I highly recommend watching Collen Dilenschneider’s Know Your Own Bone site over the course of the Covid-19 epidemic. Every Monday she is posting data about intention to visit cultural entities in as the epidemic unfolds. She says her company is receiving data in real time. I am surprised to learn people are taking the time to respond to surveys.
In any case, it appears people anticipate going to cultural entities in the next 3-6 months. That didn’t significantly change between March 16 and March 23, but she warns we may see a shift in the next week as the reality of the situation begins to sink in.
With this in mind, she is cautioning people against letting their marketing efforts flag during this period of time and offers suggestions about how to shift the focus of those efforts from “visit now” to keeping yourselves on people’s radar.
Because there can be pretty large time gap between when people decide to visit an entity and when they take action to visit, marketing you do now is informing people who will arrive months down the road. She also points out that it often costs more to re-engage audiences than it is to retain them.
At the end of her post, she offers 4 suggestions for re-focusing marketing efforts:
A) Strategic deferral in paid media to local audiences
In response to the observed decline in immediate-term intentions to visit among local market members, it makes sense to selectively defer campaign spending for paid media that targets audiences with relatively short lead times….
To be clear, this does not at all mean ceasing all marketing and not communicating with local audiences. It means strategically deferring select paid media efforts for this market, and holding these funds in abeyance for deployment at a more opportune moment.
B) Replace investments aimed at immediate activation (“visit now!”) and focus instead on maintaining top-of-mind status and broad awareness
…However, the current environment suggests more of a “maintenance” approach that intends to preserve awareness of what your organization does and stands for in order to keep your cultural institution at the forefront of people’s minds.
Unaided awareness and top-of-mind metrics are measurable –… Organizations want to be ready to immediately reactivate audiences when they reopen, and that means maintaining high levels of awareness and being top of mind in the meantime.
C) Meet people where they are right now: Online
There is a terrific opportunity for creative connection right now that proves relevance far beyond your walls – from providing resources for parents aiming to home school or keep children busy, to conducting events with staff experts on social media, to sharing penguins exploring their empty aquarium to give a sense of what’s still happening behind the scenes. The opportunities for creative and engaging ways to execute our missions and connect with our communities are seemingly endless. They are a good idea right now.
Finding ways to execute missions, support communities, and stay top of mind are strategic initiatives that position organizations to better succeed when their doors reopen.
D) Be responsive – not reactive
…This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions and short-sighted “gut instinct.” This is the time to think through opportunities and the current condition so that cultural entities are in a position to succeed when their doors reopen. This may be especially difficult as executives field calls from fear-driven board members demanding speedy, unfounded, and feelings-based actions.
In regard to marketing investments during this time, an immediate instinct may be to achieve significant short-term savings. Some may even consider going dark. Be careful. Data suggest that doing this without considering how these cuts are likely to increase costs and reduce attendance revenue upon reopening may be a financial problem rather than a solution.
Your organization has likely worked hard to show how you elevate the community. You’ve cultivated a level of awareness. You’ve worked hard to achieve top-of-mind status for certain audiences.
Now is not the time to let people forget that your organization exists.
Now is the time to show people how effectively you stand for your mission and your community – both when your physical doors are open and when they are closed.
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