During the last two weeks, we’ve seen major industry events on three continents postponed or cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), including the Geneva Motor Show, Auto China in Beijing, SXSW in Austin, Texas and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Events and trade shows are a major part of the marketing strategy for most companies and are the ONLY marketing activities for others. Marketing directors who have been planning their company’s presence at these significant industry events for several months are scrambling to change course in order to launch new products, introduce brands and/or help their sales teams meet with potential customers. Cancellations of this magnitude are rare, but general crises are not. Solutions to this type of predicament call for some serious on-the-fly thinking, smart work and a significant amount of flexibility.
So, what are your options?
If this was your one major launch or event for the year, and time is of the essence, don’t miss your opportunity — take your launch online. If people can’t come to you, go to them. Execute your press conference or product unveiling by streaming it to the world. This can be done by live streaming or recording it and posting it to a trackable video site or landing page. Spread the word via social media, eblasts, digital ads and media outreach.
Consider the timing involved with the crisis and plan your own stand-alone event for a later date. At many trade shows, you have a very limited time with the media and customers. A hosted event gives you the opportunity to cut through the clutter of an industry-wide show and ensure a memorable experience that the audience will always remember and associate with your brand. So, play host and bring a group of targeted media, customers, investors and/or influencers to you. Give them a full- or half-day with your team. Give them access to executives. Feed them and entertain them.
This only loosely relates to trade shows and events, but it’s shocking how few companies have formal crisis communication and action plans in place. A crisis communications plan clearly lays out what is said, what is done and what actions are taken by each specific person within an organization when a crisis arises. Incidents requiring both internal and external communication happen every single day, from plant fires, chemical spills and workplace accidents to natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis. Your team needs to be prepared.
When pressed into these high-pressure situations, we find that people show an exceptional amount of creativity, hard work and passion, often providing results that surpass expectations. With clear thinking and a sound marketing strategy, you can turn these disappointments into opportunities.