WINNER - 2020 ARCom Prism Award
As the COVID-19 began to impact the state of Arkansas in March of 2020 – Hot Springs was hit particularly hard. With spring break around the corner, various organizations were forced to cancel many of its biggest events including the Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Valley of the Vapors Music Festival, and live racing at Oaklawn. For a city whose economy relies heavily on tourism, particularly with the spring break kick-off, stay at home orders were devastating.
While many non-essential businesses were closing their doors -- restaurants were urged to suspend dining room operations and transition to take-out, delivery, and curbside service. Most businesses relied on social media, word-of-mouth, and some advertising to communicate their operations.
Residents who were stuck at home found themselves searching through Facebook and dialing businesses to find out whether they were open and how they were proceeding. There was no centralized location where businesses could communicate their quickly changing operations with their prospective customers.
There were several existing obstacles. As a relatively small agency with limited staff and existing clients, the site needed to be functional without requiring a significant amount of employee attention. Because this was a pro-bono project, there were no funds for promotion or advertising. Most importantly, timeliness would be of the utmost importance.
SixtyOne Celsius developed a site that relied on user-generated entries, rather than manually converting Google Form entries. Restauranteurs would submit important information via an online form. Administrators were alerted to new submissions and approved entries in a timely manner (to prevent spam, fraudulent entries, or divert significant time away from clients). The responsive design, quick loading, and simple user interface allowed visitors to find information efficiently. Finally, a disclaimer waiving the agency of any responsibility for orders or quality of food.
The concept was born on March 18th at 3:44 pm. By 10 pm on March 20,th we were soft-launching the site and sending it to restaurant owners we knew to test it out.
Within the first month of its launch, the site welcomed over 2,500 visitors and listed 80 area restaurants.
As of June 3, 2020 – the site registered 4,036 unique visitors and 117 businesses listed. The site garnered local media attention, including coverage in the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record and referrals from the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Hot Springs.
The Hot Springs Tracker was honored as a finalist for a 2020 Prism Award by the Arkansas chapters of the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators.