Social media to social distancing: Mayor Cantrell taps local influencers to communicate COVID-19

When it's time to get the message out, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has enlisted the help of multiple local social media influencers to help spread the word -- one that's come in handy during the COVID-19 epidemic.

by Chelsea Brasted
April 14, 2020

The video starts, a jaunty tune in the background, and Trixie Minx waves a big white fan of ostrich feathers toward the camera.

“While normally I’m in the business of accentuating curves,” she says, her hand a flourish toward a sparkling corset, “today, we’re going to talk about how to flatten them.”

It’s a cute, cheeky appeal for social distancing, asking for New Orleanians to stick together by staying apart. And it’s coming straight from Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s verified Twitter account, by way of a New Orleans burlesque dancer.

If you were to scroll through Cantrell’s social media accounts from the recent weeks, you’d see what’s come to be the usual scenes of press conferences and medical updates about COVID-19.

But you’d also see, peppered throughout, are PSAs like that from Trixie Minx, a reposted message from singer Tonya Boyd Cannon calling the pandemic a “critical moment” in our city’s history and even a live set from Gallier Hall with DJ Raj Smoove. Social media and cultural influencers, artists, musicians and other performers have all gotten retweeted, shared and reposted by the mayor’s accounts.

It’s not by accident.

Social messages from social influencers

Leaning on a “social media influencer roundtable” that came together in November, Cantrell’s team has looked to amplify local leaders’ messages throughout the pandemic by partnering with these influencers. And, according to Cantrell’s social media director Eileen Carter, it’s working.

“If we can get someone you trust to say ‘hey, this is where you can find trusted information,’ it’s more likely they’ll look there again,” Carter said.

Carter arranged the first meeting of this group, which she described as an informal collective of musicians, artists, influencers and local business leaders, well before the pandemic threatened the health of New Orleans residents and visitors. During it, she said, Cantrell and the influencers discussed what services the city already offered or could offer to directly help their followers like, for example, hooking up artist Brandan “B-Mike” Odums with the Office of Cultural Economy.

“Meeting people where they are…”

The connections made during that meeting, Carter said, kicked off a relationship that helped broaden the mayor’s social media audience to, later, help spread the word about necessary healthcare information during the pandemic.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by PJ Morton (@pjmorton) on

“It was really difficult to get the information to certain communities, especially in the African-American community, when we thought misinformation was being spread that black Americans ‘can’t get’ the coronavirus,” Carter said. “The mayor’s big thing is to meet people where they are: If I can get trusted information to you on your phone, then it’s just very helpful.”

Carter said she’s reached out to these influencers with specific messages and bullet-point details, but that then gets filtered by the artists, performers and business people for their own audiences. The prime example? Dee-1’s “Corona Clap,” which has more than 550,000 YouTube views.

“We oftentimes have a loudspeaker and an amplifier that is greater than that of politicians, or at least as big as them, so now, understanding the power of our voice and influence, I’m all for that, so I told the mayor, always feel free to reach out to me and just to keep me on the same page about what we need the city to know,” said Dee-1, who was in the November meeting alongside Odums, 5th Ward Weebie and VIP Hair founder Ashanti Lation. “If I’m able to reach people through my platform and my voice and my unique style, I would love to.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Healthy Hair Guru (@viphair_ashanti) on

Though Trixie Minx wasn’t in that original group, she found herself looking for ways to help in the first days after the city began enforcing social distancing. As a performer, it only felt natural to use her humor and penchant for entertaining to help spread the word.

“It’s been nice to be recognized by the mayor and the people in government that, myself and other performers, are valid parts of the culture and fabric of our unique community,” Trixie Minx said. “And we are able to help in a time of crisis, even if it’s just reading information.”

Chelsea Brasted is a New Orleans-born journalist and a West Banker by choice. She most recently served as The Times-Picayune's city columnist. You can follow Chelsea's work on Twitter and Facebook, and you can contact her through her website, ChelseaBrasted.com.

More Local Stories

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Sanford

On this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando explore what’s new in the Northern part of town. Sanford has a plethora of breweries, bars, and delicious dining options to choose from.

Hometown Tragedy: The Pike County Massacre

On this episode of Hometown Tragedy: Missing in Milwaukee, we’ll explore what happened to Jerica Banks, her children, and how it impacted their community.

Six New Orleans parks that are perfect locations to celebrate 4th of July

Head to one of these six New Orleans parks to celebrate Independence Day in the city.

Cheap Date Orlando: Punk Rock & Pooches

Two Orlando couples shop vintage, search for the perfect slice, visit a post-apocalyptic saloon, and take the stage on blind dates in Orlando.

Fit and Fab: Free summer workouts in Boston

Cover photo courtesy Getty Images Looking to get fit for the summer? Still wary of COVID-19 or just looking for some sunshine while you sweat? Here are some Boston free summer workouts across the city so you can keep moving all season long! Seaport Sweat May 2 to Sept. 29 Boston’s biggest free workout series…

What’s On the Menu?: Farm-to-table

The farm-to-table movement brings locally grown foods to your plate. Not only will enjoying farm-to-table meals allow you to indulge in fresh, nutritional, seasonal dishes, but farm-to-table dining helps the environment and supports the local economy.  Check out these delicious farm-to-table restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina on the latest episode of What’s On the Menu?. …

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

A guide to Pittsburgh’s summer events must-do list

Check out our roundup below for the can’t-miss events happening in the city over the next few months.

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Tarpon Springs

In this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando you’ll be transported to a thriving Greek community nestled on Florida’s gulf coast. From sponge diving to flaming cheese to a Greek bakery that supplies a ginormous amount of baklava to the entire country, you’re sure to fall in love with Greek culture in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Dorchester doughnuts that pack a paczki

These traditional Polish pastries are the real deal.

Chef Dee Lavigne expands the only Black-owned cooking school in New Orleans

Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.

Brunchfaced: 14 Parishes brings Jamaican flavors Uptown

One word: rummosa. From the oxtail and eggs to the jerk chicken and waffles, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation at brunch.

Guide to late night food in NOLA // Where to eat after 10pm

While everyone is familiar with Clover Grill, the 24/7 diner that uses hubcaps to cook the hamburgers, there’s certainly more to the late-night eats scene than that. Here are a few of the spots night owls can get their grub on in the Crescent City regardless of neighborhood or craving.

Sierra Camille Kay’s painting puppet is a marriage between art and marionette

Kay pulls MiMi’s strings as she paints French Quarter landscapes, street performers, self-portraits, and anything else that she finds interesting.