Five reasons Chester Zoo has had an incredible Covid campaign

“What advice would I have to anyone about to re-open? Hold onto your hats!”

- Jenny Tegg, Head of Marketing, Chester Zoo

If there is such a thing as a lockdown success story, Chester Zoo’s public engagement and fundraising campaign must be it.

They’ve engaged with millions of people in their virtual zoo days on Facebook Live, raised over £2.7 million through the Save Our Zoo campaign, and successfully lobbied the UK government to allow zoos to re-open. Now they are managing tens of thousands of visitors a week under new safety measures.

What’s their secret? This is what Chester Zoo’s Head of Marketing, Jenny Tegg, told us:

1. They already knew their audiences back to front

Chester Zoo had years of visitor research under their belt. When lockdown restrictions were announced, Jenny says they could follow their gut, responding quickly and confidently to give audiences what they wanted.

Their instincts were on the button: over a million people joined the first Virtual Zoo Day on Facebook live.

2. They remained focused on their cause

Chester Zoo was closed to visitors but otherwise their work with animals had to carry on as normal.

The marketing team’s digital offer focused on the reality of life for the keepers and others on the ground. These special behind-the-scenes glimpses offered audiences the joy and connections they craved, and simultaneously kept them engaged with the Zoo’s animal welfare and conservation mission.

3. They put the audience’s needs first – then campaigned from the heart

Chester Zoo were keen that their messaging remained upbeat throughout lockdown; but when faced with indefinite closure and a "fight for survival", their fundraising and lobbying appeals were honest, heartfelt calls to action. 

This connected with the online engagement work they were doing – their supporters understood what they were fighting for, and how it was crucial to their survival. 

4. They never stopped listening

In preparation for lockdown, the team wrote endless FAQs, filmed video clips and re-structured their website.

However, Jenny and the team found the most effective way to assuage their visitor concerns was keeping a close eye on inboxes and listening carefully to visitor comments - identifying trends and responding swiftly with precise and pro-active social media campaigns.

5. Everyone on the Zoo team is audience-facing

Jenny says their Welcome Team, which is in fact every member of staff, has been an incredible asset.

Everyone from the CEO downwards spends at least half a day a week on site, helping people get the most out of their visit. This means everyone has first-hand understanding of the visitor experience and can help it be continually improved.

For more of the inside story from Chester Zoo, watch Hannah and Jenny’s conversation in full here.

Images taken from @chesterzoo on Twitter.

As a Consultant, Hannah has responsibility for all stages of the research process from set up...