For 2013, the Communications Team laid the groundwork for the pending expansion of responsibility to include Burning Man Project, focusing on streamlining processes, expanding proactive media pitching, expanding the reach of BMIR, and rebuilding the webcast team.
With the planned transition to non-profit status by the end of the year, Burning Man hired an additional Communications team member to focus on the transition – including internal and external messaging – and to pick up some of the additional communications work like the Burning Man Project newsletter and generation media interest around Burning Man Project-supported programs like the Y.E.S. spacecraft.
The team continued ongoing efforts to streamline processes, transitioning to online media registration from a paper-based system. This upgrade allowed the media team to process and review more than 600 media applications, have 75% of the approved outlets completed with contracts in hand in advance of the event, and to efficiently process 121 applications that came in at the event.
The team also began implementing an editorial calendar to schedule all communications activities and maximize visibility of content using the Jackrabbit Speaks, website, email lists and social media. The ed cal will also allow us to spread out information and try to lessen the tsunami of content that hits Burners in the June-July-August time frame.
The Communications Team also ramped up its pro-active media outreach, particularly around legislative issues and in support of Burning Man Project programs. Historically, Burning Man has not put as much emphasis on pro-active outreach, but the increasing media interest in the event and the growing number of Project-supported activities necessitated the switch, and the results were positive media coverage on all fronts.
As a result of increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Black Rock City in 2012, the Communications Team took the lead on registering UAVs at the event in 2013 and working with drone operators to develop a list of best practices on operating them in the city. The vast majority of operators acted responsibly, but we recorded a handful of violations, including flying over crowds and crashing near participants. As a result, new guidelines will be developed for 2014 and management of the drone registration effort transitioned to the Airport team.
A new team took over management of the Burning Man webcast for 2013. Despite a rough start to the week with the webcam overheating and defaulting into demo mode, the team resolved the majority of issues by midweek and we recorded a record number of visits to the live video stream on Saturday (132,000) and coordinated a live remote feed from the burn circle on Saturday night.
Burning Man Information Radio went mobile in 2013, working with iHeartRadio to make the station available to Burners via a mobile app. Used primarily as a tech demonstration project in 2013, we expect use of the mobile app to grow in 2014 as BMIR expands its role to provide hourly traffic and gate wait time updates.