Local publishers harness video to appeal to supporters during COVID-19


By Emilie LutostanskiDirector, Local News Resource Center

Local news publishers are using simple video messages to rally support around their fundraising and consumer revenue campaigns during COVID-19 — often yielding new engagement, reach and contributions.

It is clear video is an increasingly effective medium to convey not only appeals for support but also genuine gratitude to donors, members, and subscribers. Though the messages vary, each is personal in a way that resonates with the audience without cannibalizing other consumer revenue efforts.

Publisher David Sommers recently appealed to readers of the Long Beach Post, a free daily, digital publication covering life in Long Beach, Calif. About a year ago, he said they began a membership program to crowdfund its news operations which serve a city of nearly 500,000 people.

Then in April, Long Beach Post joined the COVID-19 Local News Fund, established by the 501(c)(3) Local Media Foundation to support vital and educational local coronavirus reporting during the pandemic. So far, the Long Beach Post fundraising campaign has raised more than $11,000 from 185 supporters for ongoing local coronavirus coverage.

“This was a new way for us to solicit community support, maybe from people who were waiting for a tax deduction benefit, and it’s been very successful without taking away from growth in our membership, which has also skyrocketed throughout the coronavirus crisis,” Sommers said.

In a dynamic video appeal, Sommers created direct, personalized and effective video to connect with readers about the economic realities of being an ad-supported business during COVID-19. The video encourages fans to support coronavirus reporting through the COVID-19 Local News Fund program because of the value it brings the community. Posted to Facebook ahead of Giving Tuesday in early May, the video performed about 8x better than average, ranking among the publisher’s collection of top creative, entertaining, engaging, and informative social video posts.

 

The publisher’s video appeal is an example of how easy it is to create an effective, personal video message that drives new audience engagement and support.

“We don’t need a lot of production value to convey what we are doing. We’ve found that’s actually counterproductive,” Sommers said. “The more razzle-dazzle that we put into things, the less that it translates into support because we want to communicate that we are out doing the work, we are out serving our community, rather than editing videos.”

Sommers said to make the video, he affixed his iPhone to his desk and read from a scrolling document on his computer while speaking to the camera. The video also shows scenes from around the city since the pandemic and the text comments left by supporters of the campaign.

“We’ve really appreciated through this crisis that it’s not just enough to do the journalism, we have to explain the journalism and show our community the work that goes into it,” Sommers said.

Here are a few more examples of local media organizations that have published video appeals and thank-yous for supporters during COVID-19.

Sonny Messiah-Jiles, publisher of The Defender in Houston, Texas, has used a series of video messages to convey to supporters the importance of their contributions during COVID-19 and to thank them for donations. The first video appeal was posted to the publisher’s COVID-19 Local News Fund page as well as YouTube and Facebook. Since launching in April, the Defender has raised more than $100,000 for coronavirus coverage.

 

The Day, based in New London, Conn. has raised more than $70,000 through the COVID-19 Local News Fund and has paired the messaging for the fund with its campaign for subscriptions. In a series of “How you can support The Day” videos, staff members have been recounting the coverage that has been important to the community and sharing personal stories about their experiences that resonate with readers.

 

The AFRO in Baltimore, Md. has raised more than $24,000 through the COVID-19 Local News Fund. Publisher Toni Draper has used a personal outreach video to share information and messaging about the fund, and also got D.C. Editor Micha Green on board to record a call for donations.

 

Herbert L. White, the editor in chief of The Charlotte Post, a newspaper serving the African American community in Charlotte, N.C., shared a personalized video on its COVID-19 Local News Fund program page.

Videos are a way for the leaders and staff of news organizations to connect their news coverage and brand with personalities and stories that resonate with the audience. This is particularly important when asking something of the viewer — such as financial support, in any form.

Have a great publisher video appeal for support or thank-you message to share? Email us: info@nulllocalmedia.org