A month ago, I was leading final preparations for a 30-city, cross-country tour to uplift stories of people struggling to pay for prescription drugs.
For this advocacy journey, our group planned to partner with patient advocates, public health experts, elected officials, and even a couple of celebrities.
Then, coronavirus arrived on our shores. The clock was ticking to decide if we would cancel the tour or make it work. It was quickly apparent a bus tour to 30 cities wasn’t workable.
Still, the stories we wanted to uplift about the need to expand Medicare and protect the Affordable Care Act remained important to tell — maybe even more. So we pivoted from the bus tour. This is what we’ve learned.
Start strong, finish strong, and keep the drumbeat up.
The focus remained on mobilizing key constituencies across the country and using earned and paid media to uplift stories. With that in mind, we decided to hold a series of 10 online town halls on Facebook — a national digital town hall at the kickoff and conclusion with eight state-specific town halls in between.
Still, we wanted to ensure we were replicating the “national tour” atmosphere as much as possible. This is especially challenging in an entirely virtual environment, so we built a solid foundation of audience for our town halls with organic partner support and paid media—critical to making sure the right targets learn about these events in a crowded digital landscape.
During the live productions, we used live social content on all our handles, email and SMS programs with additional engagement features, direct message group chats, and state-specific advisories to media — just like we would have for a conventional bus tour.
Find a producing partner with an audience, and lock in a time slot.
To produce the shows, we partnered with act.tv to produce the town halls, and NowThis to share the content across their platforms. Our launch town hall received nearly 400,000 views across Twitter and Facebook.
One of our key takeaways from this pivot so far is that keeping a regular show time for every event is crucial to driving attendance, both from press and our target audiences, because it’s easier for attendees to remember one time and location.
Get geographically diverse speakers who will spread the word.
Our speakers included Nancy Pelosi, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and others.
With the buzz we were able to generate with our launch, we are also driving new audiences to new virtual Health Care Voter chapters we created via localized Facebook groups for each of the states in which we will hold virtual town halls.
This mirrors how we might have interacted with people who came to a bus tour event and allows us to host smaller, more informal events like storytelling sessions and postcard writing sessions.
But the best part of this pivot? We’re still experimenting with innovative ways to collect and amplify our supporters’ stories.
Rosemary Enobakhare is the Campaign Director for Health Care Voter, a national grassroots campaign focused on protecting our right to quality, affordable health care by fighting repeal attempts and working to lower prescription drug prices.