RBC: The Lockdown Edition

How we’ve adapted Rebel Book Club

30th April 2020

Dear Rebels,

This is an update about the changes we’ve made over the last few weeks.

We began this community because we wanted to help curious people start and finish non-fiction books that would challenge them to put their learnings into action, together with others.

5 years later we’ve read 60 forward-thinking books together with 1000s of fantastic people, as well as collaborating with some fantastic authors and leading thinkers in tech, science, wellbeing, business, environment and society.

Our simple monthly model of 1 x non-fiction book + reading nudges + local meetups has expanded to 7 cities.

In January we formed a small, passionate team to supercharge our book club.

Then, in March, the world changed and everyone went home.

How have we adapted to life under lockdown?

We are aware that many of our member’s own incomes have been hit, and have therefore provided an easy way to switch to our cheaper, remote membership.

As a (very) small business, we’ve made the decision to lean into the crisis and keep our team (1 full-time, 3 part-time) on-board to support our members and provide the best RBC experience possible. This is a loss-leading exercise (for now) as running our in-person meets are only 10-15% of our overall spend. Like many startups we’re working harder now than we were before! But we think it’s the right thing to do for our members and the future of Rebel Book Club.

Despite the upheaval we also know that lockdown is an opportunity to help accelerate our reading habits and ‘crack the stack‘ that had been building on our bed-side table or kindles in busier social times.

We’ve worked on 3 areas to make RBC a great thing to be part of.

1. More Reading

Our members join Rebel Book Club because like us, they love books and are curious by nature.

When the daily news cycle is as intense as it is right now, it’s hard to switch off, especially from screens. We’ve been reminding and motivating everyone to get their reading time in.

We’ve run a free 14 Day Reading Challenge to kickstarts fresh reading habits.

Our ‘Rebel Reading Stack‘ competition on instagram showed the reading ambition of our tribe.

Book Club buzz started to build…
Not only were we the non-fiction choice for Laura Hampson in the Evening Standard, alongside our fiction faves Florence Welch and Reese Witherspoon. We were also featured in BBC News, iNewsTime Magazine and in an interview with Rick Edwards on BBC 5 Live!

2. More Conversation

We can’t run our in-person meets but we’ve doubled-down to make our remote meets fun and create other ways to give our members the RBC experience: bonus meets, member perks, extra content and connections. 

We’re also working with forward-thinking businesses who are motivated to engage their remote working teams by running private Rebel Book Clubs on themes and books of their choice. Get in contact if you’d like to build an RBC in your workplace.

Since lockdown we’ve started 2 x remote meets a month and with more than 800 attendees so far, they seem to be working!

March 31st – New Power with Jeremy Heimans

April 13th – Entrepreneurship in a Crisis with Rand Fishkin, Entrepreneur First, Escape the City & Virgin Startup

April 28th – Midnight in Chernobyl with Dr Dame Sue Ion

Being Rebels at heart, we didn’t make things easy for ourselves for our first event, we wanted to rise to the challenge.

  • A live interview with Jeremy Heimans (co-author of New Power) joining from New York
  • A changing ‘main stage’ lineup introducing our city hosts
  • A new quarantini drinks feature ‘Cocktails from your Cupboard‘ from our in-house Mixologist – Rich from Mix + Muddle
  • 250+ members joining international breakout sessions.
  • Super speedy 1-2 minute video chat roulettes from city to city
  • An exhibition area supporting Rebel Book Club members projects + reading charities at a challenging time…

“Last night’s meet was brilliant and so well organised, thank you…you’re keeping us all sane!” Tanya

I’ve been attending lots of online events since the lockdown and last nights RBC was epic, by far the most well thought and well executed I’ve seen! Well done you guys, keep rocking! Sarah

“Was such a great way to be social and meet new people – which is something I miss more as tend to more easily keep in touch with friends and family atm online – there are virtually zero opportunities in this lockdown to meet and chat with new people – so in this respect – was hugely helpful – thanks so much to all of you that organised it!” Pranath

Learn more about our meets.

3. More Community (and cheaper memberships)

Our ‘Sofa’ membership (which we’ve been running for over a year for members who aren’t near our RBC cities) best reflects what RBC is for now. 

In April a new feature on our payment system enables us to switch people between memberships without individuals having to do it themselves. So members who would like to save a few £ (about £3 – £5/month) can do so by switching memberships for their next payment.

Business Context

85% of our costs are not meetup related: team, book vouchers, & VAT. So, not running in-person meets does not, unfortunately, save RBC lots of money. We know that if we can keep the majority of our members on-board during the crisis – learning, connecting, improving our reading habits together – we will still be able to grow RBC in the future with all the ideas we’d love to be trying out.

International Members

Thanks to a bigger focus on our remote membership experience and some of the publicity we’ve started to get, more members joining us from around the world. In the last week from Texas, California, Seattle, Austria, New Mexico, Grand Falls in Canada, Stuttgart, Dubai & Taipei.

Chat Chat Chat

Finally, we focused on talking with our members. This has mainly happened through the meets but also through newsletters, surveys, votes, emails, whatsapp groups, our social network and sharing positive messages and stories on our social channels.

We’ve been happily surprised at how engaged our community has been to share how they are doing, what they are reading and learning.

We are quietly excited about what comes next for RBC. As we slowly return to life-outside we expect to continue the remote events for our international community and run them alongside local in-person meets.

Thanks to our members past, present and future for making Rebel Book Club.

See you very soon,

Ben & Ben

ps we would highly recommend Hopin for digital community events!

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