Q: What have you seen in terms of consequences of the pandemic, particularly on the membership side?
A: We've been actually quite lucky. I will give praise to our CEO who called it very, very early. We actually locked down early, probably a month before everybody else did. We literally pivoted the business. Our CEO said, "this is going to hit the sector hard, it's gonna hit the UK hard". She's one of the few people that did predict this is going to go on for a long time, she said “this could be a year, at the end of it, we need to be relevant”. We literally paused our strategy and pivoted the whole team. We restructured the team overnight and came up with this concept of ‘Stronger Together’, which was much more of a philanthropic approach and through leading by listening we went out early. We’re speaking to our members, we’re putting out surveys. We asked ourselves “what's the issue? What are we trying to solve?”. Factors like the lack of money for self-employed, people not understanding the furlough scheme, not understanding all of the policies and not understanding the latest guidance from the government; very early on, we started to get a feel of what the sector actually needed.
“Pivoting the business to provide the services our sector needed throughout the Pandemic made us more relevant.”
We pivoted the business and basically provided those services. Every time the government makes an announcement, we're right at the forefront, we're talking to DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) , we're getting the interpretation. We were able to publish the guidance in layman's language within 24 hours. We'd then hold a Facebook seminar and go through the guidance and we ask questions. It's made us more relevant. Our profile in the sector has never been bigger, which has allowed us to probably stay steady with membership. We've lost some, and that's understandable. There are estimates that 20-30% of people had actually left our sector, that has a knock on effect.
We pivoted and kept ourselves relevant. The buzzwords that I haven't used yet, but I'll probably be using from now on, is that we've added value. We added value to the whole sector. Suddenly people who didn't know about us went "oh my God. I can't live without you, you've done a great job". We've been filling up with as many new members as we've been losing. We've been fairly steady and I think it's giving us a new way of thinking, of moving forward. Again, we want to take what we've learned in terms of that approach, in terms of how we can build on that. How can we support the sector getting back on its feet and then make that relevant?
We built a Facebook group from zero to over 5000 inside in a matter of months and it keeps growing. It's now suddenly become a real key communication forum for us despite we've never used it before. How do we grasp webinars? How do we keep that engagement going? It's been a great learning exercise for us but I think we've come out of it pretty strong.
Q: How have your communication channels changed, have you adopted more digital techniques?
A: Yes, I would say so. I'd say we've had a greater emphasis on social media. Facebook has probably been our biggest win. At some points, we were running weekly webinars for different partners, and we're going to continue to do monthly webinars. We have always been pretty strong on our Twitter and social media, but again I'd say our digital communications has advanced. It's an area where, based on what we've learned, we're going to really feel we need to invest further into that area and grow our capability and capacity to do more.