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COVID numbers are finally hitting a LOW mark - from over 1,600 this spring to 153 (as of June 12, 2021) and Balsom Communication’s Wood Buff a LOW social media campaign had some part in it. A visual reminder with bright graphics created by Joanne Meredith, who oversees marketing, design, and visual communications for Balsom Communications, the campaign has been embraced by a cross-section of local organizations. 


Initially pitched by Karla Buffalo, Chief Executive Officer, Athabasca Tribal Council, the campaign was launched on April 26, 2021, with reminders to wash hands, stay six feet apart, wear a mask, “grab COVID by the horns,” and similar messages - creating a social media flash mob. Buffalo called for an emergency meeting, and about 18 local groups came together virtually for the huge brainstorming virtual session. By Friday of that week, the initiative was launched, and currently, about 20 organizations are participating in the campaign. 

“I felt there was not a lot of COVID messaging out there with the exception of what the government was doing. During the wildfires, we came together for each other. I felt we could do it again with COVID,” recalls Buffalo.

The idea, adds Buffalo, was to not sound didactic. 

“We didn’t want to say, ‘you shall’ or ‘you must.’ We wanted to get the message across in a light tone.”

That light tone goal was what inspired Meredith to design the graphics. 

“During the massive meeting, someone said how do we get Wood Buffalo’s numbers LOW. Then someone else said ‘Let’s get Wood Buff-a-LOW.’ Boom! Creative sparks for everyone. ‘Wood Buffalo, Grab COVID by the Horns’ slogan came about naturally as a smaller group of us collaborated on getting the graphics right, making sure the campaign was clearly about COVID-19,” explains Meredith.

“As we played with Buffalo images and where to put the COVID in the text, I realized that ‘grabbing a bull by the horns’ is what we needed to do as a community. The region is strong, and we always fight to support each other in crisis, it just fits. Plus, the design really pops and is in your face,” continues Meredith, who has been a part of the Balsom Communications team for two and a half years. 

FuseSocial, the local non-profit, which strengthens social profits, is one of the organizations participating in Wood Buff a LOW. Executive Director Chantal Beaver shares her thoughts on the initiative. 

“At its heart, FuseSocial believes that collaborative action is key to community-level impact - the Wood Buff a LOW campaign is an excellent demonstration of such collaboration. There were no organizational agendas or requests for accolades; instead, this campaign was truly about coming together for the betterment of our communities.”

Both Buffalo and Meredith are delighted with the community feedback on the campaign. 

“I think it has been great to see organizations pick it up and run with it. We really wanted to have the campaign be a  Social Media Flash Mob where everyone’s news feed was just filled with the campaign for a few days. I think it worked. Groups and people who were not involved in the original meetings but just took it and shared it. It’s been nice to see the community come together to support each other and take the pressure off the hospital,” notes Meredith.

“The feedback has been positive. So many people found there was a gap, and this initiative was needed. They found it easy to get behind. I’m proud of Fort McMurray. This is what we do, we take care of each other,” notes Buffalo.


Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.