Placer County officials have been discussing a campaign to aid awareness for preventing the spread of coronavirus since June. With COVID-19 case numbers climbing rapidly in California, and Tahoe residents already frustrated by the behaviors of second-home owners fleeing the cities and potentially bringing the virus with them, the lack of prophylactic measures became too much of a threat to bear. The goals of this advocacy program are to engage with residents and visitors to keep everyone safe and community businesses open.
The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, which is funded by Placer County, decided to pitch Ideal Wild, a Tahoe-based social media management firm, to head what would become the #maskUPtahoe campaign.
The campaign is already underway through the social media platforms of Ming Poon and the Tahoe pro athlete community. “A lot of the people involved are just my friends. I reached out via text to Townsend and McConkey and Michelle Parker, as important leaders in our community. Everyone was on board,” Poon says. He also featured other community leaders like firefighters and local business owners to explain to the public how their lives would be altered by becoming infected with the virus.
“We’re not focused on shaming people, but we’re really focused on empowering people to wear a mask in public when they can’t maintain social distancing,” Poon says. “The big push of the campaign is to stress the why of wearing a mask. We had our community members make signs explaining their reasons for wearing masks. My favorite read, ‘It’s just not that hard.'”
Poon said he was inspired by the emotion of some of the PSAs and pleas of doctors and nurses coming out of New York. But he wanted to create a scalable campaign. “From a creative perspective, we thought if we nail this then everyone else will want to follow. So I could take the same template to make it unique to each area. We’re going beyond skiers and using community leaders to really drive home the point. Having doctors and nurses write messages makes it more real.”
The goal is to push this campaign to other ski towns and beyond. South Lake Tahoe already has a similar campaign in the works, but Poon wants to see this kind of discussion happening throughout the ski community. “We’re already seeing results,” he says. “Walking the bike paths and the waterfront two weeks ago almost no one was wearing a mask, now it’s 80 or 90 percent.”
For skiers, perhaps the most compelling argument will come from the pro skiers, whose signs point to the fact that the quicker we get the spread of the virus under control, the more likely we will be able to ride chair lifts this winter. But Poon maintains this is far bigger than that.
“There’s more we can do, we’re heading in the right direction. We need progress over perfection. Sherry [McConkey] said it best, ‘It’s a small act, but a grand gesture.'”