States have begun “reopening” (a term surely none of us ever thought we’d hear applied to states), which is great news. However, for reservations professionals and the customers they serve, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t entirely illuminating. When will facilities be reopened for in-person events? What will those events look like? What types of restrictions will be in place? What happens if the virus returns in the fall? And the list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken event venues and event planners into unexplored territory, so it’s impossible to answer those questions with any level of certainty. As a result, some events departments are choosing to “remain silent” or mostly silent. But is that the right thing to do? Based on our conversations with events professionals around the country, our answer would be a firm “No.”
Instead, it seems that event venues (and businesses of all kinds, for that matter) are getting the best results when they follow these crisis communication tips:
- Stay in touch with customers and potential customers. True, they may not be able to hold events at your facility yet, but going “radio silent” on them may lead them to believe you’re ceasing operations altogether, and you don’t want them taking their business elsewhere.
- Don’t pretend that it’s business as usual. Everyone knows we’re going through challenging times. And while you don’t want to dwell on that, you shouldn’t ignore it either. It’s OK to use terms like “pandemic,” “coronavirus,” and “pandemic.” Be open and honest about your challenges and those of your customers.
- Modify your outreach as appropriate. Don’t continue with the same marketing messages and tactics you’ve used in the past. “Host your event here!” is no longer something you can or should encourage, for obvious reasons. But, “We’re eager to see you when we can, and are taking steps to ensure the safety of your meetings,” is a great way to stay top-of-mind with former and future customers while also giving them confidence about your operation.
- Use humor carefully in your communications. Making people smile in the midst of troubling times is a good thing. Being insensitive to suffering they or their loved ones are experiencing or have experienced is not. Get lots of discerning eyes on your messaging internally before it’s published.
- Create a banner that’s displayed at the top of all web pages. This banner should acknowledge the situation, promise to keep customers updated, and tell them where they can find the latest information about your facility. Then you need to keep your promise by publishing any new information you have on reopening, restrictions etc. provided it is well-vetted information.
- Stay connected with your vendors, business partners, etc. Everyone in your events ecosystem is going to be curious about your status. Don’t leave them in the dark. Keep them informed and ask that they do the same for you.
- Avoid making medical pronouncements or predictions. Your customers should not be looking to you for the latest case counts or trends, and you shouldn’t be providing them. That’s true even if you’re getting your information from a trusted source. It’s much better to simply people to your source, as that individual or entity is likely updating their site with new information as soon as it’s available and you may not have the time or resources to do so.
- Track and record inbound communications. If a customer says they want to book a large event as soon as it’s clear when they can hold one, be sure to 1) Reply, saying you’ll be in touch as soon as you know more, and 2) Record their contact information and any details they provide about their event.
- Error on the side of over-communicating. No, you don’t want to inundate your audience with messages from you, but frequent “quick reads” are better than completely disappearing.
An Opportunity to Create a Stronger Bond with Your Customers
It’s unfortunate that crises occur. However, they can be an opportunity for organizations to show their caring, compassionate side, and to forge a deeper connection with customers in the process.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for your scheduling department to stay connected with your audience and provide measured, realistic reassurance that operations will resume and you will continue to be a resource for your community.
If you want part of the bright future beyond the pandemic to involve more efficient and effective operations for your scheduling department, we’re continuing to do informative, online demos of Mazévo. Contact us today to learn more and schedule a session.