“We struggled with our education offerings,” Scott Stuart, CEO of the Turnaround Management Association, recalled recently from the early days of the pandemic. “So we formed a subcommittee, and they [developed] 24 webinar opportunities for members between March and September. It was a pivot for our visibility [and a huge success], and now it’s a staple for our education. Crisis brings clarity.”
Crisis also bring innovation. Last week, The Washington Post published a story for their Outlook section titled What We’ll Keep. “The pandemic made us change our lives. Here are 11 ways we won’t change back.” Those ways include soft pants, spending time with pets, online ordering at in-person restaurants, appreciating essential workers, spending time outdoors, telecommuting and better home cooking.
Stuart, who will be a keynote speaker at our upcoming Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021 virtual event, June 16-17, gave a perfect example of an initiative that will be kept well after the crisis recedes. (Denise Burrell-Stinson, head of WP Creative Team in the Creative Group at The Washington Post, is the other keynote.) Here are a few other probable “keepsakes,” with the best saved for last.
Keep global audiences. Stuart also spoke about their new global audience. “We have had a value proposition—with our 54 chapters and more than 10,000 global members—that as a member you can avail yourself of any program that a chapter has at the member rate,” he said. “I’ve been hammering at that for a while. In the virtual atmosphere, people saw it, and it became a reality. So a member from a chapter in the UK and one in Toronto [will now attend each other’s events]. When people see that global reality, it gives them pride about the association. They now see the value of the greater organization that they’re a part of. And that pride cascades to everyone in the organization.” Welcoming a global audience for virtual events will continue. Said Orson Francescone, head of the Financial Times’ FT Live: “[In 2019] we had 24,000 delegates at our conferences. [In 2020] with 223 online events—that’s webinars, conferences and award shows—we’ve had 160,000 ‘digital delegates.’ So suddenly those numbers are kind of blowing our model out of the water…”
Build more hubs. Coronavirus news hubs brought large new audiences to publishers. “We knew commercial impact was ripe for impact from this… and we knew this was something we had to address quickly,” said Kathryn Hamilton, vice president for marketing and communication at NAIOP (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association). “From a communications perspective, my biggest takeaway [from an initial call with our leaders] was that we… needed to create a microsite where all this content could be easily found. Thus the COVID-19 site was born and visited, again and again.” Does the idea of a hub for expanded coverage only have to be around COVID? A temporary hub on another vital topic could work well for your industry niche.
Earn goodwill. We like uplifting stories, so why stop when the pandemic ends? “We know that a lot of our members are doing good things,” Hamilton said last year, mentioning Delta airlines relocating a work site in less than 48 hours to accommodate workers. “So we’ve invited our members to share their good works with us.” Alicia Evanko Lewis of Northstar Travel Group told us that she created a Silver Lining Social campaign that engaged industry members to share their positive stories amidst the upheaval. It has been a huge success. Marlene Hendrickson, senior director, publishing and marketing, American Staffing Association, suggested lifting your log-in requirements for your COVID resources. There might be other important events—good and bad—that come up where easy access could enable good feelings,
Offer more audio. Text to audio has accelerated during the crisis. Dutch news website The Correspondent recently launched a new audio app for members. “We were a text-based site mostly, and our members asked us if we could also provide audio, because it’s easier to combine it with different activities like traveling or working out,” CEO Ernst-Jan Pfauth said. “We figured, well, it’s not our mission to provide text. It’s our mission to be a daily antidote to the news grind, to give an insight into how the world works. The medium isn’t that important, so if voice works better, let’s introduce that.”
Commit to more digital resources. While print is still important for most associations, the last 12 months has required a bigger commitment to digital. “We had to make sure that [our members] were aware that their print issues were being reduced, but at the same time, they weren’t really losing anything from their membership,” said Nicole Racadag, managing editor at the American College of Radiology. “Instead this whole digital publishing model was going to be a value-add for them. They were going to get more content more frequently. We worked with the marketing team to make sure our table of contents was being sent to all members so that way they knew they could access the content online, even though the main June issues, for example, were not going to be printed. Our early web statistics show that users were going to acr.org/bulletin to browse content.” The potential here is enormous.
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.” It attracted more than 75,000 subscribers in the first three days. In November, after 80+ issues of The Essentials, the newsletter got a makeover to become Sidekick. Looks like it’s still going strong. “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.”
Use sommeliers. One of the most reliable moving parts of virtual conferences is wine tastings. It seemed to check a lot of boxes for the last year: networking, joy, learning, diversity. So why stop? In-person events can easily kick off a networking happy hour with a 20-minute talk from a local sommelier about what we might be drinking tonight. For hybrid events, could be a way to give both audiences a similar experience and would be nice to have her or him around as a resource.