Floodwaters, furry friends & digital media – a case study

Floodwaters, furry friends & digital media – a case study

A Communicatto digital media case study

The Calgary Zoo, renowned as one of the top zoos in North America, sees an average of 1.3 million annual visitors. Those visitors know the zoo both for its conservation programs and its diverse array of animals. In 2013 the zoo needed to up its digital media game. That’s when they reached out to Communicatto.

At that point in time, the zoo began looking for a web developer. They reached out to Communicatto to provide some guidance in the process. Communicatto also provided support by doing some SEO copywriting for the new website. From that small starting point grew a truly collaborative digital marketing program, more than either party would have initially imagined.

In June 2013, the Calgary Zoo had a modest social media presence, including a Facebook page and a brand new Twitter account. Suddenly the unthinkable happened. A devastating flood swept through the zoo, threatening the lives of the beloved animals who call it home. The flood also took with it the bulk of the zoo’s communications equipment, which put most of the emphasis and pressure on those nascent social media channels.

Calgary Zoo digital media

While zookeepers worked tirelessly to bring the animals to safety, the marketing and communications departments faced a flood of their own: the activity on their social media accounts went from a gentle purr to a deafening roar in a matter of hours. The media clung to their every Facebook post; thousands of messages poured in from concerned animal lovers worldwide.

“Communicatto was a great sounding board for us in those initial days of the flood,” notes Larissa Mark, the zoo’s communications manager. “Maximizing our use of social media gave us back some measure of communications control. It was reassuring in all the mayhem to have Communicatto available to bounce ideas off of when needed.”

Though the floodwaters eventually receded and the animals returned home, the zoo worked hard to get back on its feet. The damage was extensive and it would take many months to restore full operations. “That’s where Communicatto stepped in and really helped to structure social media for us,” says Mark.

“Due to the circumstances we were short on people,” adds Adrienne Buhr, the zoo’s interim marketing manager. “Communicatto helped us maintain the momentum we had started to build before the flood. As a result, we were able to capitalize on the attention we received.”
Digital media

In order to create an effective digital strategy, Communicatto helped define the zoo’s target audiences, created a voice that appealed to those audiences, implemented a hub-and-spoke content marketing model and even restructured the zoo’s blog to include regularly scheduled posts and an array of multimedia. Along with an increased ROI on their marketing dollars, the zoo really boosted their online presence and audience engagement with the assistance of Communicatto.

“From where we were in 2013 to where we are now, it’s pretty incredible,” Mark notes. “We’re better storytellers and those stories really have a positive impact on the organization.”

The terrible flood of 2013 caused plenty of destruction and chaos, even closing the downtown core for a week, but it also forced the Calgary Zoo to take a closer look at the opportunities that social and digital media provide. Building on the guidance Communicatto provided, the zoo is now social media savvy in their own right – utilizing their comprehensive digital strategy to share stories of their amazing animals, their conservation efforts, and connect with their target audiences.

Download the case study (PDF)

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