One of the biggest challenges faced by the Communications Team in 2012 came as a result of the fast-paced and continually-evolving dynamics of the ticket sales process. From crafting the explanatory language about how the new system worked, to dealing with the fallout from the random selection process, the team worked about as hard and under as much duress as any time in Burning Man’s history. Particularly difficult was the effort to quickly discern the reality of what was actually happening with the ticket sale – no mean feat, given the wealth of anecdotal reports and a dearth of actual signifying data – as we worked to get out helpful and timely information to our community.
Many hours were spent poring over the evidence of what occurred, many hours were put in determining the best path forward, and many more hours were devoted to crafting messages that would give participants an understanding of the situation, what it meant, and what their best options were going forward. For a full accounting of the 2012 ticket situation, see the Ticketing Department Afterburn Report.
When it became clear that a large influx of first-time Burners would be coming to the event in 2012, the Communications Team responded by developing a number of strategic cross-media communications campaigns focused on educating participants about key issues integral to the future of the Burning Man event. These included Traffic (ingress and egress), Environmental Assessment mitigations, Leave No Trace (both on playa and in surrounding towns), and Families at Burning Man. We were very gratified to see distinct improvements in these areas – wait times at the gate, for example, were markedly shorter than in recent years past.
In its second year of existence, the cross-departmental Communications Committee served as an effective body to consider strategies for increasing public relations efforts, improving external communications, and streamlining internal communications.
The Media Team entertained more applications and approved fewer films; we began turning away additional pre-event requests in our ongoing attempts to protect participant privacy and manage the number of film crews on playa while also providing ample opportunities for filmmakers and photographers to participate in their art form at the event. The processes we developed in 2011 for managing incoming requests for interviews and appearances reaped rewards in 2012. Such requests are at an all time high, as we seek the perfect balance between controlled growth and our longtime devotion to sharing the story of Burning Man with the larger world.
Enjoying a new container located on the Esplanade of Black Rock City, Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR) went 24/7 for the third year in a row in 2012, providing essential information and eclectic entertainment for the citizens of Black Rock City.
The Regional Network grew still larger in 2012, and held another extraordinary Leadership Summit in San Francisco in March. The wildly successful Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE) project saw 34 (up from 23 in 2011) regionally-created collaborative artworks from all over the world come together for a major conflagration on Thursday night in BRC. The Meta-Committee, a hand-selected group of exemplary Regional leadership, built on momentum gained in 2011 to flourish as an advisory board to Burning Man, helping to guide us as we seek to better support the Regional Network and Burning Man culture at large.
Through the Regional Network, social media, special appearances, archive management, image sharing, print publications, our website, the press process, our own forums, and the growth of Burning Man awareness in the world at large, the Communications Department helps support the spread of the culture beyond the desert by sharing our story year-round.
Lastly, 2012 saw the departure of one of the Burning Man organization’s most valuable members. Andie Grace, who helped create and lead the Communications Team for 13 years, moved on to explore other activities and interests. To fill her formidable shoes, we hired a fantastic new PR Manager (which is a new role to Burning Man) to take on a large part of Andie’s responsibilities. We expect to further expand and retool the team going forward as priorities shift, internal structures grow, and our community — and its ongoing story — continues to evolve.