Written by Carli Thibodeaux
Joining the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau team as the vice president of communications only months after Hurricane Katrina tore apart the city, Kelly Schulz had a lot of cleaning up to do. Schulz had to get people to visit New Orleans again despite the fact the majority of the stories the media were broadcasting were negative.
Tourism is one of New Orleans’ largest sources of income. In 2012, 9.01 million people visited the city and together spent $6 billion — some of the highest numbers the city has ever seen. How did the city recover from Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and surpass its pre-Katrina numbers in fewer than 10 years? Kelly Schulz and her team ran a successful crisis communication campaign, which she presented to approximately 20 students at PRSSA’s Regional 5 conference “Geaux for a Good Time.”
The goal of the campaign was to restore the image of News Orleans as a convention destination. Because tourism is driven by image and perception, the CVB had to turn negative news coverage into positive, or at least balanced, coverage of the city to accomplish its goal. Media relations played a major role in making this happen.
Schulz expanded on two campaigns the CVB launched in 2007: Forever New Orleans and a mobile visitor center road tour. Also in 2007, New Orleans hosted 700 journalists to dispel myths about the city’s condition, and the CVB partnered with Weber Shandwick to arrange a meeting with NBC news anchor Brian Williams.
In 2010, the BP oil spill damaged the image and changed the perception of New Orleans again. The CVB launched thisjustinneworleans.com along with another advertising campaign to let potential visitors know the city was thriving and the seafood was safe.
It was obvious Schulz is proud of the work she and her team did in the wakes of Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill and is passionate about her job and New Orleans. Passion for an industry, organization or a cause, she said, is what makes any job worthwhile.
As the vice president of communications at the New Orleans CVB, Schulz oversees strategic communications, media relations, crisis management, social media and advocacy programs. Under Schulz’s leadership, the News Orleans CVB has won 16 international awards of excellence for crisis management and public relations.