Virtual Light It Up Blue! Proves a Success

May 5, 2020

Themed social media posts, like the
Themed social media posts, like the "We Are MMI Video" that featured faces from around the institute, helped create the virtual Light It Up Blue! event.

The Munroe-Meyer Institute and Autism Action Partnership (AAP) collaborated on their first virtual Light It Up Blue! celebration on World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

The Facebook event, which took the place of the traditional event on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, included giveaways and a virtual party, as well as members of the MMI/AAP community connecting with each other via the organizations' Facebook pages.

"The wonderful thing is that it provided a forum for voices from the community," said Melonie Welsh, community engagement director at MMI. "It added personal messages and stories, which was another layer to the global message. It also allowed the event to be more accessible -- mitigating barriers of sensory sensitivities, geographic distance and mobility -- ultimately increasing our reach."

"The primary goal of our and MMI's annual Light It Up Blue! event is to highlight and cultivate the sense of unity throughout the local autism community," said Justin Dougherty, executive director of Autism Action Partnership. "The current environment required a different approach this year, but the goal remained the same. We were overwhelmed with the responses and connections being made virtually throughout the day, including during our shared 'Virtual Celebration.' We hope to return to the Bob Kerrey Bridge next year, but take solace in knowing that our community is willing to celebrate their uniqueness and their unity virtually."

The virtual live event was held between 7-8 p.m., at the time the groups ordinarily celebrate at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge for the official blue lighting.

"That was a unique and fun way to engage Light It Up Blue! advocates and we'll likely bring this back again next year, in some fashion," said Nicole Hackendahl, MMI digital media manager.

"We put the social in social distancing," agreed AAP social media manager Keagan Blancke. "I was a little nervous, because when 7 p.m. rolled around and the first post went up, no one responded right away. But a few comments turned into a snowball effect, and the comments continued to grow throughout the remainder of the event. It was a big hit."

"We saw a dramatic increase in activity on MMI's Facebook page," Hackendahl said. "That day, 835 people interacted with our page in total, and a 28-day review of insights, including April 2, revealed more than a 300% rise in page likes, page follows and post reach.

"The number of comments on posts and the number of links clicked doubled on average compared to previous months and the number of post likes on April 2 accounted for 27.5% of all likes over a 28-day review."

"I'm glad we had an opportunity to do something unique and celebrate online," Blancke said. "April 2 is such a big day for the autism community, and it was fun to connect with each other."

Hackendahl agreed.

"We're always looking for innovative and exciting ways to celebrate the inclusion, acceptance and abilities of people with autism," she said. "Who knows what next year's celebration will bring?"

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | April 10, 2020