Master of Environmental Studies (MES)
Geography & Environmental Studies
Faculty of Arts
Christopher J. Lemieux
Associate Professor; John McMurry Research Chair in Environmental Geography
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all industries and organizations, including park agencies. There is a lack of research on how park agencies utilize Twitter during times of crisis, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. How park agencies communicate with the public and how they use their social media has not been extensively studied. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic is a novel management issue for these agencies, and there has been no empirical analysis in the ways in which information is being communicated to the public or how that information is being perceived.
This study aims to better understand park agency response to COVID-19 through a literature review, to explore how social media is used as communication tool related to COVID-19 by park agencies, to use NVivo and NCapture software to assess the content of park agency tweets, and to provide recommendations for park agencies in future times of crisis to enhance communication effectiveness using social media.
Qualitative analysis methods are used, guided by grounded theory and content analysis. NVivo and NCapture software was utilized to gather 8045 tweets from 21 Canadian park agencies, individual national parks, and individual provincial parks. In addition, the United States (U.S.) National Park Service (NPS) was also examined to compare social media response from both Canadian and American national park agencies. Those tweets were then coded into three major categories: pre COVID-19, COVID-19, and non COVID-19. Coding the tweets and organizing them thematically through inductive reasoning was done within the software. Chi-squared analyses were conducted to determine if there were any statistically significant differences between the various agencies and themes found within the data.
The key findings were that messaging frequency regarding COVID-19 was reduced after the summer months due to peak season ending, even though the pandemic was in full swing and the number of cases was rising. There was a statistically significant difference found between the themes tweeted about by Parks Canada and the U.S. NPS in terms of frequency. Geographically, there was a statistically significant difference between themes tweeted about by various Canadian national and provincial parks, referencing the lack of standardized messaging and cohesiveness when it comes to social media content across the country. In addition, there was a lack of promotion of virtual programming from Canadian individual national and provincial parks, contrary to the U.S. NPS.
From this study, it can be concluded that parks and protected area agencies should work closer with other departments, such as the health department, to potentially get the necessary messaging across. It is also recommended that capacity in parks needs to increase through virtual programming, as there have been successful cases of this already in other industries such as zoos and mental health institutes. Public access to parks and protected areas provides mental and physical health benefits, and virtual engagements can provide an alternative to this throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and future crises. Finally, parks and protected area agencies can benefit from a more standardized social media strategy, especially during a crisis, to better inform and update the public.
Oprean, Raluca, "Park Agency Social Media Communication During the COVID-19 Crisis" (2021). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2362.