Stay home, Minnesota.
It’s a message that has been repeated with growing intensity as state officials have instructed residents to hunker down to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
In the span of a little more than a week, a handful of communications staffers in Gov. Tim Walz’s office aided by donated airtime, billboards and other media services have created an expansive #StayHomeMN guerrilla marketing campaign.
#StayHomeMN has been broadcast in public-service announcements, social media posts and print ads. The herculean effort to reach millions of Minnesotans in a short amount of time was made even more difficult with staffers juggling different tasks while they worked remotely and the governor himself self-quarantined at home.
“COVID-19 presents an unprecedented challenge to our state,” said Walz in a statement Monday as his office announced print ads that would run in newspapers across the state. “The state of Minnesota and our private partners are doing everything we can to protect Minnesotans, but we need your help. Minnesotans, stay home and let’s make sure we keep our family, our friends, and our neighbors safe.”
On March 17, Walz began tweeting #StayHomeMN. The phrasing stuck as a team of three to four communications staffers in the governor’s office and another department started to create digital content to inform Minnesotans of the latest COVID-19 news and safety tips.
The state enlisted the aid of public relations firm Tunheim for a short-term contract to help launch the #StayHomeMN campaign across digital platforms. Tunheim has helped the governor’s office with social strategy, tracking metrics and outreach to influencers.
By March 19, the governor’s office began to share digital #StayHomeMN logos, banners and posters the team had created.
“Governor Walz is doing everything he can to ensure Minnesotans know how to protect themselves, their family and their community from the spread of COVID-19,” Kayla Castañeda, deputy chief of staff for communications, said in a statement. “That’s why we launched the #StayHomeMN campaign to raise awareness in every corner of the state. From professional sports players to local celebrities to everyday Minnesotans, it’s incredible to see people from all backgrounds join in on the campaign and rally around the shared cause of keeping each other safe.”
Over the past two weeks, as the seriousness of the virus began to set in, television and radio stations, as well as the Minnesota Vikings and Twins and other sports teams, reached out to state officials to offer their help.
Last week as the governor issued an executive stay-at-home order, television networks began running 15-, 30- and 60-second public service announcements (PSAs) of Walz that had been recorded in his office and edited by a KARE 11 producer. With the help of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association, airtime on television and radio were donated to allow the PSAs to run. TPT Now provided translations of the PSA into seven other languages, including Spanish and Somali.
On Monday, the governor’s office announced it was working with the Minnesota Newspaper Association to begin running versions of the PSAs.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the messages from the governor’s office will also evolve, his staff said. For example, there are plans for the governor to participate in a video condemning hostility toward Asian-Americans.
Lamar Advertising, a national outdoor advertising company based in Louisiana, began more than a week ago to run messaging from the governor’s office on five digital billboards in Duluth and Brainerd. The company reached out to state authorities to offer billboard space for free and it has also provided free space to some restaurants advertising curbside pickup hours.
“It’s a powerful medium,” said Matt Harrold, Lamar’s local general manager. “This is going to reach people who don’t have social media. … It was an immediate way where being part of this community, we can make an impact.”