Guest Post from Bevin Landrum, Cyclical Communications Manager & TAPS Magazine Editor, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors | 2015 Technology Innovation Award Winner, sponsored by BAE Systems. Read more about their mobile app.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) hosts two national seminars for survivors grieving the loss of a loved one in service to America. These national events bring together thousands for a time of support and connection with others who have experienced the same loss. It is so important that we begin welcoming our families to the event and integrating them into the process in advance of opening day. This helps us avoid overwhelming them with logistics when they arrive, so they can focus on the many healing resources available to them at the seminar.
TAPS decided that an easy-to-use mobile app would be an excellent way to roll out advance details about the seminar, help our survivors connect with their peers and provide logistic updates during the event. We started the research on mobile app developers six months in advance of our event and are currently waiting for our app to be approved in the Apple and Google Play app stores.
Four departments were integral to the success of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) mobile app development for our annual National Military Survivor Seminar: communications, programs, IT and our 24/7 Helpline. Not only did the content included in the app need to be informative and correct, but we needed to make sure that survivors registered for the event could receive appropriate support for the app if and when needed.
Prior to the launch of the app in April, the communications team worked closely with our programs staff to create a dashboard that included the key information for our event such as the daily schedules, speakers, resource vendors, evening event information, point of interest details, maps and FAQs. We creatively used our banner ad spaces internally to promote high-level events and details that needed additional spotlight promotion. We agreed on a priority timeline for gathering the information to upload to the app and assigned key tasks to each department.
Within the communications team, we focused on the graphic design needed for the app (custom icons, banner ads, landing pages, a launch page and background images). It took a couple of weeks to pull together all the required files, but our developer provided checklists, excellent specs and requirements that made it easy. We also created content to promote the app on our website, magazine, event newsletters, and registrant emails before the event and signage to have as handouts during the event.
The IT department and 24/7 Helpline staff were key in developing ways we could quickly and easily answer questions for attendees who had issues or questions with the app. Our IT department created a dedicated email address for us to help track the volume of issues and to ensure the questions were being quickly received and handled. Our webmaster also put the mobile app information on a separate nested page for the event. We provided an informational cheat sheet to the 24/7 Helpline staff with the download link, search terms, username and password to help them provide details to attendees who might call for support.
So far, we have had very few user issues reported by email or Helpline, and we continue to roll out new information for the event. Our largest update is scheduled for next week with the final speaker and activity upload. The Seminar coincides with Memorial Day weekend, and we are also using the social media aspect of the event app to tie in with our #GratefulNation campaign. At this point, we are 80 percent done with development and launch. We are in the final stages of prep for the event and working on daily schedules, push notification schedules, reminders, marketing and on-site app support and troubleshooting. It has taken the concerted effort of a team of 10 people to pull the project together so far and will require the support of our whole organization at the event to increase attendee usage and engagement.