DeniseBurrellStinson 1

As keynotes for Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021, Burrell-Stinson and Stuart will share their crisis learnings

For the two keynote speakers for Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021, June 16-17, the clear common denominator is how much each of them learned during the pandemic and can apply now to make her or his organization better.

Denise Burrell-Stinson, head of WP Creative Team in the Creative Group at The Washington Post, and Scott Stuart, CEO, Turnaround Management Association, both emanate excitement for the opportunity to impart their wisdom to the association publication professional audience.

“One of the things we learned at the Post in 2020 is that there’s still an appetite for marketing content,” Burrell-Stinson said. “But it had to be done a specific way. One of the ways that we were able to get through that time and 2020 was by being in constant conversation with our audience. ‘What’s the best way to reach you? What’s the type of messaging that you want to know about? What do you believe has value?’

“They were like, ‘You know what, we still want to know about brands, but only if they’re helping people. We want to know that the brands that you’re working with have a POV on social justice.’ They want gender equity and racial parity all the way across the organization.”

For Stuart, a light went on about the way they were reaching out to members. “I learned more about human behavior in the last year than I ever put thought to,” he said. “Most people in the world are introverted extraverts… We learned in the virtual environment that we need to be more focused on that personality attribute.”

Basically, he said that few of us are comfortable walking into a room of 500 just knowing a few people. The virtual environment has given those people a kind of pass and comfort level to pursue more of what associations offer. We need to continue to give them that pathway.

“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,” Stuart 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.”

Burrell-Stinson also believes in that pride and how that transcends internally as well to staff. “No one should ever feel that their sphere of influence is too small to make change,” she said. “If you’re working for a platform, a content creator, a digital magazine, the everyday results of your job are a contribution that ladders up to what the overall goals are.” Even in her days of fact-checking, she felt she was making a big contribution to the publication.

They both also mentioned the importance of creativity, not the first characteristic you think of for CEOs and brand marketers. “We’re looking to see how our creativity and ideas and how we reach audiences can be a driver of revenue,” Burrell-Stinson said. “When that’s done well, it’s a good marriage of business and creativity. We used to think that they have to live very separately, The person who was the creative mind was not the business mind, and the person who was the business mind could not be counted on to be creative. I’ve found that as absolutely not true. Everyone can embrace [those two attributes].”

Asked how the Turnaround Management Association was able to pivot so well to put on a successful virtual event, Stuart simply said, “Creativity. We know that a certain percentage will come [to an event] for education. We also know that people are Zoomed out.” They also want to have some fun; they’re used to going to Las Vegas for a TMA event.

“How can I give them a feeling that they’re not just stuck on Zoom,” Stuart asked. “We created 24 [short, interactive] sessions on industry topics, built a networking room, covered DEI. We had Colonel [Robert J.] Darling who was in a bunker with Dick Cheney on 9/11. We added a casino experience and dueling pianos, had an illustrator doing drawings while sessions were going on.

“We created variety and”—Stuart slowed down here to accentuate—“actionable optionality. [We brought] you as close to in-person networking as you could ever imagine. Sponsors saw they got value out of it. The only downside was that because people expected the ‘same old,’ it caused us to market louder to get the message out. But once people saw it, they were our great evangelizers.”

That’s something all of us strive for. How much better is it when someone else talks you up, especially a member? That connection to the audience is something Burrell-Stinson came back to time and again during her interview. Before reaching out, she said it’s important—especially during these times—for staff to feel aligned with the organization’s message.

During the early stages of the pandemic, “I was one of those people showing up and asking, ‘What is my job right now?’ I can’t sit here selling. I really wanted to know that I felt right about what my job was.” Fortunately, the Post felt the same. “Let’s talk to our audience and see what they need right now,” she said.

“We did this deep, intentional engaging of the audience. ‘Tell us what it is you need to know. Tell us what’s helpful. Tell us what’s respectful. Tell us what empowers you.’ And they did. And when we listened to the audience we had our North Star. They told us what was going to work. When we had that information, we were actually able to take it to brands and say we’ve heard from this audience, they’re vocal, they’re smart and let’s do more than just market to them. Let’s really engage them on their terms.”

You will want to engage with Burrell-Stinson and Stuart on June 16-17 and hear more of what we can take out of the pandemic to help our organizations to Reset, Reinvent (and grow) Revenue.

SIIA-amp-network-feature-photo

Build Trust and Show the Breadth of What You Do to Keep Readership Bump

Not that they ever went out of style, but newsletters and subscriptions seem to be peaking again. Bloomberg Media’s Justin Smith has talked about their stickiness and comfort at a time like this. Industry Dive is up to about 22 different newsletters now in 19 industries. And Digiday ran an article last week titled How Substack Has Spawned a New Class of Newsletter Entrepreneurs.
“We’re coming in with an opportunity-focused mindset,’ said Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie [whom I interviewed three years ago], fresh off raising $15.3 million last summer. “‘During the first 20-30 years of the internet, in terms of information distribution and media, the innovation has mostly come around an ad-supported model. There’s a whole 20-30 years of innovation to come that more fully innovates around a subscription model.’”
Here are some ideas on keeping the new readership—newsletters and beyond—that many publishers have received during the pandemic:
Use this time to build trust. “We strongly believe that in 5 years there will be a very obvious critical mass of people who will pay for content from writers who they trust,” McKenzie told me three years ago. “And it will be a mainstream, accepted part of the ecosystem… People are learning how good an experience it is to be subscribed to an independent writer you love. We’re really focused on building that relationship.” Said a recent Inc. article: “Trust is the end result of having a lock on your customers’ desires.”
Expose your new audience to the other coverage and products you put out. “When you have those moments, when people are intensely interested in your content for a very specific reason, everything feels changed,” Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, told us recently. “We need to think how we can make our news and information [continue to be] relevant, but especially how we can make people aware about the width and breadth of coverage we can do… We’re thinking very deeply about what are the things, the products, the tools that we can offer our audience and how can we bridge [new subscribers] from caring about the news in the time of the virus to caring about the news when things are going better.”
Look at what else your new readers are clicking on and spending time with. “What [is it] about the relationship that [feels] important,” Gilbert continued. “Why did the audience turn to you now so you could continue to make that valuable? Many of the people taking our subscription offers today are taking them on an annual plan. So by April of next year, we would have had to make the case to them that their subscription is still valuable, even if we are in a happier, healthier position by then. So how do we transition people? If you are one of the almost a million people who subscribed to our COVID-19 email newsletter, what are the other newsletters that may be valuable to you? What kinds of coverage did you click through from the email newsletter and how can we use those interactions with our site or native apps to get you to stay?”
Engage in dialogues. Use your social media and analytics to figure out places to increase healthy give-and-take between you and your new customers. Are there special tips you could be giving them? Wrote Inc.: “Check in with customers not just on a preset cadence but when users signal unhappiness or disinterest. The faster you can jump in when a user has stopped opening your emails, for example, the higher your chances to save a subscriber.”
Get them hooked on a podcast or blog. Wrote NiemanLab last month: “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. 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 10 Americans (38%) said they would be prepared to pay for podcasts they liked.”
Meet your audience’s needs. “And so if we can keep the needs of our audience at the forefront and not just think of our audience as consumers who buy our products but also people who need our news, we’re going to have a better experience,” Gilbert said.
SIIA-amp-network-feature-photo

Is Your Audience ‘Aware of the Breadth’ of Your Coverage? Engagement Lessons From The Washington Post.

When you can get someone to tell you a personal story about a meeting with Jeff Bezos and how to maintain and monetize the engagement from the COVID-19 coverage you’ve been putting out, then you have quite an interview.
Gilbert_Jeremy_1578036.jpgGilbert_Jeremy_1578036.jpg

And so we did last week when Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives for The Washington Post, spoke to my colleague Matt Kinsman of SIIA’s Connectiv division (who did a great job moderating). Members can watch this session along with the others from CES Deconstructed at this link. Here are some highlights:

The Jeff Bezos? Asked how to present stories that need to be told but are not sexy enough to reach the upper left quadrant, Gilbert gave us a “personal experience.”
“…It’s your job to make the important news interesting.” Three or four years ago, “our publisher had two teenage daughters and… was very keen on us being a part of Snapchat Discover…,” Gilbert began. “And when we were looking to join Discover, we were invited right before Snap was going public as a company. We had a call with Jeff Bezos [owner of The Washington Post and Amazon], a strategy call, and he said, ‘Do you have any concerns about going forward with this?’ And I said, ‘Yes I have this concern, I think Snap wants us to be the serious news and not necessarily the compelling news. And the audience will look at us as vegetables and not dessert.’
“And Jeff paused for a second”—and Gilbert paused in telling it—”and then he said to me, ‘Don’t you think it’s your job to make the important news interesting?’ I was stunned, and I said nothing because what do you to say to that. So what I would say is, ‘I don’t think it is a fair or reasonable thing to say we have stories that are important but are not interesting. If a story is important enough, it is our job to find a way to tell it in a way that’s sexy.’… Almost always you can find a way through animation, interactivity, audio or video or graphics to make important stories compelling and if we’re not doing that, it really is more the fault of the newsroom than it is a fault of the story.”
Most publishers have seen a jump in engagement since the pandemic began. How do they maintain that engagement post-COVID. “I think there are two important things about this,” Gilbert said. “One is when you have those moments, when people are intensely interested in your content for a very specific reason, everything feels changed. We need to think how we can make our news and information [continue to be] relevant, but especially how we can make people aware… about the width and breadth of coverage we can do. Not that I think all of you are general news publishers, but I have to think that even after COVID-19 that there are lots of reasons that your information will be relevant. So some of that is how do you attract people to products that can continue? 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.
“The second thing is, you need to think, what it is about the relationship that felt important,” Gilbert continued. Why did the audience turn to you now so you could continue to make that valuable? Many of the people taking our subscription offers today are taking them on annual plan. So by April of next year, we would have had to make the case to them that their subscription is still valuable, even if we are in a happier, healthier position by then. So how do we transition people? If you are one of the almost a million people who subscribed to our COVID-19 email newsletter, what are the other newsletters that may be valuable to you? What kinds of coverage did you click through from the email newsletter and how can we use those interactions with our site or native apps to get you to stay?”

There will be other coverage that people will need. “So what we’re trying to do [is show that] our arts writers and critics, our sports writers and critics, our food writers and critics can feel relevant now but also signal to our audience that after the COVID crisis, we’ll have different kinds of coverage that they will still need,” Gilbert said. “So that’s really what we’re trying to do to combat that challenge. But I absolutely feel that imperative every bit as much as your members do, and we’re thinking very deeply about what are the things, the products, the tools that we can offer our audience and how can we bridge [new subscribers] from caring about the news in the time of the virus to caring about the news when things are going better.”

It’s all about audience needs. “And so if we can keep the needs of our audience at the forefront and not just think of our audience as consumers who buy our products but also people who need our news, we’re going to have a better experience,” Gilbert said.

Again there was much more to the interview that you can watch here.