April is traditionally the start of road bike season for Fairbanks Cycle Club. As club president, I assist our social media specialist with updating the group ride pages on our website and developing promotional content for our Listserve and Facebook page. I started receiving 2020 ride schedules in mid-March at the start of the pandemic when the original review date for stay-at-home orders was April 11th for Alaska. Several organizations already had me post full cancellation of all training and racing activities until May 31st, so I expressed my concern about holding group rides in April, especially in groups where the numbers often exceeded 30 riders. Several group riders acknowledged my concerns, but assured me they could keep 6-feet between riders if they didn’t ride beside each other and didn’t allow drafting.
Our group leaders are volunteers with various professional backgrounds. So my ears perked up when one group leader, who is also a medical doctor, submitted her group’s ride schedule with a note to make her April and May rides virtual. We started a very real discussion about group rides at this time. She expressed serious doubts that this was possible to keep enough distance between riders and engaged in a conversation with the other group leaders and the FCC board of directors to cancel group rides until the end of May.
In less than an hour, the other group leaders and FCC board agreed with the necessities of making these group rides virtual through April, and recently decided to expand that until May. After the official announcement was sent to the membership, we had a request for official riding recommendations. We once again looked to this group leader for her medical opinion and she also enlisted two other riders in the medical field. We did get one negative comment on Facebook from a motorcyclist outside our membership who said we were “creating panic”. Yet, we feel the other group leaders would not have quickly changed their minds if these cyclists didn’t have the right medical credentials and a solid professional and athletic reputation.
This is an important lesson whether you are trying to steer the opinion of an individual or a group. My concern in early March didn’t have the same impact as the group leader with a medical degree. She had the right professional credentials and a solid cycling background. Those two factors, coupled with her reputation within the community, made her the perfect influencer to unify the membership. These are the people your company or organization need to identify to increase the success of your next product launch or media campaign.