After Louisiana issued a stay-at-home order in March, Jarett and Kallie Landry weren’t sure their business would survive. The Landry’s own a gym in New Iberia, Louisiana. When the governor extended the shutdown order, the Landrys lost all their income and laid off 12 of their employees. With their livelihood taken away, the Landrys were scared of what the future held for them.
The Landry’s story is one of many shared by the Pelican Institute for Public Policy in New Orleans. While much attention was paid to the public health aspect of the coronavirus crisis, little was paid to the devastation caused by the economic lockdowns.
To highlight the impact the economic shutdown had on average Louisianans, the Pelican Institute drove around Louisiana to hear first-hand accounts from small business owners.
Pelican: Following Governor John Bel Edwards’ decision to shut down the state’s economy, we traveled across Louisiana to collect video stories of industries, entrepreneurs, and workers impacted by the decision. After filming several stories, we began producing a series titled “Faces of the Shutdown.” To date, four videos in the series have been released and have earned significant views and attention from our key audiences and beyond.
Pelican: The audience for “Faces of the Shutdown” was all Louisianans, particularly those unaware of the damaging impact of the state’s shutdown. Additionally, the campaign aimed to reach state leaders and others who could influence the state’s decisions on reopening the economy. These audiences were selected because we wanted to bring in new subscribers to our policy principles and beliefs and also show the strong resistance to the shutdown to state leaders. We measured the impacts of the “Faces of the Shutdown” stories through Facebook viewership and engagement, as well as by the economic decisions made by the state. To date, the four “Faces of the Shutdown” stories have been viewed more than 51,000 times on Facebook. Just days after the release of the video on Louisiana’s tattoo shops, which were excluded from Phase 1 of the state’s reopening, the industry was added to the list of businesses approved to reopen.
Pelican: This project presented powerful stories that were relevant to the circumstances of countless Louisianans. The Pelican Institute used the tools, personnel, and resources at its disposal to produce these stories with speed and efficiency. Vice President for Advocacy John Kay and Director of Communications Morgan Wampold took the lead on vetting, filming, editing, and producing the final videos using Morgan’s camera and Windows HD Movie Maker. Without the combined efforts of John and Morgan, completing this project would not have been possible within our $300 budget.
Pelican: Early on, we learned the value of lavalier microphones when collecting video stories. In addition to this and other film logistics discoveries, we were initially unable to edit the videos and produce a high-quality product. Fortunately, HD Movie Maker was procured for minimal costs, and Morgan was able to tap into his broadcast news editing skills to overcome this obstacle. The largest obstacle was our lack of expertise in producing high-quality videos in-house. This made the first round of video editing difficult. However, the process, design templates, and style established in the first video helped ease the process of editing the subsequent stories.
For their work to highlight Louisianans affected by the government shutdown, the Pelican Institute was a winner of SPN’s Communications Excellence Awards in the Creative Shoestring Budget Award category.