PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Engineering — it’s not something that draws massive engagement on social media. But cats? Cats will get clicks.
Chris Gaylord, a public affairs specialist with the Portland District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers learned this back in 2021 when he was managing the government agency’s Facebook page.
He and his coworkers photoshopped images of cats onto Oregon infrastructure and engineering equipment for National Cat Day and it was a huge success.
So, in the fall of 2022, Gaylord thought, why not make a calendar out of those images?
“It was to spotlight our projects, spotlight our infrastructure, give people kind of an introduction to some of the different things that our organization does, some of the ways that we add value to the Pacific Northwest, but in a fun way,” he explained.
The free calendar was published in November 2022 and anyone can download it from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ digital library.
While Gaylord knew how successful the photos of cats on dams and cats near cranes were in Facebook posts, what he didn’t expect was the attention this free calendar would receive.
National news outlets like The Today Show and ESPN have now covered his creation and people from across the world have been reaching out, asking how they can get their hands on this calendar with cats photoshopped onto Oregon infrastructure.
“This gentleman from Naples, Italy just messaged our Facebook the other day and was like, ‘Hey, I love the cat calendar. How can I buy it?’” Gaylord said. “It’s been really cool to see the outpouring of support and the joy that we’ve brought to people in places where our organization otherwise would never be talked about.”
He also hopes the calendar is helping inform Oregonians about the important work the Army Corps of Engineers does. They’ve operated in Portland since 1871 and the agency not only maintains dams and coastal jetties, they also work to reduce flooding in valleys, dredge navigation channels and serve hundreds of miles of navigable waterways.
In his experience working with social media, Gaylord knows it sometimes takes quirky posts to catch people’s attention and get them to “like” or follow a page.
While a photo of a cat staring across the brim of Green Peter Dam in Sweet Home might not provide the most useful information, it might mean a person could see a future notification about a flood warning or king tides that the Army Corps of Engineers sends out.
Gaylord said he had his boss’ full support in creating the calendar and his boss is on board to do it again for 2024.
Next year, Gaylord promises they’ll provide both a cat and dog calendar.
Most of the cats in the 2023 calendar, he said, belong to Portland Army Corps of Engineers employees or their friends. He plans to use employees’ pets’ photos again in the 2024 calendar.
Some of the pages in the 2023 calendar are filled with educational information. They explain things like what an intake structure is in a dam and that crews are working on the South Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River.
“It’s nice to see people enjoying us, getting a little spotlight, enjoying the product. But it’s also cool to kind of just see people printing out this calendar that has a cat that’s chewing on Detroit Dam,” Gaylord said.