FTC had huge success with their virtual annual meeting thanks in part to the fun they had on social media. Taylor Richards shares with us the challenges and benefits of making that happen.
Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Andy Johns: What can social media do to liven up your virtual annual meeting? That’s what we’ll be talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns with WordSouth, and I’m joined on this episode by Taylor Richards, who is the Digital Marketing Coordinator with FTC in Rainsville, Alabama. This is another interview I recorded as part of a presentation, but I think it’s got some good insight into how social media can play an important role in humanizing your telco or electric co-op as part of your virtual annual meeting. So let’s roll our interview with Taylor.
Andy Johns: All right, well, thank you, Taylor, for being on. Let’s go ahead and start with the first question. How did the meeting or the way that you guys did your meeting allow FTC to maintain a human connection with members during such an unusual year?
Taylor Richards: Well, we still had in-person voting and registration. We opened up two lanes in our drive thru, and we had FTC employees to man that. And those two lanes were specifically open for annual meeting things. We had tents set up and had little hand sanitizers to give away. So our employees got to interact one-on-one with the customers through the drive thru. Of course, they wore masks and took precautionary measures for safety. And we also opened up our lobby for those two weeks. We’ve kept it close, but we did open it up for those two weeks and let a few customers in at a time — maybe only eight at a time. And we asked them to wear masks and use the hand sanitizer when they came in and maintain a six foot distance. But we still wanted to see our customers. It was a little different than normal.
Taylor Richards: A big thing for us this year was our gift was a lot different. Usually we give something away like an umbrella, a cooler, cutting board, or something of that nature. But we didn’t want to have to physically give them something. So we did a $20 bill credit and that went over extremely well with our members. That just touched them, because, you know, times are uncertain and a lot of people are in a financial crisis and that just really meant a lot to them. And a big thing that they really liked was our daily door prize drawings on Facebook. We did Facebook Lives. And I don’t know if you’ve ever done a Facebook Live Andy, but it’s pretty nerve racking because it’s live; there’s no going back if you mess up or get tickled. It is what it is. Everybody gets to watch it, and it’s on the Internet forever. And so we had a lot of bloopers over the two weeks that we did those, but our customers enjoyed that so much just seeing us be human and mess up and get tickled. I think that’s the biggest thing as far as how we had that human connection with our customers. Even though it was on social media, they took to it really well.
Andy Johns: When you guys were getting things ready for the annual meeting as part of it, talk about the prizes and everything. You guys got involvement on some video from folks from different staff members at the co-op.
Taylor Richards: Yes. Our CEO, Fred Johnson, had several clever ideas that he wanted to do just to kind of entertain everybody and let everyone see a different side of him. And he would do videos about some of the door prizes that we were giving away. And the funniest one to me was the annual meeting grand prize that we gave away. He did kind of a used car salesman pitch. And you may want to go on our Facebook page and watch it because it is fantastic. But several of us also did Facebook lives, and I hate Facebook because everyone can see what’s happening live. If you mess up, it is what it is. We had a lot of bloopers from that week, and we got tickled and stumbled over our words. And it was hilarious and embarrassing. But our members loved it. And we had a lot of interaction from everyone on social media.
Andy Johns: I guess that’s what it’s all about, being human, so I guess it fits. Well, let’s look at it kind of turned towards the future. A lot of folks are thinking, we don’t know what 2021 is going to be like. We’re already looking at for a few months there. So there may be folks looking who haven’t had their annual meetings roll around yet. What advice would you have for folks who are thinking about doing either virtual or drive thru annual meetings or just having to change it up, whether it’s your annual meeting or other events? What advice would you have for those folks?
Taylor Richards: If you’re thinking about doing virtually or drive thru, we say do it. Our customers loved it, and it worked extremely well for us. We had over 2,000 members to participate, making it the highest attended in-person annual meeting in the history of FTC. So obviously our members took to it really well. It was over a two-week period. We extended our hours in the evening so they could come at their own convenience.
Taylor Richards: And for younger people, they don’t — typically we have our annual meeting on a Saturday in the summer. So younger people don’t really want to give up a Saturday to come to their cooperative’s annual meeting to vote and register. So we reached a much broader age group by doing it this way, too. And then like we talked about earlier, be active on social media. Be human. Be real. Be you. They love it. They love to see that because I don’t ever get to see it. It’s fine if we’re not always perfect and always on point. They like that better. It’s more entertaining that way for them.
Taylor Richards: And just beforehand, because we had a few issues the first few days, everyone on our end was a little bit confused on what to do and how to register everyone. So just make sure you do a really good walk through of the process before, you know, you have a line of 20 cars in your drive thru waiting on you, and everyone’s kind of freaking out trying to figure out what’s going on. So just make sure that you walk through that process and be prepared for it.
Andy Johns: Sure. So I guess, does this have you guys thinking about 2021 for you guys? I mean, it sounds like a pretty good success. Are you guys considering — I know it’s a long way away — but are you guys considering just sticking with virtual?
Taylor Richards: Yeah, I think that way it went over so well and, you know, you have to change and adapt with the times. It’s obvious that this is what our members want. I mean, we had more attend than we’ve ever had before in the history of FTC. So, you know, you have to adapt and do what the people want you to do. So, yeah, I think that we’ll keep doing it this way.
Andy Johns: Got it. All right Taylor, well, I appreciate you being on and joining me for this recording.
Taylor Richards: Well, thanks for having me.
Andy Johns: That was Taylor Richards. She is the Digital Marketing Coordinator with FTC in Rainsville, Alabama. We appreciate her for being on. I appreciate you listening. And until we talk again, keep telling your story.