In what is shaping up to be a field-free summer for festival fans, many event organisers are having to deal with not only the impact of cancelled events on their livelihoods, but also the complicated mechanics and communication around pulling a show. Whilst some of summer’s biggest fixtures have already gone, many are playing a waiting game, hoping to just maybe catch the tail end of summer, and provide some much welcome release for the homebound masses.
Representing a range of festival clients going through similar, Coronavirus-related challenges, we thought we’d put together a list of tips for considering when rolling out the comms for an event cancellation or postponement.
- Work closely with ticketing partner(s) – align on strategy and messaging before going public, especially around what your policy on refunds is. Share any pre approved responses with them too
- Pull together comms plan – including all internal stakeholders plus partners, agents and suppliers.
- Communicate with key stakeholders prior to public announcement – to give time to field any queries closer to home. They may also be able help share and support the announcement once public
- Look to keep the statement out of media if possible – although some press may pick up the announcement from your own channels, focus comms on those directly affected (i.e. your ticket holders)
- Announce simultaneously to ticket holders (via email) and on owned channels
- Bolster customer service team if necessary – Speedy responses to queries will help minimise backlash. If you have capacity to be able to speak to customers on the phone, even better.
There’s a temptation to put this out asap but, whilst speed is key, taking the necessary time to gather all the info and articulate it in a sensitive and comprehensive way is advisable. Things to bear in mind for your statement;
- Lead with the news – i.e. announce the cancellation/postponement in the first paragraph (if not the first sentence)
- Safety first – the reason the event isn’t happening is almost certainly because it is not safe to go ahead as planned. Customers will be disappointed, but they will be more understanding if they appreciate it is, above all else, out of regard for customer safety and wellbeing (as well as that of staff, artists and partners)
- Defer to higher authority where relevant – If the postponement/cancellation is because of a government ban on mass gatherings then this should be explained, followed by the fact that you respect the decision. Do not blame any authority for the decision (even if it was taken out of your hands)
- Postponement or cancellation – be clear about whether you are postponing or cancelling the show. Each will likely have different implications for your refund policy, so be clear what you are communicating around what customers should expect
- Keep general comments on the pandemic to a minimum – people are aware of the situation and how it is affecting all aspects of life. As far as your statement is concerned, they will be interested in how it affects them and their ticket
- Pre-empt people’s responses and concerns – Have full statement followed by comprehensive FAQ
- Show empathy – acknowledge customers’ disappointment, but also note that the postponement will affect everyone involved (artists, suppliers and staff)
- Communicate you are here to help as much as you can – explain you know many will have questions, which you will be happy to answer via email (if not in FAQ) – but ask for people’s patience as you work through the following few days
- Direct people to relevant third party sites – point people to airline/travel websites rather than get involved in explaining each of their policies (which are all different and may be subject to change)
If you’d like to discuss the communication around your event, give us a shout