How Scalawag’s events are widening its membership funnel and leading to its next phase of growth

Cierra Hinton and Sarah Glen from Scalawag join our latest episode of News Guest.

October 20, 2021 by Ben DeJarnette

Cierra Hinton and Sarah Glen graphic

It’s been nearly two years since Scalawag hosted an in-person gathering, but like other news publishers, the Southern movement journalism organization hasn’t stopped using events as a way to accelerate growth, even if they’re still virtual (for now).

Scalawag has learned that events can be a powerful “top of funnel” marketing tool for membership by helping introduce its brand to the kind of progressive, diverse, engaged Southerners who are most likely to become paying supporters. 

“Membership is all about connection and community, and a desire to build relationships with your brand, your organization and the work that you do,” Scalawag executive director (and LION board member) Cierra Hinton said on our latest episode of News Guest. “So it becomes no surprise that when we have events, which are ‘memberful,’ … then we see an uptick in the number of people who are becoming members, even if it’s their first interaction with us.”

Scalawag managed to keep this funnel going through the pandemic with both fun and serious virtual events, but nothing quite compares to its in-person jubilee events in their “hometown” cities of Durham, Birmingham, and Atlanta (with New Orleans being added in the near future), which combine Southern food, art, dance, and even a little journalism to create one big celebration. 

“We knew that we wanted to be better at engaging the communities that we serve,” Hinton said. “Because we are from the South and because so many of us are Black, we know that the way to get to know people is you get them all together. There’s food, there’s laughter, and we have a good time. That’s how we decided to launch our membership program and events with jubilees.”

In our latest episode of News Guest, Hinton and Scalawag audience growth and engagement manager Sarah Glen share what they’ve learned about hosting great events as community-building and revenue-growth strategies that will pave the way for their next phase of growth.

Subscribe to News Guest on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you do your streaming to hear more practical advice from people changing the news business.

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