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Pivots: Over-Rated But We’re Trying Anyway
Last week I wrote about unrealistic pivot expectations. It got more readers than any previous story.
But hey, if a pivot can provide any cash at all while our industry’s normal work is illegal, we’re up for it.
So this week: we go behind the scenes on a modest pivot we launched this week.
When COVID started we set up Scene Change virtual event studios in each of our warehouses in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide, using the tech we normally use for major events elsewhere. You might have seen them if you watched any of the interview shows we did through that period.
Step 1: Consider Who Has Cash Left
Our normal corporate event clients were slashing their spending and ducking for cover. Who might still have a budget?
Idea from one of our staff: schools.
Private schools in particular have not had their cash flows hit quite as hard as businesses. What if we did their end of year events?
Step 2: Why Would They Need It?
It became clear that the second virus wave would put an end to any school events. This was grim news for students, parents and teachers.
They’ve watched this year disappear into a black hole of uncertainty. How do you acknowledge the efforts and achievements of those kids in a way that makes them feel good? What will their memories be of 2020?
Also, every parent knows that school presentations can drag on a bit. Imagine them on regular Zoom.
So we developed a school show concept for the studios: a fitting tribute to the class of 2020 with TV production values. Something that people will want to watch, that can end this stressful year on a high note.
There’s a lot of emotion tied up in this, which really helps with a new product.
Step 3: Move Fast, Show The Product
Within 10 days we had this video ready to go, with simulated students and staff.
It helps if your product is a video, but videos are helpful for any new product. If we described it in words in a sales email, nobody would understand what we were suggesting.
And if you can’t get it across in 60 seconds, it’s too complicated to buy.
Step 4: Commit To The Pivot
A lot of businesses in our field have set up virtual studios. They’re all positioning it as an add-on to their existing business.
We decide to bite the bullet. Our industry is screwed for at least the next six months, probably much longer. Studios are what we do now. Plus the studios have evolved quite a bit.
So we mothballed our entire website with its happy memories of the live event years. And replaced it with one about our pure virtual event studio business. People want a specialist with a track record, not someone from a different field having a crack at it.
We turned the new site around in a week.
There are probably still a few bugs in there that would cause weeks of approval delay in a big company. None of those bugs will block a sale. Every day the new site isn’t up costs us money.
Step 5: PR – Sometimes You Get Lucky
The day after we finished the video, the NSW government banned all school end of year events at their morning press conference.
Media loves a pivot story. But if there’s a legit link between your pivot and today’s news, bonus! By 11am I wrote a story and sent it to the education editor at our preferred mainstream news site.
PR Tip 1: if you have a good story that’s actually news-y, send it to the publication/show you want to be in and say, “I’m sending this as an exclusive, let me know if interested, if I don’t hear back today I’ll try elsewhere.”
Put yourself in the journo’s position, they don’t want to run the same story you sent to a list of 300 others.
Option 1 didn’t respond that day. Next morning I sent it to Option 2. Boom! Journo rang me three minutes later. His editor had just asked him for a story on that topic.
PR Tip 2: mainstream media will not run a story purely about your product. They need someone who does not work for you to tell a supporting story.
In this case, we needed a real school person to discuss their end-of-year events issues. Luckily we had someone, a conference-manager parent whose volunteer gig is the events at her kids’ school. She could bring her kids to the studio for a photo shoot.
The paper sent their own photographer. Job done, media exposure assured.
Step 6: You Can’t Control PR
I’ll spare you the painful details. But in summary, after dicking us around a lot in the lead-up to the shoot, the paper ran a story that:
- Used the worst photo possible of our product, a warm-up shot taken before the studio screens were colour-balanced.
- Opened the story by describing us as a ‘redundant TV studio’, even though I gave the journo the real story in writing and verbally twice after that.
And above all:
- Didn’t mention the name of our business at all.
So the story was completely worthless. Other than being able to write about it here as a lesson to others.
To be fair this is much worse that the typical PR experience. But it helps to remember that PR is not an ad and the content is out of your control.
Thank you, Janette Beedell of Targeted Program Management for all the time you and the kids spent helping us out. At least they have a record of that time they appeared in a metropolitan newspaper.
Step 7: Ask For Help
Obviously, having this platform to blog about your pivot helps. I’ve written 120 stories here and I’ve never directly plugged our business before.
But we’ve got 65 staff we’re trying to keep employed. Also we would really prefer not to lose our homes. So if you know anyone in a school, or a business, that could use a shiny studio event, I’d really appreciate you passing it on.
If you don’t, shares of this story would be great and will help us keep going a bit longer. Thank you.
I write a story like this every Tuesday. Drop your email here to get it in your inbox, entirely free of charge.
Bonus: you get a free e-book on 20 Ways To Improve Your Business Right Now. Practical tips we used to build a $20M national business (or it was until March 2020, now it’s a popcorn stand but we’ll get back somehow).
Also if you liked this why not read 5 Things I Learned At Client University.