COVID-19 Case Study: Friends of Island Academy

  • Senior Advice & Counsel
  • Strategic Planning
  • Reputation & Crisis Management
  • Public Relations
  • Social Media Strategy & Management


Friends of Island Academy provides in-person meetings between formerly incarcerated Rikers Island youth and a community of Youth Advocates who support them and believe deeply in their potential as they rebuild their lives after jail.

To reduce the rapid spread of Covid-19, the government mandated social distancing, leading to the early release of several of Friends’ incarcerated clients, or Youth Members, and a disruption to the organization’s typical in-person client meetings. Friends responded to the new landscape by shifting its communications to the phone and expanding its work to help Youth Members and their personal networks stay safe and healthy. To support Friends, the agency is raising awareness around their enlarged scope of services through social media and public relations efforts.


GZ&A met with the organization’s leadership to develop a strategic plan aimed at increasing awareness of Friends’ enhanced work in public health during the Covid-19 crisis. We are crafting and pitching compelling, human media stories about the extraordinary work that Friends’ staff are doing to support clients during the crisis, and assessing the organization’s social media presence, providing insights into opportunities for relationship building and community engagement.


  • Secured placements including New York Post, NY1, WNBC, News 12 Bronx, Harlem World News, and Black News Channel
  • Total audience reach for media placements is 80 million
  • Donations to the organization increased In response to the media placements

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