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Crisis Management in the events industry: a step-by-step guide.

Posted on 08/04/2019

Crisis situation management is probably the hardest challenge of event marketing.

Building a reputation is hard work and time consuming, but destroying it can last as long as a few seconds. Corporate Event Managers know how important strategic thinking is for every project they’re in charge. However, effective crisis management has an additional touch of difficulty, because it involves reacting to hypotheses. In this post, you’ll learn how to be prepared to face this situation and what’s the right way to go through it. 

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Source: EventMB.

1. Why crisis management for event marketing is of utmost importance.

Your guests and participants are utterly irritated at the event door because your accreditation / check-in software didn’t work? Or maybe, there’s a no show of the keynote speaker. What if the A/C is not working properly and people can’t enjoy the moment because the heat is annoying?

Crises on event marketing can still include major problems and other things like environmental issues, epidemics, medical accidents, security issues and other major reasons for which you’ll need and emergency plan. 

Operationally, mishandled crisis situations might:

  • Incur additional costs
  • Increase delays and mess up timings
  • Compromise the level of overall achievement / customer satisfaction

The most valuable asset a company has is its image, which results from the perception of the public to it. There is so much contrary and misinterpreted information that there is a need for proactive and actionable plan. Containing losses immediately is vital, or you will incur damage that could extend over long periods or even definitive image destruction.


2. What is a crisis?

A crisis is an occurrence that may negatively influence the outcomes of a planned / controlled situation.  Don’t overlook: these things happen and you don’t want your attendees at risk.

Still, in the worst case scenario, if not handled professionally, an unexpected event can cause further harm to the image and or reputation of the brand /  company / institution.

Summarizing, crisis situations are a problem that is worse than the normal problems. And when it comes to events, be sure: one day: it will appear. It’s not because we don’t expect them or even because we don’t want them, that they won’t show up. That’s exactly why we call them crisis. However, we can fortunately face crisis situations and avoid disasters. Embrace crisis management as a second chance to fix something that has been mishandled and, therefore, can even save the reputation of an entity.

The first step to correctly react is acceptance.

We tend to neglect problems because once we admit them, we know we’ll have to do something. But denying or refusing to accept a crisis will end up in a precious loss of available time to react. Whether it’s a mistake made by an employee that scaled up or a natural disaster, just accept it. And don’t publish nothing on your social media that is not related to admitting that something is going wrong.

Secondly, make a precise diagnosis of  the root cause

You don’t want to lose time tackling the wrong problems.


3. Examples of crisis

Common types of crises can include:

  • Epidemics, pandemics
  • Fire in the venue
  • Electricity going off
  • Gear malfunction
  • Flooding
  • People having trouble to find the place
  • Fights
  • Medical emergency

And possible root causes might be:

  • Macro environment
  • Bad installations
  • Low quality facilities
  • Non-qualified vendors
  • Natural disasters 
  • Crime 
  • Accidents

Note that these happenings don’t have the same level of relevance. But all of them need to be fought right at core for not scaling up quickly. Secondly, some factors are way beyond the control of the Event Manager, like crime, natural disasters, politics, epidemics, etc. Still, we’re gonna consider those factors when building our Crisis Management Plan / Emergency Plan.


4. What is crisis management

The objective of crisis management for event-marketing is making it the best way for meeting planners to protect people, identity, image and reputations.

Crisis management should be a systematic, integrated and ongoing work to prepare the event for sudden and unexpected situations. Regardless of the type of meeting, conference, exhibition, travel, this work must be a preventive measure.

Don’t wait for the crisis to come to do this work. It might be too late.

  • Organizers communicate well, with clear orders, and monitor social media to understand the impact so far.
  • Understand your environment, both internally and externally. Detecting potential crises is better than actual crises.
  • Aim at the interest of your main stakeholders and organize a Crisis Communications Team.

5. Organization of Crisis-management teams.

Nobody likes to deal with crises, but it is never solved solely by one person. It’s extremely crucial that a Crisis Committee / Crisis Team is previously predicted in the event planning phase, no matter if fixing this crisis will be an internal procedure or if a specialized company will be hired for that. Ideally, this process is led and deployed by the Event Manager or the brand Public Relations Manager, after carefully checking repercussion via social media. That is a great clue if you’re still not sure if you’re facing a crisis or not. But also has to have the participation of leaders from the most strategic areas of the event and the hosting corporation: marketing manager, HR manager, IT manager, Accountant Manager, Legal Manager, etc.


6. How event-marketing crisis management works

A professional crisis management plan has actions to be executed on every stage of a crisis. Thus, crisis communications are the most fundamental part of it, as changes and

Before the crisis

  • Prevention: risk analysis, diagnosis of possible situation; roadmap to action;
  • Transparency and clarity in decision making;
  • Crisis Management Plan (see below what’s the step-by-step to  build one).

During the crisis

  • Summon a Committee Meeting and make every person in there understand their role.
  • For the stakeholder’s and involved professional’s safety, from the chief executive officer to any executive, decision makers or any other employee, work together;
  • Keep in mind that the risk manager has to be the one having a more realistic dimension of the problem than the other individuals in the room.
  • Encourage involved people in the Committee in finding solutions;
  • Track solutions;
  • Crisis communications are hard. So Communicate about the efforts with clear messages;
  • Adopt simply speaking, beware of technical and evasive terms;
  • Monitor media and public reaction;
  • Find out the facts: what happened? What’s the root? Who has been affected? How can it scale up?
  • Adopt a single spokesperson and speech for all interviews;
  • Offer a public response is a must-do activity;
  • Prepare to meet the press;
  • Respect the expectations and feelings of the public.

What not to do:

  • Making jokes;
  • Underestimating consequences;
  • Pretending you’re not aware there’s an emergency situation;
  • Saying you have nothing to declare;
  • Claiming your business operations did not have any crisis preparedness / contingency plans / emergency plan;

After the crisis

  • Document the Lessons and discuss the case with every single employee;
  • Take your Crisis Plan back to drawing board and update it according to the crisis outcomes; the new one has to be an actionable plan – just like a panic button. In case you need, just activate it.
  • Convert the crisis into an opportunity;

7. Crisis Management Plan for Event Marketing: your panic button when facing a growing problem.

1. Identify the team members and any employee that will make up the Crisis Committee to be triggered in the event of a serious occurrence threatens the event and it’s stakeholders reputation. This step the very first step event planners need to be ready to deploy as a kind of “panic button”.

2. Document which criteria will be used to determine a crisis. Do you have an insurance company to be contacted? What’s the main partners you count on at the moment? Note each agency or organization should make a fairly thorough survey to classify the types and intensity of events that could be classified as crisis threats, including potential severity;

3. Establish monitoring systems and practices to detect early warning signs of any potential crisis, the so-called red flags. This goes for social media as well;

4. Indicate who will be the spokesperson in case of crisis, including a replacement, both prepared and trained. Make sure they get Media Training;

5. Provide a list of emergency key contacts to find quickly, including on weekends, holidays, overnight and no matter where they are;

6. Document what will needed to be notified in case of crisis and how such crisis communications will be made;

7. Name a process for assessing incidents, their potential severity and the impact on facilities and staff employee;

8. Identify crisis response procedures and emergency meeting points where staff and every committee employee can meet. Also have a “Plan B” placed for that.

9. Do simulations to test effectiveness.

10. Update your Crisis Management Team and Crisis Management Plan regularly.

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