Community transmission of COVID-19 was first detected in the United States in February 2020. On March 11, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in the state and signed an executive order declaring a state emergency. The state was thrown into chaos, alongside the rest of the world. MHP/Team SI and another local organization, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB), wanted to use their skills to help Arkansas at-large. Because of the fluid nature of COVID-19, businesses were in need of a platform where they could communicate real-time updates to their customers regarding the status of their business, from opening hours to how patrons could support them. They found a way to support Arkansas’ small businesses and nonprofits, and connect them with the communities they were still trying to serve: UpliftArkansas.com.
According to the Small Business Administration, 247,018 businesses (99.3% of all businesses) in Arkansas are categorized as small. In 2015, small businesses employed around 479,727 Arkansans and made up almost half of the overall labor force with the top industries being health care and social assistance, accommodation and food service, and retail trade.
This global pandemic spread quickly and devastated small businesses in Arkansas especially heavily, as a state ranked the nation’s 5th poorest. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arkansas’ unemployment rate in March was 5%, an increase of 1.5% from February. In April, the unemployment rate more than doubled to 10.2%. The need for public support was immediate and growing.
Planning & Objectives
Quickly and in addition to their normal workload, teammates from MHP/Team SI began meeting to strategize and create UpliftArkansas.com in partnership with the LRCVB. To be altruistic and demonstrate that the agency was truly supportive, the objective was to create a free aggregated resource that serves as a hub for Arkansans to find information regarding the local impact of COVID-19, particularly relating to nonprofits and businesses. UpliftArkansas.com was created. Arkansas’ businesses and organizations can submit and update listings detailing their current state of operation and inform the public on how they can engage in business safely. This was a much-needed crutch due to Google experiencing vast delays in its Google My Business listing updates, so businesses needed a platform to publicize updated information. The objective was to truly help Arkansas at-large.
Correlation to Research: Statista.com reported the first weeks of March 2021 saw an 18% increase in in-home data usage compared to the same period in 2019, which meant the public was moving online to gather information. This, combined with drastically increased unemployment in Arkansas, told the team at MHP/Team SI that an online resource was needed to offer correct information and mitigate confusion.
Goal: The goal was to provide Arkansans a central location for updated business information in order to support local businesses, and offer business owners an additional (and self-maintained) outlet to provide current and updated information to the purchasing public.
Secure 100 business listings
Receive at least 100 business listing submissions during the campaign window to demonstrate reach to business owners
Reach 10,000 page views
Engage 10,000 page views to demonstrate large reach of public users
Target Audience and Timeline
Statewide public, community leaders, business owners and organization directors; state government and elected officials; and Arkansas media outlets.
March 11, 2020 – August 2020
All work for this project was supported with volunteer time and expertise, no funding.
Multi-pronged approach utilizing strategic partnerships, organic social media, earned media and grassroots opportunities.
Secure 100 Business Listings
Exceeded our objective by securing 503 business listings.
Reach 10,000 Page Views
Users viewed 6,552 online page listings on Uplift to get info on ways to support local businesses. The website received 49,332 page views.
UpliftArkansas.com was ranked number one in search results with 503 business listings. Users viewed 6,552 online page listings on Uplift to get info on ways to support local businesses. The website received 49,332 page views.
Earned Media Results
Organic Social Media Results
MHP/Team SI received 47,579 impressions/reach and 3,410 engagements through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Media Partnership Results
MHP/SI leveraged media relationships to engage multiple PSAs that ran on 40+ radio stations, more than six TV stations and 34 billboards in central Arkansas.