How to fix the worst email I’ve ever seen (it’s from Air Canada’s CEO)
Michael Roy – September 9, 2022
I LOVE to fly.
Even when the inflight wifi isn’t working or my bag won’t fit in the overhead bin, travelling near the speed of sound literally miles above the earth is a truly magical thing.
I realize this isn’t a common sentiment. Most people dread the process. From security line-ups to finding your gate, to navigating through crowds of people as you race between terminals—all to be herded into a metal tube and squished next to strangers before being launched into the air for hours at a time. What’s not to love?
(It’s important to acknowledge that for racialized folks who regularly get searched at the security gate, larger people who are subjected to anti-fat looks, harassment, and discriminatory airline policies, or trans people who may have to use identification documents that don’t match their gender or name, flying can be a complicated and rough experience.)
During a summer of air travel dysfunction (particularly if you have the unfortunate experience of flying through Toronto Pearson Airport), much has been made of the inability of airlines, airports and government to get things back on track.
So what does any of this have to do with email marketing?
Whether you love to fly or have a complicated or even painful relationship with the process, we’ve likely all been affected, or know someone who was affected by the crisis that unfolded in airports this summer.
Email can be an effective tool for marketers. Whether you’re a brand, a non-profit, a political party, or a labour union, emailing your members, supporters, and customers allows you to communicate directly to them in a unique and powerful way.
An email that should have served to repair an increasingly fraught relationship was instead a 750-word long corporate communique
It’s not surprising then that the president of Canada’s largest airline reached out directly to his beleaguered company’s most loyal customers—their Aeroplan loyalty program members—to apologize and begin to rebuild the trust his company has lost.
To my dismay, an email that should have served to repair an increasingly fraught relationship was instead a 750-word long corporate communique.
As I waded through run-on sentences made up of too many $5 words, I didn’t find the personal message from “Mike” that the subject line promised. Instead, I found a series of excuses that tried to lay the blame for Air Canada’s troubles at other people’s feet, and meaningless statistics meant to reassure me that things were getting better.
American email strategist Martha Patzer made the point some years ago that your supporter’s (or customer’s) inbox is a personal space into which you invite brands and causes with whom you want a relationship. Unlike a billboard or a TV ad, you have to invite brands into this space – your space – and with that invitation comes a responsibility for those organizations to build trust with you.
When I write a campaign email for a client, I ask myself “Does this email build trust with the supporter – or break it?” What I’m really asking is: is this message genuine? does it speak to an issue that matters, and does it give the reader a meaningful solution to the issue at hand? Email marketers that answer these questions well know that each time we have the privilege to enter someone’s inbox is an opportunity to deepen our relationship with them.
During a summer marked by thousands of stories of stranded air travellers – many of them Air Canada customers – Michael Rousseau had an opportunity last week to connect with people who were stressed or angry about their air travel experience.
Does this email build trust with the supporter – or break it?
He chose to open his letter by talking about how “conditions in the global airline industry were impacting you” – when he could have built trust by acknowledging how hard this summer has been for anyone who was travelling to see their family and friends for the first time in three long pandemic years.
Instead of using awkward corporate language like “the results are trending positively”, he could have shared a story about one of his front-line team who was above and beyond to help travellers facing delays.
And perhaps instead of sharing stats about “baggage mishandling rates per 1,000 customers”, he could have shared a moment of vulnerability by saying how sorry he was that things were so difficult for so many people – and that he was going to do his very best to get things right as soon as possible.
He might also have closed his email not with an assurance that his company is “eager…to transport me safely”, but instead invited me to imagine my next trip – after these disruptions are over – and to explore some of the places I can fly to in the future.
With municipal elections set to kick off across BC and Ontario in mid-September, candidates for city council, school board, park board, and other municipal offices are looking for free and affordable tools to use to support their campaign efforts.
Thanks to strict campaign finance laws in BC and elsewhere, municipal campaigns have to work with tight budgets – and make wise choices in building their “tech stack”.
At Metric, we work with a wide variety of tools to support our political and advocacy clients. We’ve put together a list of tools that we think municipal campaigns might benefit from this fall, and why we would choose them.
On cost versus usability
There is no perfect tool for campaigning – every piece of technology has benefits and drawbacks.
With that in mind, we have prioritized tools that are free (or quite cheap), with a heavy emphasis on ease of use, and working well with other tools in the list.
In short – campaigns should be in the business of campaigning, not supporting a lot of technology. As a result, we are recommending tools that are simple to use over ones that might be more powerful.
A note on security
With our recommendations for subscription services, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the importance of security. Hacking and data theft incidents are on the rise, and there is a chance that any candidate might be targeted by foreign state actors, criminals who want to hold your data hostage or a rival campaign.
Here are three simple recommendations we would urge every campaign to follow:
Don’t share logins for anything. If multiple people need access to a Twitter account or email tool, use LastPass or a similar tool to create and share a secure password that your team can’t see. Their autofill tool keeps your logins secure – and can even audit your passwords for free.
Use 2-Factor Authentication. This might be the single most important thing you can do. We strongly recommend using Google Authenticator or a similar tool rather than text message 2FA – but this helps to safeguard your accounts in the event that a login is compromised. Set this up on every system and social account as soon as possible.
Lock your devices and always delete downloaded data. Make sure everyone who has access to campaign tools has a password on their laptop and mobile phone, and make it clear that any downloaded list has to be deleted as quickly as possible. Stolen devices account for a large number of security breaches.
Team Internal Communications
Slack (free*). A mainstay of workplace communications, Slack is an instant messaging platform that many organizations and campaigns use to replace the bulk of their internal emails. It’s instant, offers great apps on desktop and mobile, and includes a free tier that you can sign up for instantly. https://slack.com/
Squarespace ($23 USD/ mo, $29.70 CAD/mo). Websites are a critical part of every political campaign – but when your budget is limited, we don’t believe they’re something you should spend a lot of time and money on.
Tools like Squarespace (and Wix) allow anyone to build a drag-and-drop site from any number of beautiful templates – enough to give you a basic candidate bio, some information on your positions, embed a video if you have one, and create volunteer signup and contact forms with zero technical skills. While you can certainly do much more with a website (and Squarespace will allow you to do more), our suggestion is to keep it simple. https://www.squarespace.com/
WordPress ($14 USD/mo, $17.90 CAD/mo). We’re big fans of the world’s most popular website content management system – and use it for many of our client projects. While slightly more complex than Squarespace, WordPress is much more powerful and supports a wide array of themes and plugins (including an Action Network Plugin). WordPress.com offers simple plug-and-play solutions on a monthly plan. https://wordpress.com/
Canva (free*). Canva is a free web-based graphic design tool with a myriad of built-in templates, fonts and images that lets you rapidly create everything from social media content to videos to leaflets without any special software. While not as powerful as Adobe Indesign or Illustrator, Canva offers a very shallow learning curve and will give even the most low-resource campaign great-looking graphics in no time.
Canva also offers a paid tier with additional templates, stock images, and fonts starting at $13USD/mo / $16.60CAD/mo. https://canva.com
Gmail (free). Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Gmail accounts are free, help ensure high deliverability, and you can create an account dedicated to your campaign ([email protected]). Gmail allows you to send an email to up to 500 recipients in a single send (don’t forget to BCC everyone!), and using powerful plugins like Yet Another Mail Merge ($25USD/yr / $31.95CAD/yr) you can get powerful analytics and use custom merge tags from Google Sheets. https://gmail.com
Action Network (free* or $10/month depending on need). Created by the American labour movement to power progressive campaigns, Action Network has expanded its offering significantly in the last few years and has recently launched in Canada in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress.
Action Network unites email marketing, text messaging, sophisticated automation, event management, and sign-up actions into a single platform that easily integrates with popular campaign tools as well as any website platform.
It’s our go-to digital toolset at Metric, and we highly recommend it. The free tier allows you up to 10,000 email sends per month, and the paid tier starts at $10 USD/mo / $12.78CAD/mo) and adds many powerful features.
Nationbuilder (starting at $41 USD/mo / $54 CAD/mo). Launched in 2011, Nationbuilder has become quite popular among Canadian non-profits and political campaigns of all stripes. It was recently used by the Pierre Polievre campaign to sign up tens of thousands of members to the Conservative Party.
The toolset combines a website builder, bulk email and texting, voter contact and donation processing into a single, easy-to-use platform.
Sounds great, right? Well, we have a love/hate relationship with the platform.
The good: it does everything in a single tool. The bad: it doesn’t do any of those things especially well.
Our advice is to choose tools that are easy to use and do a few key things really well. Action Network or Mailchimp are superb email marketing tools. Squarespace is a very simple, powerful website builder.
Text messaging rules are quite different in the US and Canada. Peer-to-peer (P2P) texting took off in the US 6-8 years ago because bulk texting to people who had not opted in wasn’t allowed – and P2P got around this limitation. In Canada, political campaigns are permitted to send automated text messages to people who haven’t opted-in – however, service providers like Twilio, and industry groups like the CWTA may not allow this – so buyer beware.
Action Network ($50 USD/mo / $63.88 CAD/mo). Action Network offers a powerful text-messaging service (they call it mobile messaging) that combines bulk texting, automated follow-up and supporter journeys, and the ability to manage individual conversations with supporters.
GetThru ($100 USD setup, $0.08 USD per message / $127.75 CAD setup, $0.10 CAD per message). GetThru is a peer-to-peer texting platform that enables you to reach out to a large number of supporters or voters to initiate real conversations.
While P2P isn’t required in Canada the way it is in the US, P2P remains a popular alternative for campaigns that have built text messaging lists to use for voter engagement and turnout. https://www.getthru.io/p2p-texting-politics
Community ($99 USD/mo / $126.50 CAD/mo for 1000 subscribers). Community is a new kind of texting platform – specifically created to build community, rather than broadcast your message. Used by many celebrities, Community creates an individual phone number your supporters can text, enables a conversational flow by using AI to cluster messages, and allows you to send a common response.
LastPass.com (free*). With data breaches on the rise, security is more important than ever even on the smallest political campaigns. As you create accounts for you and your team to use, we strongly recommend using secure passwords (NOT FirstLast2022) stored in a secure password management system like LastPass. Their free tier can be shared by multiple staff/volunteers, but we recommend paying the $4USD/mo / $5.10CAD/mo for the family plan that allows up to 6 individual users. https://www.lastpass.com/
FreeConferenceCall.com (free*). While Zoom, Teams, and Hangouts have become the norm thanks to the pandemic, sometimes you just need a simple conference call. FreeConferenceCall.com offers a simple free (or pay what you can) service to keep your team connected in a low-tech way. https://www.freeconferencecall.com/pricing
As we all stumble out of the dumpster fire that was 2021, Canadian unions like the larger country are seeing significant changes across the board. Discussions around fairness, equality, and working conditions are changing the conversation about work in Canada. And in the process, creating a real opportunity for unions to organize new workplaces, and deepen relationships with their existing members.
Here are four trends (or as we at Metric call them: opportunities!) in digital campaigning that we think every union should be acting on in 2022:
Let me start by getting this out of the way. No – you DON’T need to post a TikTok of your president doing the latest TikTok dance trend (in fact: it’s probably more powerful if TikTok content is made by your members!)
But with explosive growth through 2021, and over-represented reach among women, parents, and diverse communities, TikTok is worth paying attention to as a way to engage — and organize.
As TikTok continues its growth in 2022, forward-thinking unions should consider paid and organic opportunities on TikTok to reach members (and potential members). Especially younger Canadians using the platform.
The bottom line: Invest in growing platforms to reach your members — and to organize new ones.
2. Digital organizing
There’s no doubt about it — we’re solidly in the era of digital organizing.
From politics to brand advocacy, organizations are increasingly asking their supporters to take meaningful real-world action for the causes they care about.
Whether it’s AirBNB encouraging its hosts to put pressure on city councils, or the Canadian Labour Congress mobilizing thousands of citizens to meet (virtually) with their members of parliament, campaigns have moved beyond clicktivism and into a space where supporters and activists want a meaningful role to play.
A prime example from the recent 2021 federal election was the NDP’s “Team Jagmeet” program. Volunteers from across the country were invited to join together, connect with organizers, resources and training opportunities in order to campaign — all from their laptops and tablets. This community of volunteers were able to hit the ground running: making calls, sending text messages, and organizing “friend-banks” in key battleground ridings where their efforts would have an impact.
The bottom line: Build ways for your members (and supporters) to play a meaningful role in your campaigns work.
3. Responsive text messaging
As soon as I became eligible for my COVID booster in December, I received a nice text message from the BC government telling me it was my turn and asking me to register.
From COVID vaccines to meal delivery to technical support, people find text messaging to be an easy way to engage with the organizations and services that matter to them. But the impersonal broadcast messages of yester-year no longer cut it. People are demanding relevant notifications and interactive responses to their texting interactions.
One of our favourite new tools for easy, interactive text messaging is the Action Network mobile messaging. It enables you to use an incredibly affordable platform to seamlessly integrate interactive text messaging with your email and advocacy campaigns. You can even build interactive conversations using the Ladders feature.
The bottom line: Your members expect positive, relevant interactions with their union. It’s easy to deliver that by text message.
4. Taking action based on data insights
We’ve been hearing about “big data” for years. From political campaigns to retail, big data is already impacting every area of your members lives.
Unions have long been collecting important data on members — from where they live to their history of engagement with the union — we’ve been trained to keep track of everything in our database. But what good is all this information if we can’t act on it?
This is the year to change that. From using census data to draw inferences about your members (like their age or whether they own or rent their home) to proactively identifying new activists and volunteers, building on your data collection work can have big pay-offs.
The catch? It’s probably time to move to more modern and scalable tools than Unionware or Nationbuilder — and embrace a culture where good data helps you make better decisions.
The bottom line: Employers have used big data for decades to maintain the upper hand. It’s time for unions to level the playing field.
Michael Roy is the Managing Director and Founding Partner at Metric Strategies.
It’s time for you to say goodbye to the Facebook boost button.
Yes, you read that right. And I know what you’re thinking – my members and supporters won’t see our thoughtful and important posts without ad dollars behind them. While there is some truth to that, relying on the boost button reveals a deeper problem: your union doesn’t have a digital ads strategy, and it needs one.
With social media advertising on track to surpass television advertising for the first time in 2022, digital ads should be taking centre stage in every union’s ad strategy.
For many unions, advertising can be an effective tactic ahead of bargaining, or during political action campaigns. TV, radio, and billboards are what come to mind – big, splashy campaigns designed to have a big impact in a short time. In between those big campaign moments, the boost button helps you keep your Facebook content in front of the right people. Right? Actually, not so much. Boosting should never be part of your social media strategy and here’s why:
When you boost a post on Facebook, you’re basically just asking Meta to show your content to your followers. The thing is, good organic content should be seen by your followers anyway and if it’s not, you have a different problem to solve.
There are also some technical limitations to boosting. Specifically, it doesn’t let you do a lot when it comes to targeting an audience and doesn’t allow you to share your content beyond your existing followers. Basically, why would you pay Facebook to do what it already does?
There are some really powerful tools that can make sure your message is heard in a cost effective way, including Google Ads and Facebook Ads Manager. Using these tools, you can create content that is designed to achieve specific goals like signing up for info sessions, subscribing to email lists, taking advocacy actions, participating in contests and surveys and so on and so on.
The truth is, boosting is a bad idea no matter how you look at it. But, there are ways to pull together an effective digital ads strategy with big and small budgets alike.
Every union – be they a national union or a regional local – should have an ongoing digital ads strategy in place, helping to ensure member communications, public engagement, and new member organizing are getting the attention they deserve. Here are three things your ads strategy should include:
[Search ads image]
Google Search Advertising. Your union should be running search ads 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, helping members (and potential members) find you and your outreach team. Search ads are cheap and can be particularly helpful in amplifying your message when your union gets earned media. It’s also a great tool for new member organizing – helping people who want to form a union in their workplace find the answer to “how do I join a union” – and giving your organizing department strong organizing leads.
Hint: Businesses are taking up a lot of space in the paid search arena. There’s a big opportunity for your union to be found and heard from by being present in paid search.
[retargeting ad example image]
Retargeting ads. You probably know what retargeted ads are even if you’ve never heard the term. You know the ones – you visit CanadianTire.ca checking out a tool, and then for days after you see ads everywhere you go for that very tool.
This is retargeting – serving ads based on a user’s past behavior. And they can be a great way to engage your members and supporters.
First, make sure you’re set up with tracking pixels on your union and campaign websites so you can retarget visitors. Whether that’s the union’s member resource centre or an important campaign issue – you want to be able to passively follow up with your people.
Second, consider a low-cost, ongoing retargeting strategy, reminding your members of the resources that are available through the union, and engaging campaign supporters to take the next step for public advocacy.
You can run retargeted ads on nearly any platform – make sure you’re set up to take advantage of this powerful technology.
Lead generation ads. From organizing to political action to staying connected with your members, you should always be building and updating your lists. Lead generation ads are a great way to help do this.
Make sure you always have a variety of action pages – be that a petition, a new member sign-up for info page, or a New/Mode action page. More options mean more actions that allow members and supporters to engage your union.
Every sign-up is an opportunity to grow your public-facing supporter list, or keep your membership data fresh as people move, change cell phones, or get a new email address.
Set a monthly ads budget. Ads can be easy to do – but not every union has the capacity to do this work in-house. Consider talking to your communications or digital firm about an on-going ads strategy to support member engagement, organizing, and political action. Early investments mean that when your union needs to take on a fight – you’re starting from a place of strength.
Savanna Pelech is Metric’s Digital Manager. Michael Roy is Metric’s Managing Director and Founding Partner.
To celebrate International Womon’s Day, the Metric team put together a list of some of our favourite creators, activists, and organizers who are using digital to shape their communities and breathe new life into ‘the personal is political.’
Elaine Su (she/her)
Our Digital Specialist, Savanna, shared with us the Twitter triumph of New Westminster, B.C. resident Elaine Su. For Elaine, providing a Chinese cultural education and grounding for her son is important. For Lunar New Year, Elaine asked her neighbours to decorate their homes in celebration. The result? Her toddler was able to walk through his neighbourhood and see fu diamonds and red lanterns on most doors. Elaine’s community organizing was further amplified over Twitter and it even reached Premier John Horgan who, in response, decorated the B.C. Legislature to celebrate Lunar New Year.
Our Senior Account Manager, Lucy, wants you to follow Anubha Momin on Instagram but if you head over to TikTok, you’ll find that’s where she’s currently making her 🔥 political content. Anubha is a Desi woman living in Toronto after working in the arts scene in Iqaluit, Nunavut, for many years. She uses TikTok trends to talk about issues like equity, identity, and feminism in ways that are relatable, funny, and impactful. Her voice and perspective are helped along by her fantastic digital skills. Her content is super sharp and stands out in a saturated influencer market. Anubha’s content is quality from a production standpoint, and even more so when it comes to her message. Check her out on TikTok or, if you’re not quite ready for all that is TikTok (like Lucy), on Instagram.
More representation from the North! Metric’s own Northern resident and Creative Director Robin is impressed by her nearly neighbour, Alaskan queer trans activist Lillian Lennon. Lillian was only 19 years old when she took on Proposition 1, an anti-trans bathroom bill in Anchorage, as a field organizer with the campaign Fair Anchorage and helped defeat it. Later, Lillian founded Talkeetna Pride to bring Pride to her small hometown. Lillian uses Instagram and Twitter to fight against conversion therapy, further the LGBTQ movement, and provide commentary on the state of America politics.
TikTok “Banjo Baby – Nice Flaco” Remix by Tia Wood
Brenna, Metric’s Account Manager, would like to suggest checking out the “Banjo Baby – Nice Flaco” remix by Tia Wood (@tiamiscihk) on TikTok to discover #IndigenousTikTok and some incredible creators. Tia’s video with the sound has over 18.5 million views and has been used by Indigenous creators to show off masterful transitions revealing powerful Indigenous women in jingle dresses, sealskin jackets, and fancy shawl regalia.
Marika Sila and Shina Nova, and Tia Wood use TikTok to show their Inuk and Plains Cree/Salish heritage, respectively. These women invite their followers into their lives and culture by using TikTok trends in artful and subversive ways. Their content is inherently political and brimming with Indigenous pride. Follow these women to learn and to bask in the energy and power of the Indigenous cultural renaissance.
If you haven’t watched Ziwe’s epic interviews yet, you need to head over to Instagram and check out her IGTV channel. Maureen, Metric’s Content Lead, thinks that Ziwe’s use of Instagram Live may be one of the best usages of this platform she has ever seen. Ziwe, a comedian in Brooklyn, interviews semi-famous influencers and media folk and drills them on their white privilege and internalized racism. Most notable are Ziwe’s interview with cancelled New York Times food columnist Alison Roman and polarizing influencer Caroline Calloway. The interviews are uncomfortable in all the right ways, and deeply insightful. Ziwe pulls off what mere mortals wish they could.
Metric’s Managing Director, Michael, wants to highlight German maker and content creator Laura Kampf. In the male-dominated landscape of YouTube makers, Laura stands out not only for her creative concepts and seemingly endless ideas, but also for her stellar video production skills. Her dog is also quite the star. If you’re looking to switch up your social media routine and start introducing maker content, you should definitely start with a visit to Laura’s YouTube page. I am particularly interested in “DIY Copper Plating… with a tampon,” “Free Floating Nightstand (Oak and Steel),” and “Plywood Credenza with Tambour Doors.”
Metric’s latest recruit and new Director of Campaigns, Leah tells us that Kisha Daniels’ social media accounts are where it’s at. Kisha is one of the founders of Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta, a grassroots, Call to Action organization that works to unite and mobilize Black, Indigenous, QTBIPOC, 2Spirit, queer, and other marginalized groups. Kisha helped organize anti-racism rallies in Red Deer, Alberta and refused to back down when racist, counter-protestors showed up and violently assaulted the peaceful group. Kisha uses social media to organize local activism and community action, particularly in smaller cities and rural communities. Kisha’s Instagram is fresh and full of art, homemade jewelry, and poignant reminders about the persistence of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism on and off-line. But, the best place to follow Kisha is on Facebook where you can find her next kick-ass event and click “going.”
In a year of firsts, the 2020 holiday season was a little… different.
Zoom holiday dinners. Bubbling with your immediate family. The dying days of the Trump administration. It’s certainly been a year of firsts.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is year-end fundraising.
Here’s a roundup of what some of the top Canadian (and international) non-profits have been up to during this critical fundraising season.
I subscribe to a number of non-profit email lists – a mix of advocacy organizations, charities and political parties. My aim is to get a picture of what these organizations are up to – and what’s new and innovative in the email fundraising space.
I’m subscribed to these lists as a “non-donor.” Due to list segmentation or other factors, other individuals may have received different sets of emails in the same time period.
To research this article, I exported all emails received from each of 30 organizations using CloudHQ, and did some analysis of the data.
What I learned
I examined email sends from 30 organizations:
25 Canadian, 3 US, 2 UK
12 political parties, 18 non-political organizations
December 30th, 29th, 28th and 26th were the next most popular send days, with another spike on December 26th.
Least emails sent: 1 (Canadian Taxpayers Federation)
Most emails sent: 63 (Liberal Party of Canada); 2nd most was the Ontario Liberal Party with 47
Average number of emails sent: 15.4
Largest number in a single day by one org: 7 (Liberal Party of Canada on December 31st)
2nd largest number in a day by one organization: 6 (Ontario NDP on December 31st)
Organizations using matching programs? 9
2nd most popular sending day: December 30
I’ve written previously about how political parties have long been trend-setters in the online fundraising space – and it seems they continue to be.
Among the organizations I monitored, political parties in Canada significantly outpace other donor-funded organizations in the volume of email they sent.
The Broadbent Institute campaign was focussed heavily on supporting their direct mail program, with an email and two text messages asking if I’d read Ed Broadbent’s letter. I’d much rather they just asked me for money, TBH!
Nine organizations used donation matching as part of their year-end campaigns. This tactic continues to deliver for organizations, and we’re now seeing more non-profits use it.
This year, we took a moment to look at what mailers and eCRMs organizations are using. Most can be ascertained by looking at email headers and links.
Engaging Networks is gaining a following – particularly in Canada – and BSD Tools remains a popular option for many, despite its impending end-of-life.
As we head into 2021, online fundraising remains a critical and growing channel for non-profits. We still see non-profits playing catch up with the political organizations that pioneered the tactics out of necessity.
What did you think of the 2020 year-end fundraising cycle? Any successes or failures you want to share? Comment below!
For most of the last week, we watched as Democrats from all 50 states and the territories gathered online for their convention.
For the first time in the history of the Democratic National Committee, their convention took place in a virtual space – with a made for streaming event that took the place of a traditional modern US political convention.
Being politically nerdy, we were delighted to have access to every moment from our couches. Here are a few of our takeaways from the virtual Democratic Convention – DNC20 – we’re keeping in mind as Canadian unions and non-profits are transitioning to online events.
1. Live events are better when you have an audience to clap, laugh, and cry
Viewers and presenters, bring your audience into the (virtual) room. For Kamala Harris’s and Joe Biden’s speeches, the DNC connected audience members by Zoom – enabling them to clap at the end of the keynote. While it would have been far more impactful to do this throughout the speech – we take our cues from our peers – it was good to see real people reacting.
You can do this on your next Zoom meeting – try hosting a meeting (which you can do with up to 1,000 people) rather than a webinar.
2. Pre-produce video segments
DNC20 took advantage of numerous pre-produced video segments from presenters and validators speaking from their own homes. Some were professionally filmed, some were recorded on smartphones and laptops. But critically, all of them were real, in the moment, and brought participants from far away into the event whether it was live or ‘canned’.
3. Not just another Zoom meeting
Nothing is worse than an event that stagnates. DNC20 used a new host each night – with the feel of a TV news or talk show host – that helped to bridge segments and keep the event moving. Notably, these weren’t meeting chairs – they were hosts that introduced, extroed, and added colour between segments.
Consider adding a host – in addition, to a chair – to your next Zoom meeting.
4. How nostalgic: they used a real stage for the big speeches
Kamala Harris and Joe Biden delivered their acceptance speeches from a stage in a hall. While we didn’t love the shots of the empty room in front of them, the grandness of the space, the podium, and the stage helped to accentuate the scale of the event and the moment. It brought back some of the feel of a traditional political convention.
In a time where we spend most of our days at our laptops on Zoom calls, consider using a venue – even an empty one – for your next virtual convention or conference. A podium on a stage, complete with lights, can help to recreate some of the energy of a speech in a packed auditorium.
5. Use real people to deliver a real message
DNC20 made extensive use of validators through video messages throughout the program. These validator videos were a great way of bringing real Americans into the convention to deliver the campaign message in a real way.
Consider adding validators – live or pre-taped – to your next event. A medical patient, a member, a student, or a citizen can add a real-life voice to the event. At DNC20, the team produced validator segments that felt real – like a young girl telling the story of her mother’s deportation with images and in her own voice, or Steph Curry and his wife adorably interviewing their own children rather than just endorsing Joe Biden.
Bonus: you can probably get permission to share these segments on your social channels after the fact.
As we all work to rethink how we hold meetings and events, it’s important to think of how we can recreate some of the energy of a live event for our virtual audiences. That’s the whole point, right? Make people feel like they’re part of something great and inspire your members. Look at what other organizations are doing to adapt, and how you can adopt some of those tactics.