Making the Most of Your Online Presence in a Post-COVID-19 World
May 8, 2020
As state governments begin taking steps to re-open their economies and ease social distancing guidelines, the desire to return to normal is palpable. Finally, a chance to get back to what we’re accustomed to! But, the truth is: when we finally step back outside, things are still going to feel different for a while. More than ever, you must be ready to handle all the challenges of building an effective online presence in a post-COVID-19 world.
Our communities are still processing a great deal of residual grief as they continue to cope with loss of income, loss of stability — maybe even loss of life. At the same time, those of us in positions of leadership are feeling the added pressure of trying to establish just what this “new normal” should look like.
- What might re-opening look like for our community?
- When will donations return to the level they were at before the pandemic?
- How can we evolve our online presence to meet people where they are?
Your website and social media channels are sure to be one of your greatest assets as you help establish this new normal for the communities you serve. In fact, what may have been an afterthought before the pandemic could now become a path to growth. Here is our best advice for how to make the most of what you already have.
1. Clarify your online presence to be your next frontier.
Before stay-at-home orders and month-long quarantines, our websites and social media accounts were designed to augment physical experiences. Running a church? Your website probably points people to services and other weekly gatherings. Delivering programs through a non-profit? Chances are you’ve been using your website to connect people to service opportunities or fundraisers.
All of these activities will continue. And they should! But some things should change too, as we collectively adjust to this new normal. Consider these suggestions to ensure your online presence keeps up with the changes at hand:
- Build an online presence that is inclusive of those who are yet unable to return to normal (the elderly, individuals with special needs, those who are still fearful of contact with other people).
- Continue bridging the gap between life at home and life outside. Innovate beyond live-streaming in-person events and consider creative ways to deliver content to your constituents (i.e. downloadable Bible studies or volunteer activities).
- Let your digital capabilities be an avenue through which to scale regularly-scheduled programming. Loop virtual participants into your annual fundraising banquet, for example, or give donors a way to support you from afar through a letter-writing campaign.
What may have been an afterthought before the pandemic could now become a path to growth.
2. Eliminate barriers between your communications team and senior leadership.
If this hasn’t already become overwhelmingly apparent over the past couple of months: your communications team is vital to the success of your organization. Unfortunately, too often they are cut off from key leadership personnel and held back from making the greatest possible impact.
Throughout this COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen countless organizations make special efforts to remove the barriers keeping their communications teams from accessing top leadership. And it’s made all the difference!
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the way our organization is structured inhibiting our ability to act nimbly in times of crisis?
- Are we experiencing a bottleneck in communications because of a lack of access to key information and personnel?
- Have we made our team’s ability to communicate urgent information to our constituents as simple as possible?
3. Hold on to that spark of innovation and creativity.
Many of us are coming out of this crisis with a renewed sense of agility and flexibility. We have a new level of comfort with things we formerly may have thought impossible (i.e. our ability to work from home or work on a shoestring budget).
While not without their challenges, “trials by fire” help us trim the fat off our bureaucratic practices, making us leaner and more effective organizations. And that agility has brought about some amazing examples of innovation. One such example? Boxes of Hope.
Inspired to help support American families struggling in the face of COVID-19, one of our clients, Evangel Church, launched Boxes of Hope. We partnered with them to develop strategy and visual identity for the initiative, launching a fully operational website within one week. Less than a month later, we had over 50 churches nationwide sign up to participate in the program, gaining the attention of a major national news network. (Read the full case study here.)
Boxes of Hope reminded us of what can happen when creativity meets urgency. And now, we ask ourselves: how can we ensure we retain this momentum, even after the danger has passed? What new initiatives can we bring to life?
While not without their challenges, “trials by fire” help us trim the fat off our bureaucratic practices, making us leaner and more effective organizations.
4. Continue telling stories that inspire.
Did you notice that over the past month, when you watched TV or saw a commercial online, most major brands were trying to capture your attention with their stories of empathy in a hurting world? Fortune 500 companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on coronavirus ads designed to make sure you knew we were “all in this together.” Some brands got it right. Others completely missed the mark.
That said, they had something right: story matters. This crisis has reminded us, time and time again, that compassion, service, love and sacrifice are what rise to the surface. These are the qualities that make us human, and it is more important than ever to draw attention to them.
As mission-minded organizations, it is our responsibility to lead the way in telling meaningful, raw, authentic stories. We can’t expect the corporate world to hold onto these values as fervently as we do — after all, love is our life’s work.
As an organization, ask yourself:
- What new stories can we be telling?
- How can we speak to our community in a fresh and poignant way, now that we have a better idea of what they’re going through?
- How can we connect these stories to the transformative impact our organization is having on the world?
This crisis has reminded us, time and time again, that compassion, service, love and sacrifice are what rise to the surface. These are the qualities that make us human, and it is more important than ever to draw attention to them.
Making the most of our new normal
When we entered this pandemic, life was very different. Our communities were different, our economies were different, our priorities were different. Now, as we come out the other side of one of the most harrowing global events in recent memory, it’s time to reset — to take our renewed vision and compassion into the future and make the most of this new beginning.
Refining your online presence is an excellent place to start! After all, what is a new beginning but an opportunity to start fresh and do more?
If you would like to learn more about how Rethink Creative can partner with you to make the most of your online presence, send us a message. We look forward to connecting with you!