It’s safe to say that we probably won’t remember 2020 for all the good times we had. Between the pandemic and the politics, there is a growing temptation to find a remote cave and hide there until 2021. Even the people not inclined to self-exile are less likely to participate in leisure activities.
This creates a challenge — how do you approach recreation marketing in such a subdued environment? How can you pivot your organization to survive or even thrive in a radically new situation?
Get the expert marketing advice and tools you need to increase visits and word of mouth.
Thankfully, even with the complications brought on by COVID-19, the public appetite for culture and entertainment remains strong. The following tips will help you tap into that demand and find safe ways to keep your entertainment or recreation business running during the pandemic.
1. Plan live events with care, integrating new safety policies
Many states are gradually reopening recreation and performance spaces. Look into the guidelines for your state and check back frequently for updates on this evolving situation.
Your business may need to cap attendance and/or enforce distance and mask policies. Think about how best to work with these policies to ensure a safe experience for all. Do you need to adjust the staging or sound of a program? If you live in a state with no mask protocol, should you make it a requirement for attendance or offer a small discount to encourage attendees to wear one?
Reopening is a big undertaking. If you’re planning or considering this move, check out this Marketing Guide for Businesses Reopening During Coronavirus.
2. Take live events online
Stream sporting events. Record concerts and shows. Offer new backstage access to museum collections.
We’re more than six months into this pandemic, and there’s now a library of content on how best to turn live events into virtual ones. There are specialized tips for concerts, theater productions, local sporting events, and more.
While you might want to capture the ephemeral quality of live performance through live streaming, you should consider recording your event and making it available for purchase at a later date. There are multiple benefits to selling digital products through an online store, including:
- An adaptable supply
- No storage concerns
- Rapid delivery
- Lower costs compared to physical products
- A passive source of income for your entertainment business
In addition to making previously planned content available online, add new, specialized content. Set up live events with Q+A sessions or discussion groups. Record virtual tours of your venue and make them available on your website. Do all that you can to reward patron loyalty in your time of crisis.
3. Make sure your website is all that it can be
With so much of life taking place online, it is more important than ever to have an engaging and optimized website.
Your website should be:
Customers come to your website with questions — make sure you answer them! At a bare minimum, your website needs:
- A Homepage
- An events digest page that lays out your season calendar
- Dedicated events landing pages for everything on your docket.
- A Contact page
- A means of growing your email list
Add sign-up forms to your website. You will have the most success if you offer something in exchange for a person’s email address, such as a discount or exclusive content.
Up to date
All of the information on your website should be kept current, especially during the pandemic. This may require frequent updates and revisions to existing plans for reopening or virtual content development. These days, the first question people have when researching a non-essential business is simply, “Is it open?” Answer this question clearly on your homepage. You should also provide information about safety measures, both immediate and planned.
Take this opportunity to upgrade your images and layout to make the most attractive website possible. Think of your website as an open house party you’re hosting. Consider flow, decor, spaces to socialize, and fun content. You want to encourage guests to participate in the event, so plan with this goal in mind.
4. Add a blog to your website
The pandemic is the perfect time to start a blog. Not only can it help you increase organic traffic to your website, but a blog also allows you to stay in touch with customers without physical contact. Starting a blog is easier than you might think, and there is plenty of potential content for you to share.
A few ideas:
- Behind the scenes pictures and reports.
- How to’s for amateur musicians, thespians, and athletes
- Interviews with members of your organization
- Dramaturgical content (adapting a story to actable form)
- Music or sports history
- At-home activities to supplement homeschool coursework
- Different ways to support your organization
Try to add a new post at least once every week. Most blog-writing tools will let you write and schedule multiple entries at once. You can also outsource content creation to different employees who have something to contribute in their area of expertise.
5. Communicate with your patrons
Don’t let your community forget about you. Develop a strategy to sustain engagement during the pandemic.
As you craft your communication strategy, consider the following:
Who do you need to contact? You should be connecting with multiple groups during this time. A regular newsletter that covers the most important developments is a great place to start, but you should have more specific lists to communicate with different subgroups. Donors, volunteers, employees, patrons, etc. The exact lists will depend on your organization, but you can use the Crisis Communication Tips for Nonprofits article for a helpful breakdown.
What do you need to inform or ask of each of these groups? Your content should be targeted to your audience. Few people will take the time to read a lengthy email, so stick to the essentials.
Call to action
Each communication should include a call to action. What do you want people to do immediately after seeing your message? Sign up for a list? Buy merchandise or tickets? Donate? Contact you with questions or leave a comment on a post?
Focus on one call to action. In something like a newsletter, you might need to juggle multiple purposes. However, most messages should center in on a single desired outcome.
In choosing which channel to use, consider audience, content, and goal. Some ideas will be best for email and others will work better for social media. When it comes to social media, you should refine further depending on the demographic you want to engage.
Even after you open, remember that some of your clientele may still need to self-isolate due to their own risk factors. They will appreciate continued communication that takes their needs and interests into account.
Don’t stop there
These best practices are just the starting point. See our free ebook The Download: Making Sense of Online Marketing for Entertainment, Arts and Culture. The Download will help you develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to take you through the pandemic and beyond.
Taking the appropriate precautions to protect your staff and patrons is exhausting, but the work you put in now will pay dividends long after the end of the pandemic. Instead of simply waiting for the crisis to be over, take the opportunity to shore up your online presence, optimize your recreation marketing strategy, and protect your patrons.