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Communicating During COVID-19

Christine Wendling - Communications Specialist,
LSU College of the Coast & Environment

Communicating During COVID-19 is a series where we share responses from our members
about how their organization responded during COVID-19.
Click here to submit your answers.

Describe what role you and your team have played during the pandemic?

The pandemic completely upended our communications plans, and we had several large upcoming events that were cancelled. The biggest change we were directly involved in was switching from a bunch of live, planned events to fewer online events so that we could still get information to the public. Secondarily, we switched our focus to enrollment much earlier in the year than normal. We had to quickly pivot to  anticipating how best to reach prospective students about enrolling in the summer and fall despite the COVID uncertainty of whether campus would even be open, etc.

How have you used technology differently since stay-at-home orders began?

We began using Zoom and Microsoft Teams a lot more, neither of which had we used in the past. Now, we use Zoom for virtual events, pre-recorded panel discussions, and staff meetings and we use the Microsoft Teams chat function much like other organizations use Slack. We've also switched our focus to more YouTube content and video content than we had in the past.

How have you and/or your team helped your organization overcome challenges during the pandemic?

Mostly, the challenge to overcome was trying to salvage as much of our events as possible and as quickly as possible in a virtual format and also to boost the signal from LSU Strategic Communications and the Office of the President about changes to university procedures during the pandemic. And, making sure to address any student questions and/or direct them to the appropriate person to get answers about those COVID-related changes.

What is one lesson you have learned so far in regards to your job during the pandemic?

I'm so thankful to have put an emphasis on digital communications throughout my time at LSU CC&E, now more than ever we are relying on digital channels to get our message out.

How do you see things changing for you at work in the future once we are back to “normal?”

I think state institutions across the board are slow to adopt workplace advancements and  technology, so I think the university will, from an operational standpoint, try to return (as much as possible) to how it was before. However, in my college, I think we will continue to lean on virtual events and YouTube communications more even when we all return to the office. I think members of leadership who may have previously been resistant to or unaware of these tools, are now comfortable with them and recognize their utility.

Are there any particular projects or materials you and your team have worked on during the pandemic that you are particularly proud of or would like to share with other PRAL members? Tell us about it here.

I had to build out two websites, by myself and lightning-fast, in the wake of COVID-19. One showcases how LSU CC&E is responding to the crisis via outreach and educational webinars, https://lsu.edu/cce/newsevents/events/coronavirus-webinar/coronavirus-environment-webinar.php. The first webinar on that page has 1,600 views on YouTube so far—a huge number for our tiny channel. It's the most-viewed video we have. Second, I had to create a page for the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—our college was deeply involved in analyzing the aftermath of the disaster—and I had about a week or less to pull together a large number of resources and artifacts from that time onto the web page: https://lsu.edu/cce/newsevents/events/deepwater-horizon-10-year-anniversary/dwh.php

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