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Talk to Me

By Sandra Eagle

The speed and ferocity of the Coronavirus pandemic and changes it has brought to our day-to-day existence has made communications with delegates, stakeholders and sponsors essential and should express the right tone and nuance that builds trust and will encourage business to flourish when this event is history.

For those without a ready-built crisis communication plan, now is not the time to build one, but Ignite has gathered some timely tips to help with the communications you need to be sending out now to keep your brand strong.

Alex Plaxen, MTA vice-president experience strategy for Nifty Method Marketing + Events, based in Washington, D.C., hosted an online webinar about crisis communication on March 16. Among other things, the company does vulnerability audits and creates crisis communication plans for clients.

Communication in the time of a crisis takes a different tone and nuance and you do need to set out some decision-making guidelines:

Who will speak on behalf of the organization
What will they say
How often will they address the audience
Why would they speak

A core idea of crisis communication is message mapping—the main objective that you consistently demonstrate through all communication. Without saying it your message should express:

Your brand is trustworthy
You can count on us to do what is right and in the best interest of our stakeholders

There are three key messages that you need to communicate:

1. What is the scenario: explain you are monitoring the situation, empathize with your stakeholders and be transparent about your decision-making process. Transparency lets people know that you can be trusted.   

2. Support your key message: give links, consolidate information about your events, and let people know you are monitoring key government agencies like Health Canada or federal and provincial guidelines for meetings. If you have created a landing page on your website or have created a blog post, keep up-to-date information at the top, but keep previous posts on the site. Deleting previous messages can lead to mistrust.

3. Empathize: let your audience know you understand about their investment in your event, that cancellation has in impact on their business goals and that everyone’s health and safety is your number one priority right now.

Communicate in a timely manner, let people know about refunds or that information will be available shortly and that decisions are not taken lightly. 

During the webinar, planners were asking about events they have planned in the future. Plaxen advised that there is a bit of sensitivity right now about marketing future events, but not if it will be online. He says “tell your attending how you are monitoring the situation and following the proper channel of health advisories.” He also advised that you should have a refund policy in place, “if you don’t, it will put a stop to registrations right now.”

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