History is in the making with every news cycle this month. A global pandemic is on the loose, national and state-wide emergencies are called, and the stock market is on a downward slope of a bad roller coaster ride. While the marketplace seems fundamentally uncertain right now, there is one certainty: this too shall pass.
While your audience is social-distancing from you, you can’t distance yourself from them. Both your organization and your audience will benefit if you stay visible during this chaotic time. This may be a challenge if you’ve already had to cancel meetings and can’t allow visitors to your office, but here are some creative ways you can increase your audience engagement during the chaos of COVID-19.
1. Convert Events to Online Courses
Never before has there been such wide-spread cancellation of events and conferences. Many of the organizations that aren’t canceling out-right are making their events available to their audience as a livestream. But livestreams don’t always work for your audience’s schedule and can be hard to monetize.
Instead, consider making your planned events into courses through tools like Teachable and Thinkific. You can charge a fee comparable to an event registration and your audience can participate at times that work best for them. You could also make them available for free and include additional resources for your audience. The best part? These courses can keep bringing in cash flow and leads long after the crisis has passed.
Our friends at Author Media have done a fantastic job offering courses for fiction authors. Check out their courses here for inspiration.
2. Create Activities for Kids
It’s not just adults who are shut up in their houses, many of them are finding themselves quarantined with their children for several weeks. These parents are going to need a near-endless stream of activities, including educational material to keep their students on track. The segment of your audience that falls into this category probably doesn’t want to pay full-price for a year-long homeschooling curriculum, but they might gobble-up some short-term material as a stop-gap measure.
Do you have any information that could be educational to a child? It’s not that complex to package it up in a PDF with some recommended activities. If you work in finance, you can create a highschooler’s guide to what’s going on in the stock market. If your business sells camera equipment, you can create an introductory primer for 3rd-5th graders on photography. The topics could literally be about anything, and the parents will be grateful and you will have added value to their lives.
Our friends at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics usually create content for adults, but a few years ago they compiled some of their material into an elective homeschooling course for highschool students which has been very popular. Check it out here.
3. Offer Self-Paced Alternatives
Our lives are currently disrupted to unprecedented degrees, and it can be hard for your audience to participate in their normal commitments, even if they want to do them. Maybe they aren’t coming to your exercise classes, or they can’t keep your counseling appointments. Creating ways for them to still participate in their regular activities, that they can do on their own time and at their own pace, will help maintain a sense of normalcy. It will also keep them in the habit of engaging with you so you don’t have to win them back in a few months.
My brother-in-law is a pastor, and his church (like most) has canceled its services for the next several weeks. While most churches have simply livestreamed their services, I was inspired by his church’s approach of making the service into something that can be self-paced and participatory. The congregants could work through the liturgy, watch the sermon, and sing the songs on their own or with their families at home. Check it out here.
If you operate a gym that has had to close exercise classes, try to create step-by-step workouts with how-to videos to send out to your regular attendees. If you are a mediation coach, try to send your clients new twenty-minute mediations with instructions that they can do at home.
4. Run a Contest
People are working from home, cooped up with their roommates, significant others, and children. They have extra time on their hands, and many of them might be interested in doing something more engaging than re-watching old shows on their streaming services. If you ever considered running a contest, either as a way to engage your current audience or grow it, now is the time!
Ask students to write essays on a topic, have amateur photographers submit photos, or have your listeners submit questions for your podcast. You may be surprised with how many submissions you can get with a relatively small prize on offer. The best part? You then own all of that material and can pull from it to fill your content streams for months.
I helped run a contest for a previous employer asking highschool students to submit videos on certain topics. The total contest cost $10,000, which included the scholarship prizes, the operating costs, and promoting the contest on social media. Well over one hundred videos were submitted, with several dozen being very good. The cost-per-video (less than $100) made my employer very happy.
5. Self-Publish a Book
Authors and publishers I’ve heard from are hoping that the increase in home-bound consumers will mean an increase in reading and book-buying. If you can quickly produce a quality book to self-publish in the coming weeks, it just might be worth prioritizing. The good news is that you don’t have to start from scratch to write a book. If you have interesting content about a single topic scattered across several years of your blog archive, it can be as simple as pulling it all together into a single ebook and just writing a new introduction.
Of course, if you have been working on a manuscript, now would be a great time to kick the writing and editing into high gear. Or maybe you have some material you started a few years ago, but then never returned to? We work with clients every day to help research, write, and edit their books. If that’s you, we can help! Contact us today.
6. Be Heard
Just because people aren't commuting as much, doesn’t mean they are going to give up their podcast listening habits. If you have considered launching a podcast for your organization, but haven’t known where to start, now is the time to get going. You don’t have to re-invent the content wheel, you can start your podcast by discussing the same information that you have on your blog or website.
Another great way to be heard during this time is to convert content you already have into an audiobook. Remember our idea above about compiling a bunch of blogs you already have into an ebook? Well, you can also hire a professional (hi!) to record that ebook into an audiobook. Making that available on platforms like Audible will get your ideas into the earbuds of a new, wider audience.
We published our first audiobook for a client on Audible last year, and we are already working with more clients to convert their most popular titles into audiobooks. Do you have content that can easily be turned into audio? Let’s talk.
7. Be Magnetic
Marketers refer to the “free downloads” offered by businesses and organizations as magnets. They draw people into the engagement funnel and create reciprocity by offering something of value to people, and in return ask for an email address. This may be an inspiration ebook, a pdf with ten free recipes, or a worksheet to see if your finances are stable. A good magnet would also “push” the audience to take the next right step:
- If you enjoyed this free ebook, then buy this paperback book.
- If you liked those recipes, then subscribe to my Youtube channel for more.
- If you completed the worksheet, then call today to set up a free consultation to go over your results.
This kind of content tool is important for thought leaders to use when growing their audience, but it’s also a great way to continue engaging with your current audience. A lot of organizations will make one ebook and then stop, but you should be aiming to create a constant stream of new and relevant magnets. Sending each new one out to your entire email list, not just the new people, will remind them why they like to get your emails.
To see an example, our company is currently offering a free ebook about op-ed publishing, which you can download here.
8. Let the Byline Do the Work
Speaking of op-eds, have you ever written an opinion article for a newspaper? They aren’t that much longer than a blog post, usually 600-800 words, and anyone can submit one. What newspapers are mainly going to look for is a unique analysis of a current event. While it may seem like the only thing in the news right now is COVID-19, that’s not true! Most people are still interested in all the things that were going on before the outbreak: the economy, celebrities, technology, and so on. Oh yeah, and there is also an election happening this year.
If you have a unique take on a topic that is in the news, now would be a great time to write an op-ed on it and submit it to some newspapers. Having articles published improves your standing as a thought leader, opens up more opportunities in the media, and can drive traffic to your website. The latter happens because your article will run with what’s called a “byline,” which will list your name and also usually a quick statement about why you are interesting. Something like:
- Jane Doe is the author of a new book on this same topic.
- Sally Smith is the owner of Smitty’s Photography.
- Beau Buford is an analyst at XYZ Nonprofit.
See that? Now the name of your book, company, or organization is in front of all of the readers of that article, which will inspire some of them to dig deeper and buy your book or look up your company. You can learn more about how to use op-eds to start a conversation here.
9. Be Popular
If you’ve read this far, you may be asking how you can use all of these content strategies if you don’t have a platform at all. How are you supposed to offer an ebook or curriculum if you don’t have a website and an email list? The twist here is that you may not need to build a new website or sign up for an email provider—you may already know someone who has a platform!
If you have friends or connections who run a blog, write for a newspaper, or record a podcast, they are going to need resources to keep producing their content during this time. You can write a guest blog for them, offer your expertise for their article, or be a guest on their podcast, all from the safety of your quarantine. By making the rounds with these other outlets, you can gain the benefits of useful content without having to maintain all those platforms.
For example, I was a guest on a highly-rated podcast last summer to promote the audiobook which we released. I’ve never been more popular in my life than I was for the few weeks after my episode ran. People who just heard me on the podcast were adding me on Facebook! I even had people recognize me at a conference months later just by my voice. It was weird, but I’ve got to say it was effective!
10. Do More of All of the Above
Ok, what if that’s not you? What if you do have all of these platforms up and running? To you, I say that now is that time to ramp up your content production. Instead of running a blog every so often, commit to running one every week for the time being. Instead of relying on your current email magnets, try producing a new one every month.
Now is the time to be visible and engage with your audience well. You can add value to their lives by sending them new articles to read, activities to do with their children, and contests they can participate in to win prizes. This engagement will add value to you too by being front-of-mind with your audience when life begins to return to normal. They will keep shopping with you, donating to your cause, or reading your blog because you were there for them during this tough season.
We are in this Together
It may sound trite, but a beautiful silver lining of this current crisis is that it is forcing us to rely on each other more than any other time in recent history. Your audience can rely on you, and if you need help creating any of this content, we’d like to invite you to rely on us.
We create a wide range of content for our clients every day through our writing, editing, and strategic planning. We are a small, women-owned business and we believe that when you have quality content, you can be positioned as a thought leader, and your brand and business will grow.
To help you get started, we are offering 20% off of all of our services for new clients for the rest of 2020. Contact us today and mention this offer. We look forward to discussing your content goals! Together, we can help you respond to COVID-19 with creativity, not cancellations.
Photo by Sanni Sahil on Unsplash