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Showing Love By Safely Bagging Lunches

Showing Love By Safely Bagging Lunches

Steve Heisler

woman wearing mask bagging brown bags

The “I Love U Guys” Foundation pivoted its entire communications strategy in only five days to help feed displaced students during the pandemic

Part of the Marketing News COVID-19 Special Issue


In early March, a matter of minutes separated The “I Love U Guys” Foundation from its revamped, beefed-up communications strategy. The nonprofit organization—which distributes research-based best practices to help schools and other public entities respond to crises—had developed templates for e-newsletters, built out contact lists and primed content for HubSpot. This initiative marked a big step forward for the foundation, which at the time was maintaining a social media presence described by Executive Director John-Michael Keyes as “a ghost town occasionally littered by tumbleweeds of content.”

Then the COVID-19 pandemic shattered the strategy. Schools across the country announced closures and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged Americans to stay home. Aaron Templer, working for the agency Feed Media which is retained by “I Love U Guys,” felt the time wasn’t right to enact business-as-usual plans without addressing the elephant in the room.

“We had a conversation—and I’ve been having these with clients across the board—related to, ‘How do we shift during this time?’” Templer says. “My advice is to always bias your communications toward action around the safety of your staff and your employees, and how you’re adding value to your customers.”


The foundation’s previous work provided a solid base on which to build value. Since inception, The “I Love U Guys” Foundation—named for a text message Keyes’ daughter sent her parents from Platte Canyon High School in 2006, before she was killed by a school shooter—distributes materials to aid in crisis management. Their Standard Response Protocol (SRP) outlines steps schools can take in the event of an active shooter, while the Standard Reunification Method helps children rejoin their parents in the aftermath.

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Steve Heisler served as staff writer at the American Marketing Association. His work can be found in Rolling Stone, GQ, The A.V. Club and Chicago Sun-Times. He may be reached at