtually working smarter, not harder” (guilty!) and “Beyond a bathrobe and slippers: Survival skills for working from home.” “Could you benefit from creating rules, using folders and getting your electronic communication under control once and for all?” they ask. Yes, yes and yes.
Promote your offerings (and videos). For a post titled Author Introduction to The Child Medication Fact Book, Carlat Publishing uses a five-minute video with the three authors to promote the book. They are all personable and easy to listen to— Elizabeth Tien, in particular, shines—and it delivers information while not feeling too salesy. “…this book offers guidance, clinical pearls, and bottom-line assessments of more than 70 of the most common medications you use and are asked about in your practice.”
Highlight great photos. Education Week has many excellent blogs, among them a photo blog called Full Frame. In this post from 2019, titled, What It Felt Like to Be at the Los Angeles Teacher Strike: A Reporter’s Perspective, “Education Week reporter Catherine Gewertz and photographer Morgan Lieberman set out on a rainy day to cover the Los Angeles teacher strikes.” The photos are striking. Previous posts include Photos of the Year, A Class of One at a Rural Wyoming School, Tackling Football and the Flute, and In a Grieving Texas Town, a Class Reunion Becomes Something More.
Align with your other COVID-19 resources. We’ve seen the increased engagement that COVID-19 microsites have brought publishers. Adding blog posts to those can only add more eyeballs. Sigma Xi has a blog called Keyed In. A recent post was headlined, How Scientists and Engineers Who Aren’t on the Front Lines of the Coronavirus Outbreak Can Help. “Below are opportunities that people from all backgrounds in the STEM community can use to help fight COVID-19 and support students who have been displaced from campuses.”
Reach out to a younger audience. North Coast Media posted a fun blog post about a city donut tour titled, Donut Tasting and Panel? Donut Mind If I Do! “Engage! Cleveland serves as a hub for young professionals in Cleveland to connect and share their stories through organized events such as the donut tasting and panel. The purpose of Young Professionals Week is to allow the city’s young and working adults to explore what Cleveland has to offer and network with community leaders.” Another post was written by an intern and titled, “How to Intern Like a Boss.”
Attract sponsorships. TransUnion has sponsored blogposts for insideARM; one was titled How to Encourage Consumers to Handle Their Debts During Tax Season. The content is informative and presented in an easy-to-digest manner. At the end of the post, you get a tasteful sales pitch: “While you can’t abandon trying to collect from those people, you can focus more of your efforts on the people more likely to pay. That’s where TransUnion’s Account Prioritization comes in.”

Embrace the Virtual and Good Things Will Happen, PRWeek Shows

“Tomorrow’s going to be different. I have no idea how. If you’ve never embraced that before, embrace it now.” That quote comes from Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications and author of PR for Dummies, in part of a video series called Lockdown Life presented by Connectiv member Haymarket Media’s PRWeek brand.
This moving video features three PR pros who came down with COVID-19—they’re better now—and talk briefly about what it was like, how their agencies dealt with it and the lessons learned.
Sometimes we see a big company doing cool and innovative things, and we say, “I don’t have the resources to do that.” But in the case of PRWeek—which has turned our current disruption into a virtual smorgasbord of creative content, diverse and engaging videos and lively awards shows—smaller companies can definitely take a page or chapter even.

With books aplenty behind him—appropriate for a VP and editorial director—Steve Barrett (pictured) of PRWeek spoke to my colleague Matt Kinsman last week about the incredible pivoting they have done and the rewarding—business-wise and human-wise—results, much of which will remain a part of PRWeek’s agenda in the future.

Here are some of the highlights:
This is a time to try new things. “That phrase, ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ is a really good one,” Barrett said. “You’ve got to be bold in business, you have to be bold in media and try new things.” They turned their Global Awards, normally held in London, into a three-part event and “optimized each day for a different part of the world… We were able to do it in the right time zone and reach a much bigger audience.” They also turned their Brand Film Festival, usually at the Paley Center for Media in New York, into a successful virtual event. “We were showing films, getting lots of contributions from the jury members talking about content and making an engaging and interesting show out of it,” Barrett said.

Lockdown Life. Yaverbaum’s quote came from just one part of one episode of Lockdown LIfe! “Every company needs to keep in mind whether their messaging is actually helping others or if they’re just jumping on the train of communicating about this because they feel they have to,” says Maisie Guzy, an account executive with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, who also recovered from the virus. Other episodes include: a diverse group of recent grads entering the PR workforce; the challenge of pitching remotely; and fun videos where kids say what they think their parents do for a living.

Coffee Break. “We launched Coffee Break, which are just short, 15-minutes videos with people in the industry,” Barrett said. In one incredibly timely episode from earlier this month, he speaks with Margenett Moore Roberts, chief diversity and inclusion officer at CMG, and to his great credit, gives her the floor. “How do we think about the way we evaluate our internal systems and how do we make changes so we can make sure we are not replicating some of the same systemic issues over and over again within our own organizations…” This is a feature that I’m sure will be staying post-COVID.
Survey your audience. “We did a COVID-19 survey to test the temperature of the industry,” Barrett said, explaining their decision to move all events prior to December to online. “There were a lot of issues but we put a question in there, ‘How comfortable would you be attending an awards ceremony?’ It was pretty obvious from those results that there wouldn’t be any comfort by the end of the year. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. It’s talking to your key stakeholders and communicating with them. They understand.”
Focus on content. “At a physical event [such as the awards], nobody wants to sit there and watch loads of content—they want to network, have a nice dinner, they want to go to parties and obviously, we want to encourage that,” Barrett said. “In a virtual environment, there’s more opportunities to focus on the case studies, the winning entries, the individuals and the teams. So we really pivoted to content for the big events.”
Do what makes sense virtually and given our backdrop. PRWeek puts on smaller Convene discussion events—free to attend but sponsored—usually run over lunch Eastern time, 30 to 40-minutes on a particular topic. “We had one on COVID-19 and communicating in the coronavirus era and three thousand people registered,” Barrett said. “Normally, an event like that would get 80 to 90 people in a room physically. And then we produced more content after that to get to a bigger audience [and] so people can engage with it, ask questions. We have another session [this] week about health because health is becoming a big part of the communications business. We’re all looking through a public health lens now.”
By seeing what sticks now, you’re adding to your future. “When we come back [to live events], virtual elements will still be a big part going forward,” Barrett said. “We’ll still do virtual stuff because we’ve seen the potential of it. In terms of the bigger events, you have to add value in different ways than you would for a physical event… We’re all learning, there’s no playbook.”
Mix live and recorded content. Barrett acknowledges that “pre-shot” content is often a safer way to go for awards and webinars. But he prefers a mix. “I think [people] do like seeing more personality” that comes from live content, he said. “All prerecrorded can come off as a bit dry. And we’re all learning. I do think virtual events will progress massively over the next 12 months.”
Think horizontally. Haymarket launched a coronavirus briefing “where we took content from all of our brands and put it out as an email newsletter,” Barrett said. “Whereas B2B is usually about going deep in a vertical, this was a horizontal slice across one topic and presenting it out. That was really interesting—I could see that happening on other issues like the future of work, or diversity would be an interesting thing for B2B publishers to look into.”

SIPA June Member News

Joseph Wysocki, Husband of SIPA’s Former Longtime Managing Director Patti Wysocki, Passes Away at Age 72

Joseph Wysocki, Jr., 72, passed away Friday, June 12, 2020, in Richmond, Va., of a heart attack while golfing. He was the husband of former longtime SIPA managing director Patti Wysocki, who served SIPA from March 1984 to October 2006.

A Citadel graduate, Joseph served his country in the Air Force while in the Vietnam War. Later on, he was an investigator for the Virginia government. Besides playing golf, he also enjoyed gardening.
“Joe was truly authentic,” said Phil Binkow, CEO of SIPA member Financial Operations Networks, where Patti has worked since leaving SIPA. “He exuded strength not just in his principles, but also in his genuine and gentle caring, humor and wit. To count Joe as your friend was a blessing; we will miss him greatly.”
Another memory, in his obituary, came from Sanford McAllister: “Joe was a prince and he will be missed. What a kind soul….he was always so sweet to me. You all had such a wonderful life together—know he loved living in Williamsburg close to all the golf courses!!”
Besides Patti, Joseph is survived by his daughter, Antoinette Wysocki-Sanchez; and grandsons, Greydon and Emerson Sanchez.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, a Celebration of Life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be sent to The Citadel Diamond Dogs at this link.

Jon Ossoff Wins Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic Primary
Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff, 33, son of Richard Ossoff, owner of longtime SIPA member Strafford Publications, won the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat last week.
Ossoff received over 50% of the vote, avoiding a runoff despite strong competition. He will now face incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in the fall.
In his previous race, a close Congressional loss, Ossoff positioned himself as a practical-minded moderate. His recent TV ads focused on his vow to improve the health care system and his endorsement from Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the Democrat and storied civil rights leader.

Diversified’s Commercial UAV Expo Americas 2020 Shifts to Virtual Event in September – FAA Administrator Stephen M. Dickson to Keynote
Commercial UAV Expo Americas 2020 is going virtual, according to organizer Diversified Communications. “Due to ongoing health and safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the commercial drone community we serve have made it clear that it would be impossible to hold the live event as originally planned. We have reimagined [it] as a fully virtual event taking place Sept. 15-17, 2020,” said Lisa Murray, group director at Diversified.
FAA Administrator Stephen M. Dickson, an aviation professional with nearly 40 years of experience, will keynote the virtual event. Dickson leads an agency responsible for the safety and efficiency of the largest aerospace system in the world. “We are thrilled that Administrator Dickson will be addressing the audience at such a critical time for the drone space,” said Murray.

Industry Dive Journalism Recognized by SPJ Awards for Washington, D.C.
Industry Dive publications won four recognitions last Tuesday in the 2020 Dateline Awards for Journalism Excellence presented by the Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Waste Dive, which covers the waste and recycling market, ultimately won an award for its recycling labor project in the Best Series for Newsletters and Trade Publications category.
“Our reporters and editors put tremendous effort into telling stories that illustrate the largest issues in the industries they cover,” said Davide Savenije, editor-in-chief at Industry Dive, also a multiple winner in the recent SIPAwards. “This was the first time we entered the local SPJ contest and we are excited to be recognized for our work.”
People with different skills connecting together online and working on the same project, remote working and freelancing concept

‘You’ve Got To Be Bold’ – Why Moving to Virtual Events for All of 2020 Is Turning Into a Win for PRWeek

The hope that live events will return in the fall is increasingly giving way to the realization that many (if not most) conferences and trade shows in the U.S. will continue to be virtual or hybrids of online and in-person for the remainder of 2020. Last week, Informa saw an 8% stock jump when it said select trade shows would resume in Asia but warned that live events in the U.S. won’t return until at least September.

On June 3, Haymarket Media’s PRWeek became one of the first B2B media brands to announce that its full slate of events—including conferences and awards programs—will go virtual for the remainder of the year. Soon after, another Haymarket brand, Medical Marketing & Media, announced it will also be taking the remainder of its 2020 events virtual.

I caught up with Steve Barrett, Vice President and Editorial Director of PRWeek, on making the call, how virtual events are opening up new audiences and how the PRWeek edit team is rising to the challenge by creating new types of content that break the mold of traditional B2B.

On making the decision to go virtual for the remainder of the year…

Steve Barrett: The start of the lockdown came at bad time for everyone but particularly for us because we had our biggest event of year, the PRWeek Awards, set for March 19 in New York City, where we get over 1,000 PR pros in a room at Cipriani.

You’ve got to be bold in business. We had to make a difficult call then and we’ve been making difficult decisions about events since then. We’ve got awards shows, conferences, honorifics like our Hall of Fame, which honors women in PR, our Brand Film Festival at the Paley Center for Media and our Global Awards program that usually takes place in London.

At the end of the day, after taking all the guidance of our stakeholders into account and thinking about safety, which is the most important thing, and whether there’s really an appetite to travel and get together in large groups, we decided for clarity, for safety and so everyone can plan for rest of year, to call it and go virtual.

How virtual events give PRWeek new scale…

Whilst it’s regrettable that we can’t meet in person, there’s a lot of things that you can do like widening it out to a larger audience.

Our Global Awards are normally held in London. We made it a three-part event and optimized each day for a different part of the world—one day for Europe, one day for Asia, one day for the U.S.

At a physical event, nobody wants to sit there and watch loads of content—they want to network, they want to go to parties and obviously, we want to encourage that. In a virtual environment, they are more apt to focus on the content.

Our smaller Convene events usually run over lunch and we do three or four 30 to 40-minute discussions. We had one on COVID-19 and communicating in the coronavirus era and three thousand people registered. Normally, an event like that would get 80 to 90 people in a room.

When we come back to live events, virtual elements will still be part of that going forward. We’ve seen the potential of it.

On redefining content in the COVID-19 era…

We’ve added a lot of new elements to our weekly content. Lockdown Life features profiles of people in their work-at-home situations and includes fun videos where we get kids to say what they think their parents do for a living. We’ve talked to people in the industry who had the virus and what that experience was like; we had one where we featured two people working from home at competing PR firms.

There’s been a lot of bad news this summer so we’ve tried to balance that with some fun and engaging content. We launched Coffee Break, which are just short, 15-minutes videos like we’re doing here, with people in the industry.

At Haymarket Media we’ve got 40 brands across the world and we launched a coronavirus briefing with content from all those brands. Whereas B2B is about going deep in a vertical, this was a horizontal slice on one topic. That was really interesting—I could see that happening on other issues like the future of work or diversity.

Necessity is the mother of invention and editorial teams have been doing this for 10, 15 years now. We’ve had to be scrappy; we’ve had to pivot. We’ve had to work through challenges before like the financial crisis. I sometimes think consumer media is only just catching up to us. We’re battle-worn, we’re battle-weary, but we’ve still got a lot of energy and we’re still full of great ideas and I think there’s some great content being produced in the B2B environment.