Lookout Local, an emerging network of local media outlets, launched its first digital publication in Santa Cruz in November 2020. Their goal is to give the Santa Cruz community important information that they aren’t necessarily getting elsewhere. Deputy Managing Editor Mark Conley says their biggest challenge has been building an audience from scratch.
The publication created a pretty robust membership model that included email newsletters and social media, but Mark says they wanted to meet people directly where they are. So, when they saw texting was a good way to build engagement and loyalty they launched two Subtext campaigns, one for COVID-19 related updates and another for breaking news.
In order to get subscribers, they advertised the new service to their newsletter audience and created a page on their website where readers could easily sign up. Mark says they also found that Subtext’s keyword signups, which allows someone to instantly subscribe by texting a unique keyword, helped grow their audience as well.
When writing texts, they try to be concise and engaging. During the height of the pandemic, Lookout Santa Cruz asked subscribers to send in questions for public health officials and got several responses. Mark says that texting a breaking news update about an earthquake shows their community that Lookout Santa Cruz is “really on it,” which in turn helps them build brand awareness and set expectations in their community.
“I think that's where you win the most with audience development and text is that, as long as you are quick, you still can't afford to be off your game, but if you're fast enough, you're sort of validating what is still top of mind to people,” Mark says.
Mark says Lookout Santa Cruz is going to continue experimenting with texting, which includes transitioning from COVID-19 to local events. Santa Cruz has opened up, so the publication has started texting event roundups alongside their BOLO entertainment email newsletter.
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