Before I get into this… It’s important that we understand 1 thing: Our lives, our health, and the future of Small Businesses in America is far more important than the events that have been impacted by COVID-19.
I will leave the issues of health, social separation, and economic relief to the experts in those fields. Things I can offer some insight into are event-planning and communications.
We do a lot of event planning. So we figure it’s helpful to offer some insight into how to handle your events in these uncertain times.
COVID-19 has led to some drastic measures, and many events have been either canceled or postponed. Some of these events are critical for raising funds for operating budgets.
For these events, it’s important that you take the right steps during and after the decision to cancel/postpone. Here are a few things to consider:
The decision-making process
For social events, the decision is easy – cancel or postpone. Buy for events that make up a large portion of operating funds, it’s much harder. Your consideration needs to weigh who will be impacted, and to what extent. Can you still operate without these funds? Will your supporters attend if the event is at a different time? What other events will you compete with if you postpone to a different date? Can you even consider holding the event (government forced closures are growing every day)?
Remember to put yourself in your patron’s mindset. What will they think if you hold the event? Will your cause still be relevant after the crisis is over?
Something else you may want to consider is a modified event where social distancing and use of web/digital solutions replace the normal “gathering” type of event.
Either way – put your supporters first, and the decision will become clear.
Communicate with Stake Holders
Who are the main players for your event? Sponsors, venue, caterers, entertainers, etc… all play a key role. Communicate with them early and often. Get their feedback and ideas. If you are moving your event – find a new date ASAP and make sure all the players can make that happen. You want to postpone the event, not plan it all over again.
Also, make sure to negotiate down or try to eliminate cancellation fees. Most people are willing to work with you given the current situation.
Take the time to reconfirm your sponsors and ensure they are comfortable with your decision. They will appreciate the honesty. Maybe even consider adding additional value to their sponsorship. Without them, the event isn’t possible, no matter when you hold it.
Communicate with your guests & supporters
Don’t assume they know. They have a lot of things on their mind so it’s important that you are clear and concise. If you communicate early and often, you stay top of mind, assuring that your postponed event will have the same support later in the year.
You need to use several communication methods. Email is good, but consider adding social media and direct phone calls as well. You can never over-communicate, but the moment you realize that you didn’t communicate enough, it’s too late.
Update all of your event details on your website, social media, and ticketing services. This is critical – because if you forget, then people will be reading contradictory information, and that’s a bad look.
Create a responsible refund policy
None of this is ideal. You will have guests that simply can’t attend your event. You will need to have a refund policy, and you need to communicate it clearly. Outline the details of how refunds will be handled. Don’t specifically offer a refund, but make it clear how someone can request and receive one.
Be ready for feedback
Some people may not like your decision, and some will love it. Be ready for a back and forth with all of these people. Social media is a great platform for open communication. Use it to your benefit. By giving people the ability to speak with you, it creates an atmosphere of inclusion, and that breeds long-term loyalty.
So – in short, consider your partners and your patrons, and communicate clearly and often. It sounds simple, but needs some serious attention. If you need help, RyCOM is offering FREE PR Consulting while the COVID-19 Crisis remains an issue. Hit us up.