How do we continue to create connection during a global pandemic? It’s been approximately 700 days since our individual and collective lives changed. As an experiential firm that specializes in live engagements, more than half of our work in the before times (pre-March 2020) consisted of face-to-face campaigns, in-person events, and high-touch objects. A quarter of our team worked in the field; we had a fleet of vehicles on the road; assets were in use by partners across the country.
So, when COVID-19 emerged, we had two choices: wait or innovate. Under unprecedented circumstances and facing so many unknowns, Montage adapted, ignited new ideas, and unlocked unique opportunities to help our clients, colleagues, and communities stay connected.
Two years on and a lot of learning behind us, we’re now cautiously optimistic about a light at the end of the tunnel. Some of our in-person engagements are set to resume in the spring. But that doesn’t mean that our expanded set of capabilities is going anywhere. Rather, we are more focused than ever on continuing to leverage all the tools in our toolbox to drive and deepen connection.
This quarter, we’ll explore what Montage is doing in three categories of creating connection: for our clients, across our team, and within our community. We’re getting started today with four fresh ways we’re helping clients connect with the audiences they want most.
As experience experts, the pivot to virtual events felt like a natural first step when entering the pandemic era. We recognized from the outset, however, that connecting via screen demands more enthusiasm from presenters, more invitations for dialogue, more attention-grabbing activities – really just more of everything. That’s exactly what we brought to the All of Us Research Program’s Virtual Ambassador Program.
Initially intended to be a short-term substitute for the All of Us Journey national mobile tour, this interactive webinar series has become a core component of our work for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Program. The virtual events bring awareness, education, and engagement to underrepresented populations in biomedical research (ethnic minority, LGBTQIA+, rural, seniors, people with disabilities).
Within the Virtual Ambassador Program, Montage develops toolkits addressing key topics and key demographics. The toolkits include the presentations themselves, as well as scripts for presenters and promotional materials. Most are developed in both English and Spanish. Creating subject-matter, cultural, and linguistic relevance has been critical to building meaningful connections.
We’ve also seen what a difference gamification, animation, pre-recorded video, polling, and other interactive methods make in enhancing the audience’s experience and keeping them engaged. So, we apply them liberally. Zoom fatigue is real, but we’ve learned how to beat it.
As lifelong students of consumer behavior, we understand that people absorb information in different ways. Our challenge as marketers is to facilitate awareness and education in the most effective way possible. While that sometimes means leveraging traditional marketing methods such as print materials and paid advertising, we’ve seen tremendous upside in using interactive tools like augmented and virtual reality, 360° video, and digital applications and games.
Augmented reality (AR) emerged as a star during the pandemic. Using only their handheld devices, it allows users to access immersive experiences previously reserved for in-person events. Perfect for a period of social distancing and beyond, Montage has increasingly turned to AR in our work.
One example is the Traffic Box Community Connector project. The project, which invited artists in Seattle and Denver to submit designs for local public utility boxes that reflected the theme of health research, centered around a custom augmented reality (AR) experience. A QR code was added to each of the winning designs. When scanned, it launched a 360° educational AR experience directing users to learn more and enroll in the All of Us Research Program.
By merging the public art with immersive AR, the Traffic Box Community Connector project helped All of Us establish relevance and create connection in Seattle and Denver. Thus far, the traffic boxes have generated 3,000 landing page visits, 1,500 QR code scans, and more than 20 All of Us Research Program account creations and enrollments.
Remote Video Production
Video is the most popular form of digital media, with people watching an average of 16 hours of online video per week. Yet lockdowns and social distancing measures have made it almost impossible to conduct live shoots. Montage has responded accordingly.
For long-term client FEMA, we developed a process for fully remote video production that encompassed all aspects of a traditional in-person shoot. We sourced and sent out lighting and sound kits, provided props as needed, created virtual backgrounds, provided advanced instructions to video subjects, and conducted live filming via Zoom or other platforms. In the last two years, Montage has produced nearly a dozen videos for FEMA and extended our remote video production capabilities to other clients.
Each video we produced during this period has helped FEMA live its organizational values, celebrate diversity and inclusion, and create connection among its 20,000+ person workforce.
Connecting with people is what we do at Montage. While that takes many forms, we’re always eager to embrace methods that make it more meaningful. Our adoption of marketing automation has enhanced those abilities at scale.
We implemented a marketing automation platform just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was fortuitous timing, enabling us to expand outreach to and for our clients. We use our all-in-one solution to manage contacts, build targeted lists, create forms and landing pages, send personalized emails, view audience activities, build and run automated workflows, track tasks, set reminders, conduct calls, and capture data. The platform not only helps us reach audiences with more tailored and relevant communications and connection points; it also provides more interconnected performance data and task management.
Are you seeking innovative ways to connect with your stakeholders? Let’s chat! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and stayed tuned for Part II and III in our Quarter of Connection series.