COVID-19 stories: Marketers are using this time build community

The massive disruption of COVID-19 is forcing many of us to rethink everything we do. Our community has been sharing their ideas on how to manage this overwhelming situation.

Here is another installment (read more here and here) of encouraging stories from marketers who have been adapting to our current reality.

Raise awareness about our customers’ biggest needs

The Challenge: As a talent acquisition suite, we help customers attract and hire the best talent and engage and retain their top employees. Our customers are either overwhelmed by huge, urgent hiring needs right now (like our healthcare and e-commerce customers) or they’re having to pivot and support their newly-remote internal teams and identify how they can be used for evolving business roles. Both need our help in ways they haven’t before.

The Solution: For our customers with urgent hiring needs, we started a blog we’re updating regularly listing job openings for our partner organizations and anyone who comes across the blog. For our customers who are pivoting to a remote workforce and new internal mobility efforts, we’re sending them digital e-cards to help with their remote journeys and information about nurturing and growing their current employees for new responsibilities and opportunities.

The Impact: While we were initially planning to update our “Companies Hiring” blog weekly, we’ve received so many requests from our current customers and readers of the blog that we’re updating it daily. We’re in the process of starting to send the e-cards, but our first emails prepping our customers for their gifts have yielded a lot of great engagement around starting an internal mobility strategy meant to serve the organization and recognize and reward great employees.

– Ashly Stewart is the Content Marketing Manager at Jobvite

Securing press coverage during COVID-19

The Challenge: Almost all of our clients come to us for digital PR in some capacity. When COVID-19 began to dominate the news cycle seemingly overnight, it became extremely challenging to secure coverage in any vertical. Many publishers were pulling reporters off of their typical beat (e.g. CBD) for an undetermined amount of time just to keep up with COVID-19 stories.

The Solution: We had to take a multi-faceted approach. For campaigns that were already produced, we really leaned into any COVID-related angle that made sense in order for the content to seem more timely to publishers. If campaigns were mid-production or still in a brainstorming phase, we altered the concept to include a concrete tie back to COVID (primarily in verticals like finance and health). Lastly, we expedited campaign production of brand new COVID-related ideas so that we could help our clients take advantage of the current news cycle.

The Impact: Using our last approach as an example, we were able to secure coverage on top-tier publications (e.g. Marketwatch) for a sleep-related COVID campaign. It’s also reaffirmed the publishers don’t necessarily need grand campaigns in order to cover them – it’s all about timeliness. Lastly, it’s been inspiring to see our team come together and completely pivot away from how they would normally produce and promote content in order to adapt to the changing news landscape. We’ve given them even more freedom with process and trust in owning their work end-to-end, and seen positive results.

– Ryan McGonagill is the VP of Services at Fractl

Trivia, happy hours and games – keeping company morale high

The Challenge: Due to COVID-19, our company is even more spread out than ever with 100% of our employees working from home. It’s hard enough to connect a cohesive team with offices across the country, this situation makes it even harder to stay connected.

We are also seeing companies step back and really taking a deeper look at marketing spend. With economic uncertainty, it’s difficult to justify ANY spend right now. However, it’s proven that brands that continue to advertise during recessions bounce back faster and have a quicker recovery than brands that halt advertising.

The Solution: To better connect our staff, each day we host Zoom breakfast, lunches and even happy hours! We figured the best time to bond with our team is over a meal — even if we aren’t in the same place! We use this time to talk about what everyone is going through and not focus on work. It helps us bond as a team and stay more connected. Our CEO likes to give us trivia quizzes or have some kind of interactive team building activity once a week during these virtual meetups.

We are also continuing with fun cross-company morale-boosting activities like digital trivia games and competitions —

Rather than forcing the offices into Pictionary each month, everyone is split into one of four Houses (think Hogwarts). CEO & Co-Founder, Jeremy Fain, acts as Cognitiv’s ‘Dumbledore’ deciding each month how the teams would compete and the points up for grabs. Every House had to come up with a name (Related to Neural Networks of course), their traits and design a crest. The “Houses” were established a couple of years ago but the company felt it was especially important to maintain this team building initiative even in a virtual setting.

The houses and traits are:

  • The Nodes of Ranvier – creative, rigorous and bold
  • The House of Rage Against the Machine Learning – Confidence, Teamwork, Aggressive
  • The House of Backpropagate That Azz Up – Explores & Exploiters, Bimodal Distributors, Deep Embedders
  • The House of Gaussbusters – Godly, Fearless, Humanitarian

We are also implementing several new resources to get clients up and running faster, such as webinars, learning opportunities and giving them hands-on resources.

The Impact: Our staff is in a great place — we all feel supported and connected even though we are spread out all over the country. We are even hiring people right now so that is helping keep us motivated as well! We just brought on 3 additional people in Seattle and are planning to add several more in our New York office.

Our clients have been appreciative of all of the “extras” we have implemented also.

Justine Frostad is the VP of marketing at Cognitiv

Keeping community through digital agility

The Challenge: The Benefitfocus One Place Conference is the culminating moment for our community. As customers, partners and associates, we come together to experience what being a part of Benefitfocus is all about – from our corporate values to our technology. The annual event does more than educate our audience on our solutions, it brings everyone together for deep conversations around industry dynamics and innovative solutions to create a better employee experience.

But, with the current situation, we soon understood that meeting in person in March wouldn’t be possible. For the well-being of our community, we had to figure out how to bring the spirit of the event into a virtual environment.

The Solution: We assembled a dedicated team to transform our in-person event into a digital one. In just eight business days, we worked fast and alongside ON24 to make the digital event possible.

Together, our agile team delivered an engaging and inspiring virtual conference. And, for the first time, all the content created during the event is available to our audience on-demand. We produced our key sessions in highly produced videos to ensure our message and delivery was in-line with the live event, only from the safety of our community’s home offices. This experience now acts as an all-year catalyst for ongoing awareness, lead and demand generation and content creation. And, all from the same event.

The Impact: By pivoting to a digital-first event strategy, our virtual conference saw a 200% growth in attendance and engagement from registration for the physical event. The ON24 platform continues to deliver a robust look at our customers’ digital body language and overall immersion in the event. It’s compelling and exciting to report metrics that go way deeper than just attendee numbers to our executives. We know a majority of attendees gave the experience a high rating. We also know, down to the minute, what content they consumed and which sessions had the most people raising their virtual hand to learn more.

While we missed gathering together in person, virtualizing our event has proven that digital elements and strategies improve the audiences’ experience. We are challenging ourselves to continue to design integrated event strategies to keep our marketing and community going strong, now and in the future.

– Hunter Smythe is the director of events marketing at Benefitfocus

Be available on the weekends

The Challenge: The COVID-19 situation is causing a disruption in all of our schedules right now. Clients are overwhelmed and don’t know who to turn to.

The Solution: Clients need to feel like they can count on you. They may have urgent questions come up on the weekends that need answering. By allocating an hour or so on Saturdays and Sundays to client work you are showing your clients you are there for them when they need you the most.

The Impact: Incredible trust-building opportunity.

– Gabriela Covay is the owner and CEO of Bright Valley Marketing

Share your own story

Share your creative thinking around how you’re pivoting and managing your work right now. It can be client-facing or something you’ve tried with your staff. We’ll round up some of the best and share them. Submit here >>

About The Author

Wendy Almeida is Third Door Media’s Community Editor, working with contributors for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. She has held content management roles in a range of organizations from daily newspapers and magazines to global nonprofits.

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