Confronting COVID-19: How Bobit Business Media Brands Are Supporting Salon Professionals
This is part of a series of articles showcasing publisher responses to the COVID-19 crisis. If you’d like to share what your publishing business is doing to serve audiences and maintain business, please reply to our callout for industry input.
While many professionals are gradually observing the impact of COVID-19 on their industries, others felt it the moment their businesses shut doors to the public. The latter is true for salon owners, hairstylists, and other professionals who engage with Bobit Business Media’s Beauty, Health & Wellness division brands.
“Our audience members are key in the small- and mid-size business genre, so they’ve been affected just as much as restaurants and other service providers out there,” says Brian O’Rourke, president of the Beauty, Health & Wellness division at Bobit. “We knew that it was important that we got out as much information as we could to serve them.”
The media brands in O’Rourke’s division include MODERN Salon, Salon Today, and NAILS. MODERN Salon provides training for hairstylists, while Salon Today serves business and technology best practices to salon owners and managers. Digital-only brand NAILS is dedicated to nail technicians.
Each of these brand teams worked swiftly to compile resources, organize webinars, and produce content addressing their audiences’ emerging challenges. O’Rourke stresses that none of these initiatives are for the sake of lead or revenue generation, though Bobit’s webinar portals do innately rely on registration.
“Because my editorial team is so close to the industry and because this industry is so familial and communal, we have not charged for attendance to any of these webinars,” he says. “We just want to make sure that the information is out there to the industry to support them because it’s critical. If these people’s businesses don’t survive, we lose audience members.”
Here’s a closer look at what O’Rourke’s teams have been doing to support salon professionals through the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the Salon Today and MODERN Salon teams first recognized the impact COVID-19 closings would have on salon professionals, they reached out to industry connections – including associations and advertising partners – to rally expert panelists for quick-turnaround webinars. The virtual events set company-wide records for attendance, O’Rourke says. MODERN Salon’s webinar attracted more than 4,000 registrants, not including on-demand registrants after the March 20 live date.
“For Salon Today, we wanted to get information out to the salon owners and managers for what to do in terms of helping their stylists if they had to furlough them or lay them off,” O’Rourke says. “There’s devastating stories about people having to lay off their entire staffs just so they can apply for unemployment and can feed themselves and their families during this time.”
The MODERN Salon webinar directed stylists to similarly relevant information, but also focused on mental wellbeing and how stylists can use their downtime to sharpen their skillset while they’re unable to engage with clients.
Associations including the International Salon/Spa Business Network (ISBN) and Professional Beauty Association (PBA) chipped in as content partners, and Ulta Beauty was an underwriter for the MODERN Salon webinar.
“That was a nice boon, but we would’ve put on the webinar whether we had underwriting support or not,” O’Rourke says. “Same with the next series. Our content team is currently planning offshoot webinars, and if we get underwriting, so be it, but we’re going to put them out regardless.”
Critical Content and Resources
In addition to hosting webinars, Bobit’s salon media brands created COVID-19 resource centers on their websites, including governmental agency links and PDF documents. The teams are currently working to make the content within those resource centers more interactive, as well as downloadable.
“So an example for Salon Today, we are looking to launch something like a PDF sample letter to send to your landlord to try to ask for some type of forbearance or leeway on rent during times like this,” O’Rourke says. “Not just high-level content but also some practical tools that they can use."
The brands are also shifting editorial coverage to suit current needs. Salon Today is producing more articles about marketing, financial planning, crisis management, and public relations – all topics that readers are actively seeking right now. Meanwhile, MODERN Salon is focusing heavily on educational content.
“When you’ve got someone who is a salon owner or a hairstylist, they’re going crazy right now at home because they are hands-on people,” O’Rourke says. “We have people practicing on mannequins, on their family members, trying to stay active. When you don’t have the public to work with there’s not a lot you can do … so they’re looking at a lot of technique videos, articles, and things like that.”
To provide reassurance to readers – especially Millennials and Gen Z hairstylists going through their first major financial crisis – O’Rourke also recorded a video address to the beauty industry (below) acknowledging MODERN Salon’s history and perseverance through tough times.
“Six years after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic our brand was launched, and it’s weathered the Great Depression and World War II,” O’Rourke says. “You know, if our brand made it through things like that there’s no doubt we’re going to make it through something like this.”
Impact on Publishing Business
Like most publishers, O’Rourke says Bobit is feeling “a bit of squeeze” and that the events side of the business taking the biggest hit due to postponements. But thus far, his division has not experienced a dramatic drop in advertising. Overall, partners are sticking with the salon media brands and maintaining their messaging in the hopes that when salons reopen, they can resume selling products and services as usual.
“Anecdotally, we’re hearing from the salon owners and managers that April is just booked solid because clients are absolutely anticipating going in there and having their roots touched up and having their eyebrows done and all these things that they haven’t been able to do during quarantine,” O’Rourke says. “Those will have to shift as different states and municipalities allow people to leave their homes, but we are going to see a huge surge back in our particular industry when this is all over.”
For now, O’Rourke believes it’s most important for his editorial teams – and the publishing industry as a whole – to serve their audiences with the information they need to get through this pandemic both personally and professionally.
“Editors and B2B media brands are so trusted on a daily basis by their audiences that this is really an opportunity to step up,” he says. “I’ve been so proud to see other brands take down their paywalls during times like this for mission-critical information. This will be the true test of what brands come out of this with further affinity from their audiences based on how they handled it.”