How to Communicate Event Cancellations & Postponements Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of people are staying home and keeping a healthy distance from others to prevent the spread of the virus. While quarantines and travel restrictions are proving to be effective in containing the outbreak, these measures are drastically impacting the events industry. Since large gatherings of people pose a greater risk of spreading Coronavirus, many gatherings over 10 people have been indefinitely banned across the country.
As an event organizer, you will most likely need to reschedule or cancel the live events you have planned for the next few weeks and maybe months. Having a good communication strategy is key to keeping your fans informed, providing an exceptional customer experience, and retaining as much revenue as possible. Here are a few ways event organizers can communicate effectively to their fans and attendees about event cancellations and postponements amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Step 1: Make Informed Decisions
Postponing or canceling an event is a big decision that affects not only your revenue, but also your employees, your fans, and the perception of your brand. It's important that you use accurate, relevant, and timely data to help inform the decisions you make about your events. So far, the mandates being issued to prevent the spread of Coronavirus - like social distancing, travel restrictions, and shelter-in-place have come from the government at the federal, state, and local levels. Make it a point to stay up-to-date on both your local and national news to stay informed.
Once you have all of the information you need to make a smart decision, take a moment to think about your fans so that you can make a customer-centric decision as well. As you go about making a contingency plan for an event, consider if it will make sense and serve to benefit your fans. Try to think about the things they will wonder or worry about and address them with transparency. Will they be worried about what happens to their tickets? Confused about a change in dates? Be sure to address these worries and questions.
Step 2: Create a Communication Plan
Having good communication is key to your event's success, and this is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communicating your event postponement or cancellation can't be done successfully with a single announcement. You will need to create an entire communication plan, including internal and external communication, to help you reach everyone you need to effectively.
Be mindful of everyone who will be affected by changes made to your event. This includes your staff, performers, volunteers, vendors, attendees, followers, etc. Create detailed outreach plans for each group. Your communication plan can include key talking points and messages, distribution channels, and timing. Some messages and distribution channels will probably differ with each audience group that you are communicating with.
Consider your tone in all communication. You should be authentic and honest about the situation at hand, but ensure that you aren't provoking unnecessary feelings of fear or causing added stress or anxiety. Appoint someone to review all communication to ensure that your brand comes across as professional and appropriate.
Step 3: Be Proactive, Consistent, & Timely in Your Outreach
Your fans and attendees should never reach out to you first with a question about an event cancellation or event postponement. You must be preemptive in your messaging. If you are proactive in communicating event changes, it will save your team a lot of support time answering incoming questions, and solidify your brand image.
Anytime there is a change in government mandates about shelter-in-place or quarantine orders, your fans will likely be wondering how it will affect your event and their participation in it. Continue to stay aware and informed to make fast decisions and communicate them quickly. Changes due to the Coronavirus outbreak are happening fast, and you need to be timely with your communication.
Step 4: Consider Adding More Support or Support Channels
While it's a good goal to try to reach your fans before they reach you, you will probably still receive a lot of inbound communication. People will be curious about the status of the event, or what will happen to their tickets if the event is cancelled or postponed. Many ticket holders may ask for refunds. They will want to be able to reach you to find answers to their questions.
Consider adding FAQs and additional support staff or messaging channels to accommodate the requests. You can do this via phone, email, social media, or wherever your fans are most likely to be active. If you can provide more support during this time, you will be able to provide a better customer experience and leave a positive lasting impression.