These are uncertain times for the events industry – and the tourism industry as a whole. Daily cancellation of larger events and the expectation of further restrictions and imposed quarantines both in the UK and around the world are set to have an impact on already vulnerable businesses.
Check out our ‘Guide to Manage Crisis Communications’ for some practical advice on crisis planning. In addition, we have pulled together some of our top tips especially for the Events industry to assist with some communications priorities.
Don’t panic and listen to advice from industry bodies
In any crisis situation it is important to keep a cool head and reduce knee jerk reactions. Take advice from industry bodies who back up opinions with proper research and knowledge. Follow their advice when deciding how to approach the situation. The Meetings Industry Association (www.mia-uk.org) has a wealth of information available on their website. Use it. Ask questions. Educate yourself on the constantly changing situation.
Transparency is key – tell people what you are doing
Keep all your stakeholders – customers, staff, suppliers and shareholders – updated with information about how you are handling the situation. Update your website clearly outlining what measures you are taking to keep people safe, including any cleaning practices and any specific activities you have put in place, reassuring them that you are taking the situation seriously. Update this as often as necessary in line with the current advice from Public Health England (PHE).
If you have an email database, send out a similar note to your customer base, reassuring them that you are on top of the situation. This could be a letter from the CEO, a note from staff or a more general note from the venue – whatever is most appropriate for your specific business.
Don’t forget your staff! Make sure you communicate internally with all staff members, clearly outlining what your company is doing to keep them safe and what your expectations are of them at this time.
Re-evaluate current marketing plans
Go through your planned marketing activities and re-assess. This includes any pre-planned social media content. Be sensitive to the current situation and remove any activity that can be deemed inappropriate or in bad taste. Now is not the time for the hard sell – it is more about communicating what you are doing to make your venue more accessible, more affordable and safer. If you are adjusting your booking terms to include late cancellation assurances, tell your audience. Target your niche customers and communicate that postponing an event is an option to cancelling. Promote the use of wi-fi calls, videoconferencing or webcam meetings to strengthen their decision.
Your social media feeds need to be handled with care, so ensure only the most experienced team members are involved. Prepare responses to ensure consistent communication and try not to get involved in any debates online – direct them to the updated statement on the website instead.
Cancelled meetings can leave empty, unused spaces available for alternative uses. Now is the time to be creative with your business purpose and discover alternative uses for your facilities and services. Can you expand into new markets, such as office space? Can your catering team branch into food delivery? Are there any community initiatives or outreach programmes you can get involved with to show goodwill at this difficult time?
Communicating your new activities is paramount. Use social media to engage with existing audiences and make sure your website reflects what you are doing in an appropriate way. Community initiatives are of interest to the local press who want to communicate what’s happening locally, so make sure they are aware of what you are doing.
Plan for the future
We can’t press the restart button on 2020, but we can move into repair mode and focus on the long game. We are currently in a ‘freeze’ period and need to start looking at how to refocus PR and marketing efforts for when we emerge on the other side.
What will those customers who cancelled need from you in order to re-book? What measures do you need to put in place to ensure any postponed events go ahead in the future? What should your focus be to get ahead of the curve? It is worth pulling together a PR and Marketing plan based on extensive research based on trends and expected behaviours in the marketplace.
We hope this information is helpful and we are here to help should you need further advice.