In our previous blog post, we covered what B2B event marketers should do in the wake of an event postponement due to Covid-19. In this post we explain the actions needed for an event scheduled to run this year. Whether you’ve postponed a spring event, or you’re preparing for your annual Q4 conference/exhibiton; revisiting your approach to marketing is essential.
In this tumultuous period, a spotlight has been shone on the events industry. Sponsors, exhibitors, suppliers and – of course – delegates look to their favoured conferences and exhibitions for a response to the Coronavirus outbreak that now dominates headlines.
If you have an event scheduled to run in 2020 there are several key considerations for your event marketers who play such a key role in event success.
We’ve put together a list of the top actions event marketers need to take now:
1- Release a statement to your entire community
Your event community wants to see that you are responding to the situation.
- As your top priority – directly communicate an update of your position via email to your key event stakeholders. These are individuals who have in some way invested in or made a commitment to your event, including delegates, sponsors, partners, speakers and suppliers.
- Add a clear statement to your event website homepage. Also add a dedicated web page about your decision to run the event this year and include information and links that support your position e.g. official government advice. Consider adding a pop-up to appear to anyone visiting any page of your website to maximise visibility. If you have a FAQ section on your website, add Covid-19 related questions to the top of the list.
- Share this news on all channels, ensuring you reach as many people in your community as possible.
- Consider producing a video alongside your statement to condense it into something easily digestible and engaging, and to add a trustworthy face to the decision. Here is a great example from Money20/20.
2 – Share your contingency plan
With a global situation that’s changing almost hourly, showing you have a robust back-up plan will give attendees, speakers and sponsors alike the confidence to plan to be part of your event.
- Explain how and when (provide a specific date) stakeholders will be informed of a possible postponement.
- Include when the postponed event is likely to take place if a postponement becomes necessary. At a minimum, state the likely month or date range, even if the specific date is not yet known.
- Be as specific as you can about where the postponed event will take place, especially if you’re considering a different venue.
- Take inspiration from this example, and other events’ contingency plans to ensure you’re covering all bases. This coronavirus response guide for event organisers from professional networking platform GUILD also includes some great examples of ‘going ahead’ statements.
3 – Make it clear how you are ensuring visitor safety
With health concerns top of mind in the public consciousness, sharing how you plan to reduce the risk to attendees is vital.
- Share what measures your venue is taking, e.g. more frequent cleaning and the installation of hand sanitizers
- Explain how, as the event organisers, you are further mitigating the risks. This could be by:
- Advising against handshakes
- Adjusting session formats
- Providing on-site medical facilities
4 – Adjust your marketing communications strategy and campaign plan
It may be tempting to stick to the original, familiar plan. But considering a slightly different approach to your marcomms to take in to account the new coronavirus shaded world could be beneficial to campaign performance.
- Review your channel approaches, considering how the situation may require them to change:
- Is it worth investing more in re-engaging past visitors over trying to generate new ones if your returning visitor rate could drop?
- Consider investing more in retaining booked delegates and revenue, instead of purely focusing on acquisition.
- Exclude your digital advertising (PPC) from appearing on news sites. You don’t want your banners alongside an announcement advising people to avoid gatherings.
- Does your wider messaging strategy need re-orienting? If your industry is feeling unease, should you focus on how your event addresses challenges instead of opportunities?
- Don’t feel the need to completely tear up your existing strategy. Doing so will only cause unnecessary disruption when simple tweaks and diligence can keep you on the path to success.
- Place more emphasis on lead generation until you are confident your event will go ahead as planned. Doing so will also allow prospective visitors to receive updates while they decide whether to commit to attending.
- Think about how you can communicate any existing or newly built in digital elements (livestreaming, video content, networking app) to show that your event has a strong presence in the digital space, as well as the physical event itself.
- Avoid messaging that states how many people you are expecting to attract, as you can’t be certain how many will turn up. Be wary of ‘over-promising and under-delivering’
- Avoid using imagery that shows numerous people interacting closely or shaking hands.
- Consider adding coronavirus related content to your event agenda – e.g. a breakfast briefing – as well as event content to your site (speaker interviews, news updates) to ‘own the conversation’ in your industry.
- Make sure you build this new content into your comms, sharing via email and social as an agenda update, showing how you are responding to the crisis by making it a key discussion point.
5 – Provide frequent updates
As the situation evolves, your community will expect you to respond in a responsible and transparent manner.
- Update your statement as soon as your plan or the situation changes and more clarity is needed. Include a date for when information was last updated.
- If a significant update is made, push this out on all channels as you did when the statement was initially released.
- Consider providing an update when a relevant news story breaks (e.g. a ban on gatherings of a certain scale) to quell any fresh concerns.
Above all, don’t be silent about Covid-19. Taking responsibility and providing clear communications is vital in times of uncertainty.
We’ll be diving deeper into the longer-term implications of coronavirus on the world of B2B events in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. If you have any thoughts on how our industry should react and how the marketing approach should adjust, we would love to hear from you!
MPG recently hosted a webinar focused on marketing considerations & tactics for postponed events. See the webinar outputs here.