Leverage those tentpole events to grow your audience on and off Subtext

The host of USA TODAY’s Short List campaign managed to grow her audience 5x by spinning off a new Subtext campaign to cover the last 40 days of the 2020 presidential election.

4 min readOct 1, 2020

It may be hard to believe, but we did learn something from the first 2020 presidential debate. In what descended from a political event to a contentious duel, we actually found a moment of informative solitude by turning off our live streams and tuning into USA TODAY’s “The Short List: Countdown to the presidential elections” campaign. USA TODAY audience editor and Subtext host Ashley Shaffer offered her audience concise debate highlights in real-time, using Subtext.

Ashley, who also runs the popular newsletter “The Short List” and a Subtext campaign of the same name, spun off a fresh campaign to cover the final 40 days of the 2020 presidential race. In the week leading up to the debate, Shaffer grew her Subtext audience by 5x with her new election campaign. Talk about knowing what your audience wants!

She provided value to her subscribers by enhancing the individual viewer experience, removing the noise of both social media, and the debate itself, if you opted out of watching it. What proved this? Positive subscriber reactions, a high level of engagement and most notably, thoughtful replies.

There’s lots to take away from this cases study, but perhaps the most notable key learning is this: Tentpole events are a great opportunity to test out texting with your audience, draw on heightened interest to scale your audience and create a dedicated window of time to engage with your audience.

Leveraging USA TODAY’s victory, let’s dive into the steps you can take to make your own live texting event a success from the start.

  1. Seize the moment: Typically, Subtext subscribers start flowing in for major events and/or breaking news, and when the opportunity arose, Ashley was sure to capitalize. Ashley launched her campaign about a week ahead of the first presidential debate and plans to run the campaign through the November 3 election. Determined to keep her subscribers updated on the presidential election in direct and informative space, she launched a spin off election edition of her existing Subtext campaign. The new campaign audience surpassed her original campaign audience in the first 48 hours and has since resulted 5x the number of subscribers. Talk about seeing an opportunity and taking it!

2. Promote and set expectations: USA Today cleverly promoted the new campaign as well as the upcoming live texting event with a well thought-out cross-platform content strategy. They built momentum leading up to the event through a blend of texts, social media post, newsletters, apps, and even via TikTok in effort to attract a community of young voters.

3. Reply to frequently asked questions in broadcast form: While Ashley didn’t answer every individual question (which would have been impossible for one person to do in the volume they were coming in), she still demonstrated she was listening. Though she didn’t respond to everyone, her audience was happy to know they weren’t texting into a blackhole.

4. Keep the audience informed and fact check in real-time. In today’s media world, it’s hard to be sure who and what to believe. The host made sure to successfully communicate shocking debate highlights, while simultaneously delivering facts.

5. Offer elements for continued engagement: One of the final texts of the night offered subscribers an interactive opportunity to weigh in with a vote of who they think won the night. The host shared the results the morning after, and set the tone for what to expect for the upcoming debates. Overall audience sentiment of USA Today’s event consisted of replies of genuine appreciation and gushing thanks.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Subtext team for help implementing something like this. We’re here to help! Remember, your audience isn’t built overnight. It takes a set plan, a marketing strategy, and promotion to grow your texting community, especially leading up to a tentpole event. It sure does pay off!




This is the Medium account for Subtext http://joinsubtext.com/ A service that lets you text with your audience.