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Communicating During COVID-19 (copy)

Cheryl Michelet - Communications Director, BREC

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?

Even before the shutdown, we pivoted to offering virtual experiences of the park system and launched three campaigns: Refresh Your Mind (virtual experiences), Play it Safe (how to get essential outdoor activity safely) and Meals to Geaux (free meals for children not in school delivered in parks). Our team normally outsources most videos and has produced more than 60, plus 20+ activity sheets in English and Spanish to continue serving the public during the quarantine. Most of us are working from home but Print Shop staff has reported to work throughout.

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

We created a virtual portal on our website for people to find park experiences via video, are utilizing Zoom and Teams for meetings, and have helped with virtual events such as a BioBlitz, Madden tournaments and summer camp. We also had to pivot on paid advertising, putting much on hold as events and programs were canceled and using even more of our budget on digital and social media as they offer more flexibility. We changed messages but continued utilizing billboards, television and radio to help support local media as much as possible. We also joined in an initiative to offer free WiFi to those without it at home by boosting our signals and publicizing the ability to go to a park and take advantage of WiFi.

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

Programming staff have had to learn how to offer programs and events virtually and Communications staff has helped by researching options and working with them to create those opportunities. We also quickly taught ourselves editing software and shooting "socially distanced" interviews to keep our initiatives going. Staff has worked longer hours than normal to be there when needed for news releases, interviews, building web pages, editing videos with spotty WiFi, strategy meetings...etc.

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

We have a lot of experience serving the public through difficult times with the Flood of 2016 and hurricanes, but not being able to offer face to face programs and events is a brand new challenge for BREC. Luckily, we have a foundation in place through our website and 20 social media channels that allowed us to pivot quickly. Our numbers have been through the roof during this time, although just as with the Flood of 2016, we know this time will skew the numbers moving forward as the huge spike won't last.

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

We have already talked about keeping some initiatives in place such as the Refresh page. People have enjoyed seeing how keepers take care of animals at the Zoo, virtual tours of our hiking trails and conservation areas and meeting staff that they might not normally see. We'll scale back the videos as we move back to "normal" but will continue the effort. We also think our programming staff will continue to mix virtual offerings with in-person as it allows people more flexibility to participate. One of the biggest challenges for us is that we normally work two months in advance on advertising and it has been hard for programmers to plan ahead at all. We normally publish a "Play Book" three times per year hour outlining all events and programs for summer, fall and winter/spring. The summer guide had to be removed from our website as it is useless and we can't plan fall as we don't know what phase of reopening we will be in at that time. That book serves as the guide for all advertising for three to four months and we are adjusting to the fact that we simply can't plan that far ahead. Our marketing plan is in a state of flux, but we are keeping track of everything on hold and doing what we can to use advertising funds on more general messaging or the three campaigns we created at the start of the quarantine.

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.

Play it Safe materials (commercial, signage, billboards, etc.)

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