Bright Spots: Creating Social Media Moments of Joy During a Pandemic

During the earlier days of the pandemic and while death rates reached their peaks, museums and cultural organizations shuttered their doors. While institutions turned their focus to engaging with audiences virtually, some museums created campaigns to offer a reprieve from a bleak news cycle. These institutions elicited unexpected joy, humor, and moments of kindness—sorely needed by online communities. Join staff from the New-York Historical Society, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo to explore four digital storytelling campaigns that reached record audiences during the pandemic. The New-York Historical Society and Hirshhorn Museum combined forces to send virtual flowers from their collections to museum colleagues around the globe for #MuseumBouquet, and followed the campaign by shedding virtual sunshine before Earth Day with sunny works for #MuseumSunshine. The Shedd Aquarium let their penguins roam free through their exhibits to the delight of online audiences. News of the penguins went viral on social media and in the press. The jaunts of one penguin named Wellington earned himself the hashtag #WheresWellingtonWednesday. The penguins interacted with wildlife elsewhere in the space that they would never encounter in nature. In response to the Shedd’s penguins, the Field Museum rolled out a series of “unSUEpervised” videos wherein an inflatable SUE the T. rex ran amok through empty exhibitions and office spaces. SUE’s visit to the Hall of Birds was covered by E! News and CNN, and the series of videos has been watched over 1.69 million times. In efforts to “bring the zoo to you,” the National Zoo’s Cub Cam offered a real-time view of four, fuzzy cheetah cubs born April 8 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Online audiences tuned in for the birth, were invited to vote on names for the cubs, and are following their growth through #CheetahCubdates and #NatZooZen on social media. These cultural organizations span living collections, natural history, American history, and contemporary art. Although each of these institutions have a different mission and focus, each tapped into the public’s need for joy during a turbulent time.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Welcome, and thank you for coming to bright spots creating social media moments of joy during a pandemic. I've got a great panel lined up for you. And I'm just going to start kicking this off with a quick intro to the first of our four case studies that we'll be looking at today. museum bouquet and museum sunshine. So my name is Emily Haight, I'm the Social Media Manager at the New York Historical Society. And just to give you a little bit of background during the earlier days of the pandemic, just if we can take ourselves back there, which we now want to mentally and while the death rate was at reaching its peaks, museums and cultural organizations shut their doors. And so while a lot of institutions shifted their focus to engaging with audiences, virtually some museums also created campaigns to offer a reprieve from a bleak new cycle. So the case studies that you're about to see are about unexpected joy and humor and moments kindness that were sorely needed by online communities. And Hilary-Morgan take it away.

Unknown Speaker 01:10

Unknown Speaker 01:11
just checking Okay, my

Unknown Speaker 01:13
sounds on so I'm Hilary-Morgan Watt. I'm the digital engagement manager at the Hirshhorn Museum, where the Smithsonian's National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art located on the Mall in Washington DC next to the National Air and Space Museum, we have a beautiful brutalist shaped donut for a building. We're kind of an icon on the Mall. And our exhibition space is indoor galleries, an outdoor Plaza and a sculpture garden. So we have multiple sort of opportunities for site specific sculptures. So for us, when the we closed our doors on March 14, the whole Smithsonian did. And internally, there was definitely sort of like the Panic of we're gonna lose audiences. Who are we if people can't visit us physically, and we really stepped up sort of internal departments and breaking down silos and working together. So education was working with communications, curatorial got really heavily involved. And so we developed a couple new series really in those first two weeks of closure. So one of the ideas from our education department is they were trying to think of how they could transfer their gallery experiences to online so we were known for like doing maker mornings, these hands on activities that were sort of the first Saturday of every month, and that translated into a new video series, which you see in this top corner with the the Kusama paper, mushy pumpkin. And our educator Ashley Meadows had this great idea to sort of break down some of our more challenging contemporary conceptual sculptures and installations into these adorable like one minute short stop motion videos of how to you know what the concept was and how to break it down and make it at home. So everything from you know, text works, performance works, a recent performance we had by Laurie Anderson, where she where I escaped and played music and spoke to her audience, like how that would be at home, something you could do. So that was really great. We also broke out our Hirshhorn draw, sketching program that wasn't in gallery encounter into these wonderful one minute videos that you could do at home. Or you could visit the gallery watch on your earth or visit the sculpture garden, which is open right now. And then the biggest project that we had sort of the huge lift was this concept from our director and one of our board members who's an artist, the Aster gates, and they thought, everyone's at home in quarantine, what are artists doing? What are they thinking? How are they feeling about this moment in time? So we reached out to over 100 artists to sort of share their experiences. And so this is the Hirshhorn artist diaries. And we like the concept so much and all the participants were really engaged with it that it's going to continue on past quarantine. It doesn't have to just be about COVID diaries and quarantine in that moment. But I think it'll be an ongoing series for sort of, you know, different moments of the year. But those participants shared steel studio views or they made new music or they showed their their painting practice, there was a whole bunch of different clips. And so definitely recommend you check that out.

Unknown Speaker 04:22
Over to Emily,

Unknown Speaker 04:25
everyone. And just a reminder, we will have 15 minutes towards the end of the presentation for q&a. So feel free to drop your questions in the q&a function in zoom. And our lovely panelists. Katherine is also moderating the chat. So we will be happy to talk with everyone at the end of the presentation. And so the New York Historical Society, it's the oldest Museum in New York. It's on Central Park West on the Upper West Side. And we definitely did have a digital pivot. I know that we haven't been liking that term so much during this conference. But it definitely was true for our institution. Basically, our educators shifted gears into making history from home remote learning, a lot of these are things that your organization has probably also done, feel free to drop into the chat if you did something similar. We also have a collection of historic recipes. So people were actually doing them online, we were sharing them out in these very thematic eblasts, tailored every week to a different theme. We created coloring pages based off of works in our collection. And these are all things that we hadn't done before. So this was a real pivot for us. We also created zoom backgrounds with works from the collection. And we had virtual exhibition presentations, you know, curator led PowerPoints, essentially, since we were not physically in the museum at that time.

Unknown Speaker 05:48

Unknown Speaker 05:50
just to give you a little bit of background on the New York Historical Society, we're kind of mid size, but we our mission statement is American history through New York lens. So if you're wondering, like, why we have an Audubon print, like that's why it's American history. And I will kick it over to Hilary-Morgan to introduce our first campaign.

Unknown Speaker 06:09
Thanks, Emily. Um, so in March, the as as is today, the new cycle has been pretty bleak. It's pretty dark times. And I think anyone who's sort of was working in social media, frankly, everyone, everyone was overwhelmed. And we're pushing out campaigns, and trying to think of, you know, possible future revenue streams, everything was a mess, but I'm trying to find some brain power for something that could be a little bit lighter. Like, could there be something that was sort of joyful online to cheer people? Like, what would that look like? And there was lots of great campaigns, like with museum from home and museum moment of Zen. And we are trying to think of some of the slightly more playful collaborative moments. Uh, you know, like the museum snowball fight, we're trying to think along those lines of, what could we do now? And could somebody be done now. And one of one I watched with my friends on an Instagram story, get a flower delivery. And you know, she unboxed it for everyone. It was just like, such a sweet moment in this virtual time that she shared it with everyone. And so Emily and I were brainstorming, what could that be? What could the museum equivalent be on Twitter? And she really said, well, just Museum, okay, could we do that? And we could, and then it was so successful, because so many of you on this call and beyond, were a huge part of making that campaign, beautiful and sing and be joyful. And so basically, we went with bouquet, just the natural idea of sending someone flowers and you send flowers for joy, or for grief or for empathy, it sort of hits all those notes. And similarly, with everyone's collections, we thought it would be sort of a light lift, like a really good like umbrella concept that many people could participate in. And so everyone started sending flowers and, you know, botanical specimens, it really just, it really was just like a great, a great building. snowball of of content. So here are some of the a few screenshots from some of our friends. So MoMA, SF MoMA, the brode Foundation, Beyeler Santa Fe, Children's Museum, and you know, 1000s, it was so great to see the variety everything from, you know, embroidery, or flowers on a, a card for World War Two sent to soldiers, really everyone stepped up, and it was just like, so inclusive.

Unknown Speaker 08:28
I think I'll pass it back to Emily.

Unknown Speaker 08:32
Thanks, Hilary-Morgan. But yeah, just as we were all kind of staying home to try and flatten the curve. This kind of added a little bit of joy to our feeds. When, again, going back to that mindset of early March, when things were particularly bleak. We followed up hashtag museum bouquet with another campaign called hashtag museums, sunshines, where we ask museums to send sunny works to each other, anything kind of bright and happy. And the interpretation of that was also really creative. Again, these were both campaigns that had a very low barrier to entry in terms of every, you know, small Historical Society to mega museum has floral artworks somehow or has a garden or has something. And museum sunshine was kind of also in that same vein. So here's just a couple of examples of what was shared, including some from our fellow panelists like the Field Museum. So you've got Amber, you've got paintings, you've got quilts. Here's an exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History. So again, the kind of interpretation of sunshine was definitely broad. And if you want to advance

Unknown Speaker 09:50
so the campaign really took off and far exceeded our wildest expectations. But most importantly, it was so touching all of the the audience comments It really hit the note that we were hoping it would. So here are just some screenshots of, you know, tweets from people around the world. So museums spread joy sending each other virtual flowers. So I've got too many windows open. Oops, I love Museum, okay, initiative, it's warming my cold Finnish heart. And these dark times, music is such a treat, check out this hashtag see how museums around the world are keeping up their spirits and sending love to their fellow museums. And you know, Museum, okay, hashtag is beautiful. It was really great to see that just continue.

Unknown Speaker 10:37
And in terms of kind of the the numbers of both campaigns, so museum bouquet, was 6000 users, about 365 cultural partners, including museums like you, and then it was from 72 countries. So you know, as far away as Chile, Indonesia, New Zealand, which was really great and totally unexpected. And it was also so popular that Twitter became it became a Twitter moment. So that meant that it was trending along the likes of Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian that day, which is pretty, pretty nice to get that celebrity level treatment. And then for museum sunshine, we had like almost double the number of cultural partners, I think, in part because of the success of hashtag museum bouquet, which also reached, you know, 52 countries had more than 89 million impressions. So these are, these are impressive numbers, especially for something that came from such a simple idea

Unknown Speaker 11:38
if you want to advance

Unknown Speaker 11:41
and then it really just continued to grow with press pickup,

Unknown Speaker 11:48
which was so surprising. And also we were very delighted. I think it started with a CBS News article, and then art news or sorry, artnet news. And then the whole art world picked it up and kind of just continued to snowball from there.

Unknown Speaker 12:02
One of my personal favorites was that like, Elle magazine online, picked it up and put it into like a roundup of highlights with

Unknown Speaker 12:07
a Chrissy Deakins new show, so that was pretty cool. But then from that everyone, more people were reading about it. So everyone went to Twitter and more people were joining and the fact that the hashtags, both of them are still active today, you can still see people posting to them.

Unknown Speaker 12:25
Oh, sorry,

Unknown Speaker 12:26
I forgot. Internally, internally, it was just great for it dominated all of our media reports. And, you know, it was the great thing that the director could include in their note to board members and trustees. And it was the shining star for board reports, I think, for both of us.

Unknown Speaker 12:48
And in terms of workflow and resources, so we had no dedicated budget for this no money thrown towards it. Just staff time. Hilary-Morgan has keyhole as her tracker for the hash tag. And I use sprout just for kind of scheduling some pre drafted tweets. And I also had help from our collections manager, Alex Kruger, since a lot of our collection is not available online, she also helped me do a deep dive into getting all of the high res images that we did have a floral and sunny work. So I want to give her a shout out. And we also crowd sourced from from you all and Hilary-Morgan can speak more to that.

Unknown Speaker 13:28
Yeah, we all know that there's or frankly, for new people who are joining. There's a wonderful online support group for social media managers and museums. It's the Facebook group. So we did outreach there with the Google signup sheet. We definitely plugged it a few times. And we did a few shout outs on Twitter, and then some one on one follow ups and direct messages, just museums, we thought, you know, might not have seen the announcements, but might still want to participate. So apologies again for spamming your inboxes. But we thought it was worthwhile and good for everyone. And the great thing about the Google signup is that then we could sort of send a reminder, like, you know, going out tomorrow, and here's everyone participating. And that's great to sort of see the breadth of institutions involved. And just also that no one would feel left out that you could find a bunch of different museums to, you know, to tag of different sizes, sometimes it's easy for like the big brands to just sort of, you know, take a focus of the spotlight, it just happens naturally based on their follower counts and sort of amplification and engagement with their followers. But it really was wonderful to see a variety size different sized institutions participate. I know Emily and I certainly tried to say hi, and thank you when you send more flowers to everyone involved, which is very challenging because it just was running pretty wild for like the first two weeks so. Okay, and then challenges. Emily, let's

Unknown Speaker 14:53

Unknown Speaker 14:54
Okay. It's always what we like to talk about, right. So One point, I mean, it press is instrumental in sharing these kinds of campaigns and sharing this kind of content. But we were not in a position at that point to be actively pitching press or anything like that. So everything that we did get was organic, and fairly lucky. Again,

Unknown Speaker 15:18
all right, all right, did not, that's okay.

Unknown Speaker 15:22
Also, just a little bit of this is like, you're kind of a victim of your own success. So after that happened, it was great, because staff was really encouraged and happy about it. But at the same time, they suddenly were like, Well, here's a program that we want to promote. And we would really want, you know, all these other museums to help promote it. And at that point, museums are not really in a position to be doing that for everybody else's program. And also, just any kind of collections focus that someone had, they were like, Oh, well, this can be viral, like, hit the viral button for this one. So it kind of took a little bit of staff education and explaining, you know, this, this isn't something that we took lightly. And it did take some planning, and it did take some coordination. And it also has to be the right kind of subject matter. And also in terms of new campaign, so in June, we were planning to do a, pardon the sirens, if you hear them in the background. In New York, we were planning on doing a virtual hashtag museum Pride Parade. And, but then in June, obviously, you know, the world changed again, the social media landscape, the new cycle, the mood all shifted. So even something that had kind of like a celebratory note or moments of joy, no longer seemed appropriate. So we had to message everyone and saying, like, again, please share your pride content this month, it's still important. There's still a lot of work to be done. But we didn't want to use it under this kind of celebratory hashtag. But we would also like to give a shout out to am since they were really great. And you can message them about like a campaign or an idea you have in order to share the word they let us put up a blog post. They're really great to work with. And that's something that I don't think either of us had done before. And that was great resource. Yeah. Okay, I

Unknown Speaker 17:15
think we're gonna turn it over to Carly.

Unknown Speaker 17:22
All right, making sure sound works. Yes, it does. Hi, everybody. My name is Carlyn Hill. I work at Shedd Aquarium of Carlyn, Carly for short, I always say the silent and I run their social media content, I manage it, and I also work on our emails to the public. And I think everybody can relate but do a little bit of everything here and there.

Unknown Speaker 17:46
Next slide, please.

Unknown Speaker 17:48
Thank you. So Shedd Aquarium and then typically here would welcome around 2 million guests through our doors. Obviously, this is not a typical year on but our mission has always stayed the same. It is always to spark compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world, which did continue this year in some of our public programs safely. Of course, with social distancing, like, like local cleanups, at the beach and in the forests, as well as Chi for conservation. We also do research in our institution. And that research also continued where it could as well with citizen scientists getting involved in their own spaces, as well as our own research or being able to continue their work when it was safe Of course. Excellent. But I'm not the star here. We are here to talk about the rock star Rockhopper Wellington. Tips around Shedd Aquarium. This is the video in case you haven't seen it. Well the first viral video that kind of kicked off what became a trench. Interestingly enough, this wasn't the most popular viral moment we've had. That goes to the second rock cover video that featured Edward and Annie. But Wellington really became that viral star that people latched on to. Oh, no.

Unknown Speaker 19:17
All right.

Unknown Speaker 19:19
Thank you. And what started with that one video of him just looking around the Amazon rising habitat became a whole series following Wellington as well as other penguins like Izzy and doubt Darwin is they explored the aquarium and met new animals and saw new habitats. So how was Where's Wellington hatch?

Unknown Speaker 19:43
This was really, really about collaboration. It's one of the one of the first things I always say about where this idea came from is that when everything began when we it was announced that we had to close our doors, the marketing PR and animal care Teams brainstorm and work together to discuss next content steps. And again, this could not have happened without this beautiful collaboration across teams, there was just so much creativity being shared across teams that do regularly work together, but perhaps not quite at this capacity for such an extreme content change. And I'm sure any institution knows, oh, sorry, standard slide.

Unknown Speaker 20:23
Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 20:24
Any institution knows that so much of our day to day social content, um, has to revolve around pushing visitation. The whole goal is to get people through the doors. So when you can no longer ask people to come through your doors because they're close. What do you do content wise, we really needed to find a way to keep people connected to the aquarium from home, before we had any of our now offered virtual programs, which are incredible. But at the time, you know, we didn't have the amount of virtual learning and exploration content we do now. So what we did is we took what is an old idea, and we made it into fresh content, the penguin adventures around the aquarium while they're fresh and new to everybody who's seen them across the world. And on in the world with the internet, the animal care team has actually been taking the penguins to new areas around the aquarium to explore for a long time, it's a really awesome form of enrichment that they do with them. And it's meant for them to be introduced to new environments that they can explore, to see new sights to hear new sounds, etc. So at the beginning of all of this, we asked the animal care team to send us some fun videos from penguins exploring to just kind of a typical behind the scenes or day to day animal content that we might be sharing anyway in a more curated format. And the Wellington video was one of them, and we decided to put it out there alongside PR who also shared it. And it became a hit and a lot of that was leaning on. Like I said existing creativity. This would not have happened without collaborating and leaning on existing creativity from our animal care team and their incredible enrichment that they do with the animals on a daily basis. Not you know, for the internet to get joy out of on a typical in a typical year, but just just because they want to enrich the the the day to day routine of the animals. And Animal Care requires a lot of creativity. So it was great to be able to tap into that and to see it blow up like this. So what happened next, a little Rockhopper became a huge story. For us. Just by comparison, the sea otters used to be our main star they still are on people still will never get tired of seeing sea otters. But the demand for penguins is very, very real. I'm from seeing other brands riffing on the penguin field trip idea to seeing the Wellington post and ariana grande de story, which is crazy. It was a huge success. And just looking at the numbers to on Twitter and Instagram, we more than doubled our following. And then on Facebook and Twitter specifically, if we compare the impressions and engagement of just the first two viral posts of the that Wellington post, or video that you just saw, and then the the ever been Annie, continued penguin tours around the aquarium, just the impressions and engagements from those two posts. I'm hugely outperformed our total impressions and engagements throughout the month of February. So just a little snippet as an example. And we actually reached every continent, including Antarctica, we saw a tweet from the South Pole, which was one of my favorite work moments ever, because who sees tweets from the South Pole? That was awesome. And then the results and comments, this is really my favorite thing to see. And the most encouraging result to me. These comments really hit the heart and they went beyond people just thinking the videos were cute, or, you know, commenting and tagging their friends and using emojis. I think anybody who works in social media can relate to the fact that you don't typically get a lot of people saying like, thank you as a norm. It's just you know, people reacting or people engaging with content or asking questions. In this case, we've received hundreds of comments from people thanking us for this content, saying it's getting them through quarantine telling us that the only thing that makes them smile, we still get that because everybody everybody's scared and stressed out. And so just a moment of relief when you get to watch a cute penguin exploring aquarium, really, really hit people's hearts. And this is a huge sign to continue listening to our audience. continue creating content that sparks smiles during such a scary time. And to again, just really listen to them and make sure that we're serving them in the best way we can.

Unknown Speaker 24:46
And you know, you've made it when there's fan art. This is not something I've seen before for aquarium in my time, about a year and a half there. So this was really exciting to me. I also do art so like this is really cool to see. This is actually one The content adjustments we made as well, we used to do on user generated content that would use the hashtag shed fan photos from people who actually visited the aquarium took photos and then would post their photos of their visit. we pivoted from that sorry, that word pivot is I don't like it either. We changed from that to hashtag shed fan art, so that we could still be using that user generated content and still be celebrating our fans, even when they couldn't walk through our doors. So what did we learn? And how did we change? One of the biggest changes we've experienced through all of this was a huge shift in our visual content. Our visual strategy was extremely curated, formal and strict before and video was important. But it wasn't exactly our top priority in terms of what we were sharing on a daily basis. As soon as quarantine or the quarantine period started, we only had access in terms of new content to the animal care team and those on site for new materials, which were all raw videos and photos that were shot on their phones. And so while we're still extremely careful and intentional with what we post, raw video and photo has now become a crucial part of our strategy, not just this year, but moving forward. And after seeing the positive response from our audience on the types of videos we're putting out there, as well as hearing from them to actually share longer videos, which was unusual, because typically, you want those quick hits on social but longer videos and more content was constantly being asked for, we increased the amount of video content that we're putting out there, and we were really prioritizing it, be able to

Unknown Speaker 26:41
it oh my gosh, I

Unknown Speaker 26:42
can't talk right now, in order is what I was trying to say to serve our audience best. They really helped guide us and helped us figure out what to share more of. And then we also pivoted in terms of how frequently we were sharing content, we started sharing a lot more content every single day. And nearly all of it was video based sent to us again, from the animal care staff on site. We had to evolve with the demand. And people were really really wanting regular, exciting content, especially while there was so much competition out there. So we really had to stay regular.

Unknown Speaker 27:17
And then,

Unknown Speaker 27:19
yeah, untapped resources I touched on already, which is using the anglicare team, and the creativity. And then really quickly challenge some of the challenges. You can't just go back when you've set a new precedent for what kind of content use you share. So while we've continued to share these penguin field trips, one of the challenges that we faced is keeping them regular and keeping them from going stale. So the solution there was to get creative, expand to other animals, and to find our friends here there at the Field Museum and you will hear from them shortly as well. But we've branched out to other locations city as well as just the aquarium. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 28:05
Hi there. Hopefully my sound is good. And you can see me Thanks, Carly. That was great. My name is Katharine Uhrich. I'm the Social Media Manager at the Field Museum, my pronouns are she her. And for a quick description of me I'm a white woman wearing glasses in a room with many doors. So the field is one of the world's largest natural history museums, we are built on the homeland of many indigenous nations whose people were are and will continue to live and thrive on their land. We are a cultural attractions. So we have a lot of different exhibitions. But we are also an active research institution. So we have about 100 scientists on staff that are doing work all around the globe. And our mission formally is to enable solutions for a future rich in nature and culture. What that really boils down to me for my work is making science for everyone. So on the next slide our institutions reaction to the pandemic was that on March 13, we announced a two week closure. Already by March 23. We were announcing a closure through May 1. So it was obvious that this was an incredibly severe situation, and many more permanent changes weren't needed. So when it came to our digital communications, I'm sure like all of you experienced we saw a real shift from emphasis on exhibitions and visit planning to resources membership online learning resources specifically. And you can see that here. This is a screenshot from our website, calling those things out, which looks very different than what you'll see if you go to the website today. So these changes were evident, obviously on the website. In our blog, through PR, our newsletter, and of course on social, for social, that meant new timelines. Brand new editorial calendar, I'm sure you all can relate to lots of weeks of work just sort of flying out the window, new priorities, and really valuing interactions and engagements.

Unknown Speaker 30:24

Unknown Speaker 30:26
our bright spot was this inflatable T Rex, you see here on the right side of the screen. I was one of the many people booing and eyeing over the sheds penguins very early on. And one night I was sitting there showing my spouse, Wellington, and he jokingly said, Well, you know, I can just like put on a talk so that I could go wander around the fuel museum. And I was like, oh, man, we don't have a tux. But we do have an inflatable T rex costume. So what do you do? And that's kind of how it started. So it really didn't require any internal workflow or sign off, because we already had the suit. We are home to the largest, largest, best preserved T Rex. So we actually have four costumes if anyone was wondering. But we already had the equipment and the person power. So there wasn't much to prove. And I also knew that more strategically, people love dinosaurs. And that if these were going to be a success, that it was a great opportunity for us to highlight our sort of star specimen or our iconic specimen, which is Sue. And I also knew that even if these were kind of silly, they were also still very much within the fields social voice. So sort of that idea of knowing the parameters and the rules so that you can intentionally work within them or outside of them. So on the next slide, you will see that a unsupervised was born, which was this series of videos that sort of worked around this prompt of Okay, the museum has closed, Sue has been left alone, what would this T rex be doing? So the first video was this middle screenshot you see here, Sue visited the Hall of birds inspired, of course, by the shed. And I should note that the shed in the Field Museum are basically right across the street from each other. So Sue went to visit some penguin friends in the hall of birds. And these videos we did about 10 in March and April. And they were thrilled that they were a huge hit, we had 1.7 million watches, quarter million and engagements, and we were picked up in CNN, e news and other places. Our audience engagement, we had a 500 follow 500% follower increase in March over the previous month in February. And like our other panelists have been talking about just tons of positive comments and feedback. And on the next slide, as Carly mentioned, it sort of also inspired a more formal collaboration with the shed, we had penguins come visit real penguins come visit the real zoo, which was, I think, definitely the highlight of my year.

Unknown Speaker 33:31
And we use those videos to talk about our both institutions reopening and sort of build excitement around that. So it was great to see these videos not only being hit externally with our audiences, but also get recognition internally. I think we all know that. Sometimes it's the hardest people to convince or your internal partners at times. So we got recognition from the executive team and I got a congratulatory note from our president even. And it also informed other content and our approach to other contents. So when we were getting ready to reopen to the public, in July, we use the same sort of narrative to inform our reopening video that shared our safety protocols and procedures. You can see that in that screenshot there on the right, and that is now the header for our our homepage. It also informed things like our annual fundraising day called Giving Day. And it also inspired other groups within the building. And I'll talk about that here in a little bit. But it inspired business enterprise and inflatable suit even made an appearance at our virtual Gala. So on the next slide, as I mentioned it, it didn't take a lot to make this happen in some ways because we already had it and in fact, the whole reason we did it was because it didn't require anything additional. It was impromptu Organic and we had the costumes we had the people and some light editing software that I knew how to use. And there was no extra budget required or requested. But I think it's also really important to note that there were some important factors that allow these to happen. Access to the museum was so key. And I know so many colleagues who have been really hindered by their ability to create and share content during this entire year, because of restrictions to their office into their buildings. So I first we first went in on March 17, to film a few of these. Already, the next day, we saw that they were becoming a hit. And a few days later, my boss and I were talking about whether I should go back to film more. And already by the 20th, just three days later, you know, it was I was already having to get executive approval to go into the building, and it just became much trickier. timing was also a huge part of why these were successful, I believe, because we were able to piggyback on the sheds success and sort of their media pickups in coverage. That was really helpful. And also, you know, this whole presentation is centered around this idea of offering relief and joy. And so I think the tone of these really struck a chord and really resonated with with fans and followers. And one additional consideration, you know, as we've continued to create these videos is staff time, and especially now as things are coming back on, say back online, as, as the in museum experience is continuing to build, we're finding ourselves juggling a lot more priorities. So lots of different considerations there.

Unknown Speaker 36:51
And to speak to some challenges, I think it's important to note that just because, you know, it was simple, doesn't necessarily mean it was easy. And especially as we continue to make these these videos, there is a lot of coordination and planning and logistics to figure out whether we're trying to figure out if we should be filming when the museum is open, where we might have to work around visitors or whether it's closed, in which case, we have to submit a, you know, an MMO to ensure exhibitions are unlocked and lights are on. There's a lot of planning that still is required here. Also, just coming up with new ideas, we've done 25 videos, they're mostly very short, but you still have to ensure you're staying true to the narrative. And I think, especially when it comes to more humorous content, there's this pressure to be funny. And I'm often wondering, like, are these still funny? Should we still be doing these? If you have any thoughts, please drop them in the chat. But I think you know that that is really important to always be considering and part of what we look at when we're thinking about whether we should continue a campaign are the data. And we have seen a pretty significant decline in engagement, as you can see there, I think a big part of that was a result of those elements of timing being lost that I mentioned. So you know, we were we were coincided with the sheds, media pickups, and just the general tone of the moment, you know, these are no longer novel anymore. And there's just so much other competing content, both outside of the museum and within the museum. So I think we're gonna keep going, we're still getting that really great audience feedback in an engagement. So as far as the positive comments go. So that's another important thing to look to, I think. And then as I mentioned before internal use, it's been great to see people sort of picking up and riffing on the idea. But sometimes when you lose control that narrative, some funny things can happen. And maybe it's not used in exactly the way you would have intended. For instance, one group used a different dinosaur suit, so it was very obvious. There, there wasn't much continuity there. So that was interesting. But I think in general, and 2020 these are all very good challenges to have. So I'll wrap it up there and pass it on to Annalisa.

Unknown Speaker 39:27
Hello, my name is Annalisa Meyer. I am the Deputy Director of Communications for here's the mouthful. This is Sony's National Zoo and conservation biology Institute. Next slide, please.

Unknown Speaker 39:45
So if you've not been to Washington, DC, the zoo is part of the Smithsonian and we sit on 163 acres right in the heart of DC. We were founded in 1889. We have a lot of animals 2700 392 species Lot of animal care staff and scientists on site here at the zoo in DC, but also on 3700 acres, about 90 minutes away in front royal, Virginia where we conduct reproductive and veterinary research to save endangered species. conservation is at the core of our mission. We are science focused, conservation focused. But we also are very visitation focus, of course, with our zoo in DC, which is open to the public and scbi in front, Royal Virginia is not. So we used to introduce physically on site visitation to 2 million people we used to do until next slide, please. Just like the rest of the Smithsonian Institution, we closed and like so many of our institutions be closed because of COVID. So we closed on March 14, and we wrote reopened at the end of July. So we are reopened with a lot of other criteria. And and rightly so safety procedures and restrictions. So we have a max capacity limit of 5000 throughout the whole day. And depending on the weather, because we're outdoors, we're not even hitting that. And so like so many of us, even though we had a robust digital engagement program, before we closed when those doors closed, there were a lot more eyes across the institution and leadership on what are we doing? How are we using digital engage people. And so that really became the primary we're reaching our audiences. Next slide, please. So the pivot, right, that we've all been talking about. So with a massive amount of content, lots of animals, lots of scientists, we have to have an editorial calendar. Like so many of us, we have a very small team. So we have to have an editorial calendar to balance out and try to meet all those competing priorities, certain people's research, other research, animal news, private events, events at the zoo. So all of that means that we have to do a lot of planning. And what really happened is like for so many of us what editorial calendar It was, like, scrapped completely. And the reason it was scrapped was for a number of reasons, we get a lot of our content from our animal care staff and scientists research stuffed in the field, our animal care staff, who reported to work every day, every day of the year, because we care for animals had to tighten their teams and sometimes split into two teams. So they were in shifts to help conserve, conserve their time. And so while we used to work on planning ahead content with them, they really didn't have capacity to do that. So one of our big shifts was just working with our animal care staff and asking them to send us content, we didn't know what it would be, it would just be what's happening today, what's happening this week, here's how you maximize your phone to 4k, here's some general tips on how to shoot video and take photos, which we've shared before. But how this was different was that that is really all we were getting. So that was a big shift in that regard. And then the other thing, of course, was with our tone. Um, as I noted before, our work to study and help save species is a primary driver of our content, like so many science based institutions, and helping message that we're a conservation organization. And conducting research is super important. zoos are conservation organizations, and helping share that with the public was a really big part of our strategy. But of course, against the backdrop of everything that was going on, talking about extinction, or talking about what we're doing, the saving species just didn't feel right. And so our big sort of pivot, if you will, on tone was just we're gonna go in all in on animal joy. Now, when we started sharing these first sort of clips that I'm gonna play a clip, in a second, we really sort of looked at how it was being received. And what we realized was, what people really wanted from us was really what's at the core of what we are, we are a place where people connect with animals, and providing these intimate moments sometimes just with not sound with nothing else. Nothing else was really what people want in responding to. So what we decided was we're going to leave with the cute and the conservation messages can follow. And that's exactly what happened. So without further ado, let's see a Swathi on. Can you hit the Athena button, this is the theme of this law.

Unknown Speaker 44:24
Let's see if that works.

Unknown Speaker 44:35
All right. All right. So I've got a time check. So I'm going to stop the slot we can play two seconds of Cheetah cubs because they're just adorable. But then we're going to get on to the rest of the presentation.

Unknown Speaker 44:56
That's a cheetah chirping they actually chirp. Alright, so next Please, flied, as cheetahs don't want to go away. I know they're so cute. So here's another big shift a life finds away. So if you have not heard we have a giant panda cub at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. And in the interest of time, I'm going to focus just on the panda cup. Of course, I think cheetahs are cute, and they're amazing. But the public has spoken and the Panda and panda cubs create utter pandemonium. Mei Zhang is the oldest female giant fan female giant panda in North America to give birth. So while she's given birth to clubs before, and we've had a few unsuccessful attempts, in the past few years, we weren't quite expecting it. There's have something called delayed implantation and display the same sort of behaviors, whether they're pregnant or not. So the only real way we can tell is if she participates in an ultrasound, that's fine. Go ahead and hit that. So you can hear a little bit of the cub. This is the cover just like a day or two old and that is actually literally the ultrasound. She should have.

Unknown Speaker 46:11
That little tiny, pink, hairless squeaking thing was born on the 21st. And we had from the 14th to the 21st to get ready. Now, this is not our first panda cub. I it's weird that I could say that. But it's not my first so we knew what we needed to what we were getting ready for, but it was a time. Next slide, please. All right. So in terms of our concept and workflow, the first number one thing was visuals, right, we had to be able to go beyond the panda cam, which was a huge number one hit on our website, 200,000 people turned in just to watch the birth. But we needed to go beyond that we need to take people behind the scenes and get up close to the curb. So our first concept was we had to get in. And so we had to get clearance from the COVID task force for animal care team for my video specialists to jump in there and be able to go and to get photos like you see here and videos and bring people closer. We were all in on unified language and tone on joy and all. And we used our milestone markers just like a child. panda cubs have milestones, first steps, ear canals, opening, eyes opening markings coming in. So we use that to mark our content. And our biggest other sort of thing was we're going to be responsive, like all of us, right, we're going to watch comments, we're going to watch engagement and see what people want and give them more of it. In terms of workflow, we really let our keepers in our animal care team schedules and when they could give us information and those special behind the scenes insights on what the club was doing to inform our schedule. So we were flexible. And we also had a very sort of systematized, if you will review process because it's animal care, it's we had to approve it. So we wrote something with them. When it back, we got it all checked off, and then push down on every channel. Same content slightly tweaked every channel we had, and we just decided we were going to be flexible and open to changes, which means changes for ours and our team. How are we doing? Are we able to do it and also for the panda team? All right, I'll go on to the next one. I know that we don't have much time. So all right. So metrics. These metrics are bananas for us. And so there's nothing like a panda cub, right. One of our big goals was to deepen and drive engagement and drive people to the webcam, which we've been doing. And after we've announced the birth through mid from mid August through the end of last week from compared to the same period before our engagement has increased almost 380% and that included the cheetah combs. So in terms of panda cam, we've had one and a half million unique users. And we had a big jump in followers since August 14. Now we had other content besides pandas, but we really can largely attribute that jump to the magnetic pole of that adorable panda. I think I can play just a few seconds of this video before we get on to the to the rest of it. Though, as you can see, besides the panda cam, having a member of our team approved to be there to capture video was absolutely essential to where we are today.

Unknown Speaker 49:32
In that little nugget.

Unknown Speaker 49:37
All right. And of course we can Oh, we can go. All right. So yes, it is clear that the world loves pandas. And I think a thread for all of us, you know, as we see these comments and the feedback we've gotten was, you know, in our Our world of museums of art and science based institutions like the Smithsonian zoo, we can provide joy, right. And this was exactly what people wanted. There's something about these small intimate moments between a mother and cub that people were identifying with. And also this moment of distraction. So we really were just serving back what we, what we knew people wanted based on how their feedback was, even from the beginning of the closure, when they started seeing our slough videos and our Cheetah cub videos. This is what we need. Thank you, this is what we need. And so these qualitative comments just sort of really cement that, you know, and for so many of us, these little moments that we've been able to provide have brought us joy. But we've also feel like we're bringing a little bright spot to 2020. Next slide, please.

Unknown Speaker 50:56
All right, media. pandas are great news stories, they really are. So when we talk about pandas, and we push panda content out there, I don't have to aggressively pitch for coverage. And so these are just a snapshot of hits from, at least in terms of the metrics, just from the Cubs announcing the fetus detection through the Cubs first week after its birth, we had a huge amount of coverage. And what I think was super interesting in terms of tone and message and pickup that I think all of us strive to do, is what we knew people wanted in terms of how they were responding, we sort of doubled down in terms of our language, we went all in on cute and fluffy which he is. But in serving up and talking about this cub with that sort of language and tone, more informal, less conservation focus, even though we've always balanced that before. What we saw was media, we're literally picking up our language, like so we wrote pump, little panda, then we see people using plump little panda, we've been talking about joy and floppiness. And you know, using those words, and that's getting picked up by media, and it's getting picked up. And what that means to me is that the language is working. And our tone is resonating. So you know, when we, when we look at that, and all of us sort of look at metrics and engagement. what that says is it's working. And so that was super helpful, it's always helpful to have that. But in a science based institution, when especially when you're reporting up with data, to say it's working, and this tone is working, was great. And so we can see that through our metrics, and especially with how the media picked up news about this cub, you know, our plump panda prints, if you will. Um, next slide. So what it took and some challenges I mentioned before needing to get the safety approvals so we could have access to get us to have one member of our team get as close as he has been able to to film and get these amazing visuals of this cub staff time shifting priorities. So I would say really, when this happened, we were like 100% panda. Now we're 70% panda. And as we hit our milestones and the cub continues to grow, we'll have to dial back. But right now, this is really our number one focus. In terms of resources and money. We have a set of panda money that only can use on panda programs. But in terms of this campaign up until now, we have not spent any financial resources. Looking ahead as we come up to the the debut of the cup, if you will, what would normally be a physical debut. We've invested in some equipment so we can do some live streaming for your stream yard. And we are also to keep up with the churn hiring video contractor to help out with editing and pulling panda cam footage. So someone's job literally been to watch the panda cam and pull and help us edit videos, which is not so bad. In terms of challenges, I think it's burnout, right? We are trying to keep up with the demand and we have a small team like so many of us so can we keep up with this? And the answer's no, we really can't This is a lot especially with all the other priorities of the institution. So that's also why we're looking for some contract for support for the video portion but we are putting out twice weekly updates on the cub we are putting out social and we are working with the media so it can get out to be a lot but then you look at this little cutie and you're like okay, it's worth it of course. In terms of other challenges, questions on major on on the cub. This is not something new for us. We answered questions on animal behavior all the time, but because of the sheer volume and interest in this club, we have a huge amount more of questions and comments in through social through our chat bot on our website from media. So it's just challenging to keep up. We've created some great resources and created a landing spot on our newsroom. So many of us probably have, you know, we newsrooms and put up media kits. But what we really did, there was a way to help So help us, right, here's one page, all the video all the club updates, all the press releases all the photos, Panda products, how do you support the pandas, here's how you can use our content. So we had a landing spot, which has helped it make it easier for my team just because we can give that to media, but also help support continued coverage. If you if you give media what they need, and they don't have to look for it, you'll get more coverage, and they'll use the content usually. So it helps us meet those needs and also conserve staff time. And I think it's the whole challenge of digital versus physical. Um,

Unknown Speaker 55:50
we would usually

Unknown Speaker 55:51
have a big on site celebration with panda CAKE CAKE for the pay of bows and lots of people coming and speaking and remarks. But we can't and so one of the challenges I think that we're facing, and I'm sure many of you are is okay, you just make that a digital event. kit, we just make it online. And that's not necessarily the case. It's not apples to apples, or bamboo to bamboo, in this case. So that's a challenge. And then in terms of media expectations, it's just what am I going to get into see the panda one? Can we do this how to make the content fresh, and then also to from a safety perspective, because we can't let people into the panda house right now. Hey, Emily, so and everyone side by side interrupts. Little I know you were got that last slide. And I recognize that we're going to run a little over. So the zoom will shut out. So just to really quickly go through just the the wrap up at the end, and then maybe we can take a couple of questions. Otherwise, please feel free to message us with any questions that we don't get to Hillary Morgan's, gonna advance the slide to kind of our checklist, which I encourage you it's a riff off of Ryan Dodge his content checklist from the ROM, except this checklist is specifically about you know how what to review before publishing a campaign during a turbulent time. Feel free to screenshot that since we won't have time to talk about it just yet. And then, Katherine, were there any major questions that came in through the chat that we should address now? Yeah, I

Unknown Speaker 57:23
think one that I saw kind of continually coming up, maybe Annalisa, you can speak to this a little bit was any techniques around press for social media campaigns, one person even said that their PR staff doesn't think social campaigns are worth pitching. I make sure you come off mute.

Unknown Speaker 57:45
So techniques for social Oh, that's interesting is our shop, we would do all of it, right? We do media, web and social. So I view it as integrated, I don't think you can do one without the other. So that's always a surprise. To me, it's not a surprise, but I just think it's connected. So I would say in terms of media, um, there's a lot of media that cover this sort of world in space we're in. So I think in terms of thinking about very specifically, media that cover digital engagement, or social is one way to go. And I also think it's just about making sure it's included front and center and press materials, like every big sort of outreach, if there's a moment to think about how that could be, how social could be integrated into it, it should be, um, and, you know, often that's the best way, I think, to have conversations with audience, right, that's what you know, is working. So I would say, you know, ask for it to be included, try to be at the table from the beginning with the people who are doing the media strategy, right, sort of say, how are we going to make this an integrated communications campaign, what's happening on web, what's happening on social and media and just try to really emphasize what that says it's a piece of the puzzle. Right nowadays especially, that would be my my tips. And thank you all for joining us. Again, most of our speakers I believe, are on Twitter and feel free to message us since we're going to timeout

Unknown Speaker 59:07
sorry for running out of time, ask questions on Twitter.