Editor’s note: This information was accurate at the time of publishing, March 5, 2020. We are monitoring and updating as new information is available.The meetings and events industry is in crisis mode. Whether or not you intend to cancel your event due to the coronavirus outbreak, it's important to understand that this impacts every event right now.
With many major events being cancelled daily, attendees and stakeholders are looking to your event to provide them with information. If you don't have a crisis communications plan—less than 10% of all events do—here are 10 tips you can use to ensure that you are communicating effectively to those who matter.
1. Be Transparent
It’s important that you are up front and honest with your attendees about the process you are taking in deciding whether or not to cancel or postpone your event. Uncertainty can cause confusion and incite panic.
2. Centralize Your Information
Create a blog post to share any and all updates regarding the outbreak and how it is impacting your event.
[Related: Coronavirus Cancellation and Attrition Liability Must-Knows]
3. Do Not Delete
When sharing updates on your blog post, create a line break and a bold UPDATE header with the date at the top. Deleting information can imply it was either incorrect or you are trying to hide something.
4. Use Email as Your No. 1 Mode of Communication
Send an email to your attendees and stakeholders making them aware of the current situation and how it is being addressed by your organization. Provide a link to the blog post for future updates and any other resources they may need.
5. Establish Communication Expectations
Tell your attendees where (email, blog, social media, etc.) and how often you intend to communicate updates to them. This will help relieve some of the constant questions regarding when more information will be available.
6. Let Your CVBs Help
Your CVB is most likely gathering the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the outbreak threat. Make sure you are communicating with them regularly in order to provide that information to your attendees. They may also have resources you can direct your attendees to.
[Related: How to Protect Against Coronavirus]
7. Monitor Social Media
There are going to be questions and comments directed to your social media handles. Make sure you dedicate some of your organization’s resources to monitoring these questions and comments and responding in a timely manner.
8. Exercise Empathy
Put yourselves in the shoes of your attendees. Some are fearful not just about the virus, but the implications of a cancellation or postponement. For many, going to a conference is a big investment. For some, missing out on your event could cause a ripple effect in their business. Make sure that your staff responsible for communications is trained in customer service and exercises empathy.
9. Consistency Is Key
Make sure the messages you share on your blog, by email and over social media are the same. If an update is made to your blog, make sure that update is pinned to the top of your social media channels.
10. Don’t Wait to Communicate
If registration is open, it’s not too early to start communicating to your attendees about your plans. Even if the event isn’t for another nine months, people are curious and looking for information. Get ahead of it.
About the Author:
Alex Plaxen is the founder of Little Bird Told Media and current Vice President of Experience Strategy at Nifty Method Marketing & Events.
He is actively involved in leadership roles within the meetings and events industry and holds the title of a Meetings Mean Business Ambassador, and also has the honor of being a 2020-2021 Board Director of MPI’s Potomac Chapter. Alex is also an international speaker recognized for his expertise in digital communication strategies and created and teaches the Crisis Communications certificate course for MPI, and is one of IAEE's preferred speakers in its Premier Chapter Education Series in 2020. Planners can discuss their crisis communication needs with Alex by visiting https://meetings.hubspot.com/alex942.
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