Keeping up patron engagement during COVID-19 is certainly an overwhelming task. There are currently countless articles and webinars full of discussion on the daunting task of reopening, adhering to guidelines, and recovering from these unprecedented times. As our doors remain closed for the foreseeable future, people turn to digital-first—for information, engagement, and entertainment. How can you help your audience find what they need at this moment and encourage them to return?

Here are nine things that you can (and should) implement right now to optimize your patron engagement:

1. COVID-19 Global Site Alert Banner 

Chances are you’ve added a COVID-19 update to your homepage to keep your audiences informed. To follow best practices, be sure you also feature an alert banner across your whole site to provide a quick update and link to your organization’s more extensive COVID-19 response page. Keep it brief, bold, and include a call-to-action. This helps to immediately inform patrons and provide the next step for them to stay engaged.

2. Rethink Calls-to-Action

Your patrons want to be informed, engaged, and know how they can help—and they’ve navigated to your site to do so. While you may not have current productions on sale, consider some of these other call-to-action options for your COVID-19 page:

  1. Subscribe for next season – Link to subscription or membership pages
  2. Donate – Include a reminder of your non-profit status and mission
  3. Access digital content – These options may include live streams, video archive content, webinars, you name it! (See tips 4 – 6 to get the most engagement from your content.)

3. On-Account Ticket Exchanges and Donations

If you have online ticket exchange and donation capabilities, include this call-to-action link on your COVID-19 page and throughout your site, so it’s easy to find. If exchanges are currently an analog process, include clear instructions for contacting a member of your ticketing team. If you would like to bring this service online, contact Adage to discuss options for automating.

4. Gate Your Content

Ask your users for a bit more information about themselves before gaining access. Gating is an excellent tool to grow your mailing list for future marketing efforts and fundraising campaigns. As a best practice, ask for the least amount of information possible (name, email, and maybe city), include an email opt-in checkbox, and be sure to let users know how you will use their email address. You can add a skip link for users who are not willing to give an email sign-up. In this case, consider measuring the number of users who make it to the email confirmation page. Here’s a great example of how this gated content could appear:

sfjazz digital membership landing page with jazz musicians and calls to action
SFJAZZ – San Francisco, CA

5. Suggested Donation Forms

As mentioned above, if you have content currently available online, you can set up a donation or pay-what-you-can wall. Another option to consider is a quick-donate one-page form on the actual pages where you share your content. Instead of a traditional fundraising campaign happening in a silo, this approach ties the giving more directly to your content, reaching a larger audience. To make the process easy for users, have the form prefilled with a recommended donation amount selected, and add options smaller than the standard fundraising campaign for accessibility to users who may be financially nervous ($5-$10).

Symphony in background of recommended donation modal increasing patron engagement
Cleveland Orchestra – Cleveland, OH

6. Content Reminders Increase Patron Engagement

We all have an e-newsletter sign-up option. Take it to the next level, with text message notification sign-up. Make any communication opt-in prominent on your site so patrons can easily receive COVID-19 reopening updates. Also, consider new checkbox options for specific interest areas users can subscribe to—for example, if you’re offering virtual content, create an email group for content and special event reminders.

7. Make Sure Your Site Search and Browse Mechanisms are in Good Shape

If you haven’t updated your search in a while, contact us to make sure users are able to easily find all the content you are providing. Now is the time.

8. Connect Directly to the Community in Your Appeal

Remind users of the artists and work behind your organization and connect with them on an emotional level. This is an opportunity to give a unique behind the scenes perspective to your patrons, using photos and videos of your employees and artists to tell your story.

Guthrie Theater's our community landing page with text description and image of dancers to engage patrons
Guthrie Theater – Minneapolis, MN

9. Show How You are Giving Back to Engage Patrons

By giving content to your audience, you are providing an essential service. During this time of uncertainty, everyone is looking for ways to help and engage patrons; however, they can. Whether you are providing streaming content, donating to relief funds, making masks, or simply offering a new view inside your organization, your patrons want to be a part of it!

Less Can Be More

While you can do all of the above, be mindful not to overwhelm your audience. In the current digital environment, people are being inundated with content. Make your message clear and authentic and point your call-to-action toward your most valuable content. Less can be more when it comes to patron engagement during COVID. Let your website work for you to highlight the most important message to your audience.

Adage is proud to support incredible arts and culture institutions in these efforts. Please contact us to schedule a personalized COVID-19 Site Audit or to discuss how we can help you with any of the above strategies.

Leave a Reply