Canceled events, closed offices, and a public that is adjusting to a new normal. COVID-19 has quickly transformed our lives, the way we interact, and the way we communicate. As a result, digital communications and even digital organizing will be crucial for organizations in every industry — from campaigns and nonprofits to multinational corporations — who need to effectively engage with their employees, customers, members, donors, and voters.
We’ve been thinking a lot about these issues and working with just about every one of our clients to transition in-person events into digital convenings and move their day-to-day-operations online. Below are some tips and ideas to help weather the coronavirus crisis, continue to get your work done, and achieve your business goals even as life around us changes for the near future.
HOLD LIVE EVENTS VIRTUALLY
- Turn meetings or events into live-streams/webinars. Rather than cancel events or meetings already on the calendar, turn them into a live-stream or a webinar. For a big conference, turn your keynote into a Facebook Live, then use Google Hangouts to conduct breakout sessions, and produce as many training materials like videos and graphics in advance so people can review on their own time. For smaller meetings, webinar tools like Zoom or GoToWebinar are great options to make participants feel included in a conversation. You can still ask for people to RSVP, remind them about the event, and record the webinar to send as a follow-up. Also, remember to cross-post content on your website for people who don’t attend and make sure to add subtitles to any video, in multiple languages if possible, to make it accessible to everyone.
- Keep rural communities in mind. Not everyone across the U.S. has access to high-speed broadband wireless. Whenever you host a live-stream or webinar, don’t forget to include a teleconference number as well, and put a transcript of the conversation on your blog or on Medium afterward.
- Leverage your leadership. A lot of CEOs/presidents/founders will be taking time to make statements. Rather than send out an email, host a live-stream or webinar and tease it in advance across digital channels to help build excitement, engagement, and reach more people. Let these leaders set a good example by sharing how they’re working from home or otherwise acting in the best interest of public health and set them up to record videos from their living rooms.
- Show your leadership in the community. If your organization had to cancel an event but is still paying vendors, if you’ve adjusted your PTO policies, or if you’ve otherwise made sacrifices in the name of public health, let your supporters know. It will grow their trust and pay off in the long term. (And thank you!)
STAY ACTIVE & RELEVANT
- Text a day. Create an SMS program that gives your community an action to take every day, like call your representative to demand they provide paid sick leave to all of all workers, or provide guidance for how your employees can stay at home and be productive. This will help them stay involved and feel engaged.
- Keep content relevant. Remember that your supporters want to understand how the pandemic affects the issues and people they care about. Lighter content that doesn’t relate to COVID-19 might come off insensitive or be ignored. A few tips:
- Humanize your content as much as possible. Reiterate the notion that we’re all going through this together.
- While a lot of your content will be reflective of the mood of society, it’s important to also keep content positive and hopeful when possible to provide your community space to connect in ways that relieve anxiety.
EDUCATE & CONNECT YOUR COMMUNITY
- Share digital best practices. Not everyone is comfortable using Slack, video conferencing services, and other tools that allow us to connect online. Create a toolkit for how to set up and stay engaged online so everyone has the basic skills and information they need to join.
- Create communities. Use texting clients like WhatsApp or WeChat or private Facebook groups to create segmented communities to talk with one another. These communities will prove to be valuable resources after COVID-19 has passed, and they’re worth investing in today.