For any business, there are periods of steady growth between seasonal plateaus. An audience might be less willing to pay a publication, for example, while recovering from big expenses (winter holidays) or because their focus is someplace else — likely a summer destination.
Summer can be especially challenging with schools closed and holidays on the horizon, readers take a pause from their daily lives. While this may mean a drop in attention paid to local news, it also provides numerous opportunities to meet and engage readers in a different, more playful and laid back manner.
To help you overcome that summer lull, we gathered some examples of creative ways to increase brand awareness, connect with your readers and create a welcoming environment for your local audience.
Give your readers a tour of their own town
People have more free time during the summer, so why not invite them to become tourists in their own city? Peterborough Currents, one of our partner publishers, recently launched the Creek Week Walking Guide, an email course that shares self-guided walks through Peterborough’s many creeks.
We absolutely love Creek Week, not only because it gives readers a chance to appreciate nearby nature spots, but also because it clearly represents the role Peterborough Currents hopes to play in the community as a passionate, committed outlet that knows and loves every nook of their city.
Increase local brand recognition through a fun swag campaign
While it’s natural to be weary of retail, swag offers a fantastic opportunity to increase brand awareness and give your readers a sense of belonging. Think about it: who doesn’t love a fun tote bag — especially one that represents something we believe in?
Offering a piece of swag as an incentive for your supporters gives them an opportunity to also show the world they believe in your journalism. And, as a valuable extra, it generates added interest in passersby who notice your brand and were previously on the fence about financial support.
Here are some tips for using swag to meet your audience goals.
Spend some time with your readers
After two long years of spending time mostly inside, people are feeling isolated from their communities. With the return to public outings, it’s a great opportunity to position your publication as a community builder by hosting public events that celebrate your city and the people who make it great.
There are many different things that can be done: celebrate a local artist and share some DIY knowledge like this Tone Madison tie-dying party, or you take over a public space to facilitate connection and celebration like at The Kansas City Defender’s historical basketball park takeover.
Inform their summer decisions
Crafting the perfect summer is a delicate science. For all the relaxation and enjoyment, there’s actually a lot of planning and decision-making. So why not become an ally in the process? You can help your readers plan their summer by reviewing and comparing summer camp options or introducing the local pool staff.
You can even take it one step further by asking your readers about their summer information needs. Our friends at The Discourse, for example, asked their readers to vote for three food trucks to review over the summer. A fun campaign like this one can help your outlet feel more approachable and relatable, while boosting engagement and leave your readers hungry for your reporting.
Give your social media following a boost
When organic growth starts to slow down, it’s always a good idea to give your site a quick boost through paid campaigns. While this may sound overwhelming, there are actually ways to execute these campaigns without too much capital by truly focusing on gaining the right followers — people who will resonate with your outlet’s mission and want more of your reporting.
Here’s a detailed guide on how The Resolve gained a 1,000 new (engaged) Instagram followers on a small budget.
Create a Facebook group to nerd out about your town
Most of the time, local indie outlets act as cheerleaders for the communities they serve. Hyper-localized content not only brings readers a deeper sense of what is going on in their communities, but it also informs them about local businesses to support and interesting events to attend.
One way to reinforce your outlet’s presence in the community is to create a Facebook group in which people can announce events happening in town, recommend their favorite restaurants and share thoughts on the latest art exhibitions. Here’s how Plano Magazine used a Facebook group to get to know local foodies on a personal level.
Get some help from audience growth experts
We would be remiss not to mention how much of a difference our team’s work can make in overcoming the summer lull. We know that indie outlets are mostly run by small teams of journalists that rarely have the capacity or bandwidth to focus on marketing tactics, and that’s why so much of our work at Indiegraf focuses on audience growth support.
If you have started to notice a plateau in your outlet’s organic growth, now is the time to reach out to Indiegraf! We can help your publication add capacity, lower costs and create new revenue opportunities so you can focus on what’s most important: serving your community with quality journalism.