Within hours of California’s shelter-in-place orders, the advertising department at The Press Democrat in Sonoma County, California, United States, started compiling business information to create a business directory.
Starting with just a Google spreadsheet, we didn’t know how popular it would become nor how long it would need to be in place. We decided to offer the North Bay Business Directory at no charge and are thrilled that nearly 1,000 of our local businesses have registered and self-reported their business status.
The directory helps businesses share what they are doing during the shelter-in-place orders. For example: Are they open? If yes, are their hours limited? If closed, are gift cards or e-commerce available?
We found a local financial institution to generously agree to sponsor this effort. We anticipate this will be a fluid database over the next several weeks with businesses making updates and changes to their information as the SIP orders gradually lift in stages.
We recently updated the search function of the database so viewers can search by businesses offering gift certificates and/or e-commerce specifically.
From this database, we have generated new ways to use the information. Our new initiatives provide monetisation of our efforts, keep our staff engaged with our business community, and offer our advertisers much-needed outreach to our North Bay community via our readers and viewers. We are also encouraging the community to support our local businesses.
New initiatives developed to utilise the database
We deployed two new initiatives to make the most of this new database:
Bite Club Take-Out Guide: We created a publication and inserted it into our daily and two weeklies. For content, we used the restaurant listings from the database and included a letter from our popular Bite Club foodie blogger Heather Irwin.
To monetise the idea, we sold a sponsor who wanted their brand aligned with this effort, sold discounted display ads within the guide, and created discounted impression offerings for food/beverage businesses. Using the same model, we are publishing a similar guide for our monthly community alternative magazine that will publish in early May.
“See You Soon, Sonoma” promotion: Each Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday we publish a promotion in The Press Democrat, inviting our readers to “Gift a Gift Card,” selecting from the many businesses we list in the pages of our “See You Soon, Sonoma” feature. The objective is to get readers to purchase gift cards now to use later when the businesses are open. We invite the community to purchase for themselves, or better yet, gift a gift card to a family member, friend, neighbour, healthcare professional, etc. This effort keeps our staff engaged with businesses and encourages our community to support local businesses.