By Ingrid Sinclair
The Two Oceans Aquarium was one of South Africa’s first visitor attractions to temporarily close its doors to the public as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It will remain closed in accordance with government regulations while a dedicated team of essential staff take care of the animals and life-support systems that run through the building. The lockdown has, however, not slowed the Aquarium’s content team down one bit!
Owned digital media has long been a communications staple of ours. About 10 years ago, the Aquarium pivoted to content marketing and to online storytelling – rich, immersive, multi-media content with journalistic foundations – as the primary channel to drive awareness, education and engagement with our brand. Credit goes to Flow Communications for setting us on that path. Then, five years ago, all those skills were brought in-house. Now we are in a fortunate position in that we can really take advantage of the investment we made in our team – our creators are witty, and they live and breathe the brand, qualities which I have found to be invaluable for authentic online content that resonates with visitors.
Through the years, the Aquarium has built up a highly engaged online audience of more than 116 000 followers across social media properties and an email database of more than 30 000 subscribers, and through our dedicated blog and social media content we aim to entertain and educate and, of course, remain top of mind. Thanks to the nature and quality of our stories, we have great organic reach and engagement from a trusting and supportive audience, and we are now focused on maintaining this close connection with our friends and fans during lockdown.
Our main work at the moment is to proactively develop interactive and fun content, while remaining flexible and tapping into online trends – such as meme-dominating penguins, staff-led video content, updates from our remote workers, unbelievable turtle rescue missions, and sneak peeks into our behind-the-scenes environment – without just “following the pack”… Though we do take advantage of trends – did I mention penguins? So many penguins! Most recently we launched the Marine Masterminds quiz campaign which will run for the duration of the lockdown and is based on our regular blogs.
While the increase in media consumption that comes with a lockdown is an opportunity to drive awareness and affiliation, we are sensitive to the thin line between providing meaningful distraction, and taking up too much “airtime” during what is undeniably an extremely stressful period for all South Africans. So we keep things positive and on-brand while acknowledging the uncertain terrain (but without speculating about the future) and we speak to our organisation’s mission – which is, to inspire action for the future well-being of the ocean – in everything we do.
Ultimately, we are calling on a tried and tested communications strategy while being more creative and forward thinking than ever before. This can only be a good thing for any marketing and communications team!