The ongoing Coronavirus crisis has hit a high level of concern globally and in recent weeks has begun to impact events in Asia, and more recently, the US and Europe.
The UK remains in a contain phase with large gatherings and events unlikely to be affected by COVID-19 in the immediate future - Cheltenham Festival is set to go on this weekend, and preparation continues for Glastonbury, the UK's largest festival to go ahead in June.
Despite events currently unaffected, many organisers are wondering how their communication strategies should evolve while the appetite for travel and live events has decreased over the COVID-19 concerns.
At The Events Structure, we have experienced a handful of clients choosing to postpone their events until later in the year, as well as several clients requesting extra precautions with their events, such as the use of hand sanitizer to protect their employees.
While we're still learning as we go, here are a few recommendations that could help guide your communication strategy and event marketing:
- Think about the audience of your event and what information they may want from you - specifically, your refund/cancellation policy, your onsite preparation plan and whether you have any virtual tools in place for those who cannot attend the event.
- At a time of uncertainty, your prospective attendees will expect proactive and clear communications. Ensure all communication channels such as website, blog and social media channels are updated with the latest event news. Regular social media posts will give customers peace of mind the event is going ahead.
- Avoid showing or discussing content that might fuel concerns in customers. For example, if you're planning on providing sampling-related content, ensure all samples are self-wrapped and contained. Avoid using open trays of food and drink completely.
- When marketing your event, try to avoid images of large crowds, international audiences, handshaking and hugging. Usually content like this is a success with customers, but right now it may provoke fear around the virus spreading at the event.
- Consider your event layout. Temporary and portable event structures can be strategically placed around your event to break up large crowds and again instil peace of mind in attendees.
- Most importantly, always remind your audience that you care about their wellbeing and are taking the necessary precautions to protect their livelihoods. If you make the decision not to go ahead with the event, ensure you communicate effectively to your audience your reasons why.
Remember, you have choices beyond "going ahead" and "not going ahead" with your communication strategies. Many businesses are using creative and innovative ways to accommodate audiences who wish not to attend because of their fears of COVID-19, including hosting a series of events on a much smaller scale and the use of virtual technology.