When communicating with the public about operations during the pandemic, the team at Greenville County Recreation needed to walk the line between two schools of potential visitors — those who believed extreme caution should be taken and who might even harbor anxiety about the virus; and others who wanted to open society back up, with perhaps a baseline assurance that measures were taken to protect users.

To introduce its COVID response to both groups, the staff created two videos. Both provided a look at what the facilities would look like. One lasted three minutes and provided a quick look at the protective protocol, while the other clocked in at 12 minutes and provided a detailed tour of the facilities, with in-depth explanations about signage, sanitation and social distancing.

“We went out of our way to show exactly what it’s going to look like when you arrive, where the arrows will point you, how clean the bathrooms will be, what lanes will be open, what amenities would be open,” says Bob Mihalic, governmental affairs coordinator for Greenville County, S.C. “We have everything, down to how we’ve been cleaning the bathrooms.”

To further calm more cautious observers, the county posted photos addressing individual issues throughout the season. Leading up to reopening day, for instance, they emphasized their deep cleaning protocol and encouraged use of online ticket purchases to skip lines.

Constant adjustments

Throughout summer, the staff monitored the mood of the community. When COVID cases were spiking, social media posts focused on their commitment to safety. When the numbers let up and moods lightened, posts would emphasize the mental and physical health benefits of visiting one of Greenville’s aquatics facilities.

They relied mostly on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, using the different platforms based on whom they wanted to reach. To quell parents’ concerns about safety and the like, they would employ Facebook. Instagram and YouTube were used used to appeal to the kids. Longer videos were posted on Facebook, while the quick, fun hits were placed on Instagram.

While the circumstances of this year were unique — hopefully, occurring once in a lifetime — Mihalic says Greenville Parks and Recreation learned some lessons and may use similar techniques even post-pandemic.

“I think we’re learning that you really can’t give out too much information,” he says. “It’s one thing to say we’re doing everything, but we needed to show that we were doing everything. Where people may be a little nervous, be as transparent as possible, show them everything you’ve got going on, and maybe that can ease their concerns.”

After COVID-19 concerns have passed, he says, the team may create similar videos just to share what the experience is like to use the facilities — perhaps a tour of the property and amenities.