Case study: Branding for a new virtual event

Share this :   | | | |
Case study: Branding for a new virtual event

As we all pivoted away from in-person events in 2020, the biggest challenge, from a design perspective, was to create an immersive experience that still felt personal and engaging.

In 2021, USGBC launched an all-new platform called USGBC Live. USGBC Live combines the expertise of its large community of green building leaders with data, insights, and stories from the thousands of LEED and green building projects around the globe. The event will share insightful and engaging conversations about the future of buildings, cities and communities.

What’s unique about USGBC Live is that it will be held virtually from June 8–10—but it is also coupled with monthly touchpoints designed to further your expertise and keep you up to date on the latest and greatest in green building, year-round.

When approaching this year-round event platform as a design problem to solve, I really wanted to think about how to create an evergreen event look that felt fresh and new. It was important to ensure the platform also felt inclusive and personal to all of our audience members. I want people to log in to USGBC Live and see themselves in the branding, feel connected to the colors and be inspired by the content.

A bright collage graphic of faces and office tools

The logo combines a familiar brand font of USGBC’s with a new contemporary digital typeface that pays homage to Eric Gill’s original designs. It is designed by Monotype Studio designer George Ryan. USGBC Live’s color palette pulls bright colors from nature and features two blues—according to color psychology, blue is associated with trustworthiness and reliability. USGBC Live should feel familiar to USGBC’s audience, but introduce a new, bright, exciting palette.

A selection of fonts

The USGBC Live brand focuses on collage elements and layers of information. During 2020, we all were faced with the challenge of working and learning from home, or adjusting our routines because of the pandemic. People are digesting information differently now—we are scrolling more, sharing links, jotting down ideas and Googling everything. The USGBC Live brand look represents journal note-taking, ripped headlines, cutout photography and layers to create depth. Black-and-white photography creates the feel of newspapers and magazines.

The brand experience is immersive, and comes complete with a digital toolkit that offers web badges, social media graphics, Zoom backgrounds and merchandise to represent USGBC Live to an attendee. Virtual events can feel isolating, but I really want USGBC Live to bring the green building community together—even if we can’t be together in person.

A collage of t-shirts with USGBC Live branding

Will you be attending USGBC Live events this year?

Explore USGBC Live

How to edit content for event promotion

Share this :   | | | |
How to edit content for event promotion

Every subcategory of editing has its own particular requirements, and event marketing is no exception. At USGBC, we host many in-person and virtual events (mainly virtual in 2020!), so I see a lot of articles in the course of my work. Here are my top four tips for editing content for promoting events.

1. Fact-check like crazy.

Even if you don’t do a lot of fact-checking in the course of your daily work, this is very important for event promotion. If keynote speakers’ names are misspelled, you will, at the least, get a flurry of panicked internal emails; the worst outcome would be that the presenters themselves are offended, especially if the mistake is all over social media. Always double-check that the content you have received matches what’s on the formal event site (and sometimes, even that is incorrect, so I always Google them just to be on the safe side).

Similarly, it’s critical that dates and times are accurate. Sometimes sessions get moved, or the times are listed in a time zone other than the default one for your audience or house style. Never assume the facts are all up to date—the copy may have been written days or weeks ago.

2. Scan for clone copy.

When your company hosts a lot of annual events, it’s only natural that there may be some boilerplate or pasted copy from previous years. Make sure there are no references to “the most anticipated event of 2019” in your 2020 article, or any links to retired products or services. It’s an easy mistake to make—and I have made it myself.

3. Expand the messaging.

If you review content across campaigns for your organization, you’ve seen a lot of messaging and resources. Where appropriate, add links to articles, resources or company news items that are aligned with the author’s message, to show how your event relates to larger goals. You can also add in a phrase here or there to fill things out and make those connections to the organizational vision stronger. However, be sparing—with many pieces of event promotion, the main focus is encouraging attendance rather than driving readers to current resources.

4. Use an appropriate word count.

The ideal length of an article or sections therein may depend on the persona or stage of the customer journey for which you are writing, or on the information available at the time.

For example, if I’m editing an article on the top five reasons to attend Greenbuild, our big annual event, having a thorough description of those reasons may be important, because the reader is part of a large general audience that has not yet decided if they plan to attend. They may be in an earlier stage of their customer journey and mulling over whether this year’s event is right for them.

However, if I’m editing an article going out a couple of weeks before the event, sharing links to specific event sessions that may appeal to an architect persona, I’m going to assume the reader doesn’t need each full, 400-word session description from the main site. A 100-word summary will be enough to motivate them to click through to read more.

With attention to detail and an understanding of the goal for each piece in your event marketing campaign, you can rest easy that the final content reaching your audience is clear and concise—and that it motivates industry professionals to come together for the event, whether virtually or in person.

See more tips on event promotion

USGBC brand refresh wins award

Share this :   | | | |
USGBC brand refresh wins award

In February, USGBC launched a brand refresh to remain relevant and communicate how our organization is evolving. The refresh included a new font combination, clear usage guidelines for our formal USGBC seal, a staff wordmark and internal identity to unify colleagues, hand-illustrated iconography to set us apart in the industry, and a simplified color palette that communicates stability and loyalty.

Our social graphics really focused on reminding our audience that while we have a new look, we stand by the same mission.

We entered our brand refresh into Graphic Design USA’s (GDUSA) American Inhouse Design Awards competition and took home the award in the Branding + Identity Programs category! As a designer, it feels really great to have something received well from your internal team and colleagues, but it’s also so important to gain insight and feedback from the design community. USGBC’s project was selected from more than 6,000 entries. I am a big advocate for entering projects into competitions to see how you stack up next to winners, or other organizations with similar values.

We paired Benton Sans and Benton Modern Display together. Both typefaces feature organic shapes and subtle transitions of stroke width, which creates a less severe, humanist tone of voice.

GDUSA’s American Inhouse Design Awards are the original and premier showcase for outstanding work by in-house designers. These awards are an incredible example of how creative professionals who have a deep and intimate knowledge of institutional identity, culture and objectives are perfectly positioned to deliver effective and authentic communication. Working in-house, for a designer, can feel creatively limiting, but such designers have such a well-rounded understanding of their organization and brand, and that can be seen in award-winning work.

We developed a full set of hand-illustrated iconography to set our brand apart from others.

In-house designers are resilient, and I believe this showcase proves that. This award is an accomplishment for my whole team—a collaborative team working together to advance our organization’s goals every day.

In the Branding + Identity Programs category, we won next to other in-house groups like WebMD Health Services, Robert Half Global Creative, PenFed Credit Union Marketing, Navy Federal Credit Union, Nichols College and GAF/Creative Design Services. Check out all of the winners across all categories on GDUSA’s website.

See more about our winning brand refresh

Studying for the LEED Green Associate exam

Share this :   | | | |
Studying for the LEED Green Associate exam

In my role at USGBC, I use my experience in communications and marketing, but I am not a subject matter expert in LEED certification or sustainability per se. I have to query our LEED team when there’s a detailed question about how rating system credits are referred to in an article.

Creating and sharing resources for sustainability professionals on the foundational LEED Green Associate credential is an important part of our work on the education and marketing teams. After spending five years at USGBC—and writing and editing literally thousands of articles on green building—I was ready to make the leap and try to earn the credential myself, both to expand my industry knowledge and to reduce the number of times I have to reach out to our staff experts.

Here’s my breakdown of the top benefits and challenges I discovered in my LEED Green Associate studies.

Benefit: You realize sustainability strategies are everywhere.

LEED plaques are visible. Usually mounted near the front entrance of a building or in the lobby, they proudly present the achievement of a whole team of people in building or operating a space in a healthy, environmentally friendly way.

LEED plaque at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC

On my way back from Digital Summit 2019, I noticed the LEED plaque in the Marriott Marquis lobby. Plaques are easy to notice. Strategies can be less visible.

However, a LEED plaque is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Underneath that is months and possibly years of planning, design, construction and operations to meet the goals of defined impact categories through specific LEED credit categories like Energy and Atmosphere or Materials and Resources.

The unexpected benefit of my Green Associate studies was that all this extra focus opened my eyes even more to more detailed examples of sustainability all around me. Not just the solar panels, but the pervious paving:

Tweet about pervious pavement and LEED Green Associate studies

…and the electric vehicle charging stations:

EV charging stations at USGBC

It seemed like everywhere I walked, I found another example of a LEED strategy in action.

Challenge: Creating a study process that works for you.

Because of the COVID-19 closures that rippled through the U.S. in March, and then some further scheduling changes, my study journey was a little protracted. Plus, with a full-time job, it could be tricky finding times to study when my mind was still fresh. I found that lunch breaks and weekend afternoons were the best times to do my reading.

Studying for the LEED Green Associate exam

Studying with my sleepy assistant.

If you thrive on deadlines and love the idea of studying in boot-camp fashion, though, go for it with our custom two-week study plan on Education @USGBC.

The many independent study resources available on Education @USGBC make it easy to find a format that appeals to you. I learn best by reading and writing, so I concentrated on reading the required publications and taking notes. If you are more interactive, you might want to ask someone in your home to quiz you with flash cards, or you might sign up for an instructor-led online workshop. Videos on the core concepts of LEED are also available.

Challenge: Taking the big, bad exam.

I thought it might be easier for me to retain the material because of my experience working at USGBC—and maybe it was, a little. But not much! I was a little intimidated by how in-depth and technical the study materials were. You don’t just need to understand green building principles and LEED categories—you must also know certain standards, entities and measurements exactly. Be sure to budget time for memorization in your studies, as well as conceptual understanding.

The best choice I made in my study plan was to take six or seven LEED Green Associate practice exams. Each time I took one, I’d write down what I got wrong or didn’t understand, and then look up more about that term or concept. Those practice sessions turned out to be absolutely essential study element for me when preparing for the exam.

When I took the exam, I used the remotely proctored online option available since May, using Prometric’s ProProctor platform. I didn’t have to worry about going in person to a testing center. The guidance sent to you when you register is comprehensive, so there are no surprises about the exam protocols. I found the pre-exam tutorial slides to be helpful and the exam itself to take less than the time allotted, but this will be different for everyone. As a bonus, you find out right away whether you passed!

Benefit: You can only go up from here.

Besides the morale boost of having a nifty LEED Green Associate icon on my profile, I’m also realizing that LEED credentials are meant to be built on. I could go for a LEED AP next, or earn some knowledge-based badges. In the next two years, I have 15 continuing education requirements to fulfill, which means I’ll be taking courses or reading case studies frequently—being motivated to stay on top of industry developments even more than I was as a straight marketing professional.

Plus, I’m now part of the very cohort of global sustainability professionals I’ve been writing for and about since 2015. This study process has helped me understand even better what our USGBC community does. In less than four months, nearly 3,000 people have taken the LEED Green Associate exam’s remote version. Current and future architects, engineers, LEED project managers, contractors, facility managers—and communications people—are taking steps together toward the same vision.

Earn your own LEED Green Associate credential

Customize your virtual meeting room with USGBC-themed background images

Share this :   | | | |
Customize your virtual meeting room with USGBC-themed background images

Feature image: the LEED Gold TCF Center.

Show your support for greener, healthier buildings, homes and communities in your next virtual meetup. Our brand-new collection of virtual backgrounds will make your weekly (or daily!) teleconference more inspiring. Choose from an assortment of colorful USGBC-themed graphics, or replicate your real or imagined workspace by selecting a snapshot featuring one of these gorgeous LEED-certified spaces:

LEED Platinum 10th Street Flats

All backgrounds are sized for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as many other virtual conference platforms.

Learn more about USGBC imagery

USGBC’s brand refresh: Creating new icons

Share this :   | | | |
USGBC’s brand refresh: Creating new icons

USGBC recently completed a brand refresh, and one of the follow-up tasks was to create an icon image set for the marketing team to use in emails and article feature images. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of my thought process and graphic design techniques. If you’re working on a similar project, keep these tips in mind.

1. Ask the right questions.

When creating an icon set, it’s important to consider what sorts of messages you would like to communicate. What kinds of images are repeated throughout your organization’s marketing pieces? What themes are being communicated? I found that some common themes throughout USGBCs marketing include health, environmentalism, technology, education and business.

2. Assemble your basic graphics.

I started by collecting inspiration through different icons and graphics that might be useful to the USGBC marketing team—mainly focusing on graphics that evoke environmentalism or that have flora and fauna themes. I then exported them to my tablet, and brought them into the illustration app ProCreate, where I was then able to hand-illustrate each icon. This allowed the icons to have a more organic look.

3. Create consistent styles.

Once I had hand-drawn all the graphics, I exported them as JPEG files and brought them into Illustrator, where I used the “image trace” function. This function allows you to take raster images (JPEG, PNG, PSD) and convert them into vector artwork. From there, I was able to separate and place each graphic onto a circle, using colors from the new USGBC style guide. I made sure that all the graphics were similar in size by designing them on the same page and lining them up, to give them more consistency.

By creating and not purchasing the icon set, USGBC can stand out among similar organizations and create unique marketing pieces. These icons will also keep our branding consistent throughout all of our media, and will help us create a stronger brand identity and recognition.

Read more about USGBC’s brand refresh

How we use photos to tell stories at USGBC

Share this :   | | | |
How we use photos to tell stories at USGBC

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” While historians debate the origin of the phrase, the modern attribution is given to U.S. businessman Fred R. Barnard. He allegedly coined the slogan to promote the use of images for advertising on streetcars in the 1920s. Barnard was definitely on to something: Images conjure emotions, associations and memories. That’s why they’re such a great tool for conveying ideas to people and inspiring action.

As manager of our digital asset collection and staff photographer, I’m responsible for capturing, collecting and curating high-quality images. I’ve seen thousands of LEED project images stream in my 17 years here, and staff reach out to me daily with questions about available photos and permissions to use them.

Images considered “usable” for project profiles, articles and ads are high resolution, bright and well focused, featuring interiors, exteriors and sustainable strategies. Since pretty pictures of green building projects only tell part of our story, I’ve seen an important shift in the images we source. In recent years, it’s become all about people.

USGBC’s CEO Mahesh Ramanujam has shared that “our second generation at USGBC will focus on our relevant and reimagined vision: Healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy.” To realize this vision, we knew it would be essential to create imagery showing people living, working and playing in LEED projects.

Here are just a few examples of how we use photos to tell our story through digital campaigns, video, our magazine and our website.

The Living Standard campaign

Living Standard is all about connecting LEED, green buildings and all our products to people. Through this campaign, we aim to listen to our communities, share their stories and build a vision for a more sustainable future for all, making visible the tangible and positive impacts that green buildings and green communities have on our lives.

The campaign has a successful storytelling component. Sonja Trierweiler, Director, Living Standard and Digital Marketing, describes how their team was able to use innovative visual communications to inspire action: “Our Living Standard research found three messages that were most powerful in shifting our target groups toward saying they would ‘do more’ to create a healthier environment: promote healthy outcomes, future generations, and planetary stakes.”

Living Standard instagram post

Living Standard features images of human beings over images of plaques, structures or reports.

“This translates not only to effective written communications, but visual as well,” Trierweiler adds. “We found that more inclusive, positive imagery motivates people to take action over images that unnecessarily create cliques, like alienating or unfamiliar figures or political figures. Likewise, images that feature humans—over images of structures, reports, or plaques—and images that demonstrate local, tangible impacts help people make the connection between green buildings and their impact on their own lives. When you identify common humanity in someone else’s image, words, or story, you’re more likely to empathize with what’s being conveyed, look at a situation through someone else’s lens, ask questions of people with different experiences, and take action.”

The LEED v4.1 campaign

Our LEED v4.1 campaign was another great example of visual storytelling that featured people in typical daily scenarios, such as shopping, learning and working in a variety of project types. USGBC Art Director Amy Civetti says the campaign “focused on combining color, typography and photography to create a dynamic ad layout that walks the viewer through the story. We want viewers to feel connected and inspired by these projects and how they have used LEED to create better spaces for occupants, the community and the environment.”

Learn more about the LEED v4.1 advertising campaign.

LEED v4.1 retail ad

The LEED v4.1 ad campaign shows people in typical daily scenarios in LEED buildings.

Video stories

Video is another medium we use to tell stories about our members, sustainability and USGBC. Geetanjali Prasad, Associate Director of International Marketing, leads our video production team.

“Images are a powerful tool that we use in our videos to convey all kinds of emotions necessary to tell the story in the most appropriate way and to hit the right notes among our viewers,” explains Prasad. “Storytelling is a big part of what we do, to be able to connect to all kinds of people around the world, and telling it through bold and expressive images just makes our videos come alive without us being too technical or verbose in nature.”

Many of our projects are a combination of video footage interspersed with strong, editorial images. A recent video companion to a USGBC+ article highlighted Emerging Resilience Strategies in California. To see our full collection of videos, visit our YouTube channel.

USGBC+ magazine

USGBC+ magazine is another way we reach our audience. For the past five years, this publication has combined member stories, project profiles, industry updates, timely infographics, and leadership from the USGBC community. See our recent special issue compilation.

Discovery Elementary School

Discovery Elementary School, the first LEED Zero Energy school, was featured in USGBC+.

Photos play a vital role in the magazine’s impact. Alex Tzoumas, who lays out each issue design, emphasizes that “a photo is a powerful visual introduction that compels your audience to actually read those 1,000 words that make up your story. The more interesting the photo, the more interested the audience will be in your content. Which is why photography is an essential part of storytelling.”

Articles on

Illustrating the subject and mood of a piece is important when choosing the feature images and embedded photos for our articles on, published daily. Using templates created and sized by Civetti, Associate Director of Editorial Content Heather Benjamin and Marketing Associate Claire Dennis select photos to match each article.

“Photos are chosen for their visual appeal as well as appropriateness to the story,” explains Benjamin. “For a LEED project article, we want to choose a photo that expresses something unique about the project, and we want to include people in the picture. For professional education pieces, we pick photos that reflect the diversity of our community—while also showing the reality of the present moment, which is that many people are engaging with us remotely. Similar to social media, on the online articles platform, we have to always be mindful of what is happening in the world and ask how a particular image will be perceived.”

“When looking to include photos in our community content, I focus on the subject of each article and how I can reflect USGBC’s engagement through images,” says Dennis. “It’s great to be able to feature personal photos of volunteer work or local members when possible, to remind USGBC communities of our commitment to people and places.”

These are just a few examples of how we use photos at USGBC to tell our story and engage our audience. Using compelling images allows the readers to connect on a more personal level and see themselves as active participants in our mission.

Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear from you at the Living Standard campaign, or if you have recently certified a LEED project, share it with the community by submitting your profile to be featured on Plus, you can share your story on social media and tag us.

We hope that our stories energize, inspire and motivate you to help further the sustainability movement.

Get stock photo advice from our director of creative services

5 tips for successfully managing a design project

Share this :   | | | |
5 tips for successfully managing a design project

Since starting my career in creative project management over 15 years ago, I can confidently say that this field definitely keeps me on my toes. No two projects are ever the same, and no matter the road you take to get there, it’s always satisfying to see the end products out in the world. These finished pieces are the direct result of many hours of research, brief creation, content scripting, concepting, reviews, revisions, approvals, and finally, things of beauty to see on a shirt, online, in print or on a billboard.

Here are my top five tips for running a smooth, successful project from concept to completion.

1. Start with a clear and focused creative brief. For a project to start on a track built for success, all stakeholders need to have reviewed and approved a creative brief. The brief will most likely include some background on the brand and overall project objective, a list of deliverables with accompanying formats and design specifications, a timeline, a budget, tone and style notes, required elements, and any relevant brand research and supporting elements, such as the target audience, customer demographics, and desired outcomes or goals.

Creative briefs can vary widely depending on the desired end product, but having one is essential to make sure that everyone involved in approving the project agrees on the overall objectives. Large experiential pieces, like our USGBC booth on the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo floor, would have very different brief content than a traditional print ad.

Our USGBC booth area at Greenbuild.

2. Ensure that you have compelling (and final) content. This is one of the most important pieces I look for, before starting a project. From a design perspective, we need to know that we have all the content that needs to be included. Having final content helps to cut down on creative rounds for review once the design is in layout. It’s much easier to make text edits in a document before it goes into layout, after which the text edits must go through several hands to be implemented on the designer’s side. In my ideal world, there would be only design or layout-related edits once a project is put into layout.

For example, with information-intense pieces like an infographic, having final content is important at the start of the project, since all the design elements are based specifically on the content provided. Making content changes once an infographic is in layout usually impacts more than just the text alone.

Our recent infographic on LEED residential spaces.

3. Have clear and open communication with all stakeholders. I have always felt that one of the more important aspects of being a creative project manager is your ability to listen to and communicate well with others. By having open lines of communication with the clients, reviewers, copywriters, designers and anyone else involved with the success of your project, you’re often able to troubleshoot and solve problems before they become a larger issue, as the project comes to a close.

4. Champion the brand standards. This can be a bit of a balancing act when you have a variety of stakeholders and reviewers, and it’s also where a creative project manager can spend most of their time. In the end, you want to make sure the creative piece you’re managing is showcasing the brand in its best light, while delivering on the objectives outlined in the creative brief. With this top of mind as you review and adjust throughout all of the project stages, the creative project manager’s path will stay clear and focused.

5. Have flexibility! Despite having all of your ducks in a beautifully designed row, things happen. Timelines change, content goes through a major rewrite, requested assets come in at the last minute and notes can throw a whole project back several rounds. A successful creative project manager knows that things like this can happen, no matter how organized they’ve been, and they are able to pivot, revise, reorganize and regroup to get the project back on track.

For me, focusing on these things goes a long way toward making for a smooth and seamless project from start to finish. And in the end, you can be proud of the amazing work you’ve helped bring to life!

Read more of our blog entries on design and campaigns

2020 updates to the AP Stylebook

Share this :   | | | |
2020 updates to the AP Stylebook

On May 21, the AP Stylebook released its annual list of updates. Although the online edition is updated throughout the year, the release of new categories that coincides with the hard copy version is eagerly anticipated by writers and editors.

At USGBC, we use AP style to make sure our content is internally consistent, as well as in keeping with current journalistic practices. I check the online guide pretty much daily on matters large and small (“How do we refer to COVID-19 accurately? And does ‘PhD’ have periods in it?”).

Here’s a breakdown of some of the recent changes and additions that I’ll be keeping an eye on:

Digital technology and security

With more than 100 new and updated entries on digital technology terms, the stylebook has an answer for just about everything, so if you weren’t sure whether to refer to virtual assistants such as Alexa with feminine pronouns, now you know. The different meanings of apps, platforms, services and sites is all explained, and you can now refer to “the cloud” in lowercase. The modifier “cyber” is considered largely out of date. View more new entries.

A new special section on digital security for journalists offers guidance on things like passwords, multi-factor authentication, VPNs, phishing and secure data storage, in a time when maintaining secure digital connections is an increasing challenge for web users.

Current medical terms

Because an enormous amount of media coverage is now in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, the updated stylebook contains a “Coronavirus Topical Guide” to help writers navigate the new terminology with accuracy. Where appropriate, we refer to this new reality in our articles, so it’s very helpful for me to know how to style references to COVID-19. (All editors are human—but I was embarrassed that I needed be reminded that “global pandemic” is redundant!)

Climate coverage

Particularly relevant to our work at USGBC is the new section on climate change terms. It differentiates global warming and climate change, adds that “climate crisis” is now an acceptable alternative term and explains that single occurrences cannot be attributed to climate change. For example:

Don’t: “The spring hurricane season was the result of climate change.”

Do: “The increase in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires, is an effect of climate change.”

Read more about USGBC’s position on climate change.

Don’t have an account with the AP Stylebook? Follow the updates on Twitter with #APStyleChat.

Miss the 2019 stylebook changes? Read our recap

Communicating in times of uncertainty

Share this :   | | | |
Communicating in times of uncertainty

During a crisis, PR and communications can sometimes feel like an afterthought, but it’s often the most critical need. As the current global health pandemic turns the world upside down, companies and organizations need to rethink their way of operating and how to continue connecting with a variety of stakeholders.

For USGBC, our work and mission have not stopped. Our offices and routines may look a little different, but our vision for the future is stronger than ever. However, just like other organizations, we had to make adjustments and consider what was most important in communicating with our community. Here are some tips for keeping your communications in check during a crisis.

What do you need to communicate?

In a crisis, you can almost never communicate too frequently. Sure we’re all getting a little tired of those emails from airline CEOS and executives, but when you look at the big picture, they’re very committed to keeping their customers updated and aware of changes and new information that might impact them.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What message would you like to hear? A crisis is a complicated and emotional time. Be supportive, show empathy and point people toward resources or information that are most helpful in that moment. USGBC’s CEO sent a message to our community reinforcing that during this crisis, our priority is the health and well-being of one another. The most important thing you want to be is authentic, and remember—a crisis is a time to be human.

Who do you need to communicate to?

Your customers or external community might be the first audience you think of communicating with during a crisis, but some others you don’t want to ignore include employees, boards of directors, volunteer groups and partners. Each of your stakeholders contributes to your success, and it’s important you find ways to stay connected.

In most cases, employees should be your first stop. Make sure they feel supported, then continue to think through tools and resources they might need to keep working. USGBC sends a weekly media roundup to senior leaders with the latest news on USGBC, LEED and sustainability. We adapted the newsletter to include stories on COVID-19’s impact on building and construction. It’s not all-inclusive, but it provides a snapshot of relevant information during a turbulent time.

In addition to your staff, think about what your other stakeholders need from you right now. USGBC posted an article answering the top questions we are receiving about COVID-19. We update and reshare the piece as new information becomes available. We also created a COVID-19 resources section on our website that will house updates related to the pandemic, but that also includes existing information our community might find useful right now.

What do we need to change?

Carefully evaluate what promotional activities you have planned, and determine if it’s appropriate to move forward. Be honest about what might need to be put on pause and what new information or programs you might need to create.

Here are a few questions to ask before making any decisions:

  1. Does this campaign or program make sense right now?
  2. What might need to change within our existing plans?
  3. What new information does our community need, and how can we support that?

One of the first decisions USGBC made was to move all in-person events to 2021. It required outreach to sponsors, speakers, exhibitors, attendees, staff and other stakeholders. Those communications were carefully considered, and each was executed by the appropriate person. In addition, our CEO published a message on our website that summarized these changes and how people could contact us if they had additional questions.

What should we be publishing?

From a content perspective, we looked at what was on the calendar and developed a new plan for highlighting information that would be most useful to our audiences now. We knew our virtual events and legislative updates were going to be critical. We also identified topics and resources that have become more relevant, such as indoor air quality. We developed a plan for sharing information on those strategies to keep our community informed.

It’s also important to find ways to be positive. As Mr. Rogers told us as children, “Look for the helpers.” During challenging times, we all need something that can bring us together and give us a reason to smile. USGBC is a convener for the green building industry, and it was important to us to find ways to keep our community connected. We started sharing the incredible ways our members and community were stepping up to help during this unimaginable time, and it’s a message we’ll continue to share.

What do we say to media?

USGBC decided to hold its announcements for at least a month, knowing that media would be focused on COVID-19 and its impact. Our job then became finding out whether reporters were “all COVID all the time,” or if they still wanted to receive other news. We reached out through email, but also monitored Twitter to see what reporters were saying.

Keep in mind, too, that during a crisis, you never want to force yourself into the conversation. A journalist’s job is to keep the public informed, and crises are times of confusion. So, unless you are qualified to contribute valid, expert information on the crisis, stick to your area of expertise.

Crises are chaotic and often produce a lot of lessons after the fact. If you aren’t sure what to do, be proactive, be human, gather information on what your audiences are experiencing, and know that the crisis will end—so think about what’s next, too.

I find that Cision is a great resource for communicators. You can view their tools and resources and sign up for webinars to dive deeper into topics like crisis communications.

Learn about social media’s role in messaging