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When you think of live events today, what keeps you up at night?
We asked that question to event and experiential marketers in the early days of the pandemic, and the answer was, unsurprisingly, uncertainty about the future. But more revealingly were responses like that from Lyndsay Merbach of Sparks Marketing: “How will events be reformatted to make attendees feel comfortable and safe? How do brands need to be proactive to protect themselves?”
Merbach’s questions point to an optimistic determination to adapt to a new reality, one we’re now seeing all over the world as live events open back up, albeit in different stages of progress. According to Andrew Carlin, EVP, Sales & Customer Success at Limelight, many of the answers to her questions lie in leveraging the right data to develop solid communication plans that convey empathy, education, and expertise.
“Personalization is key,” says Andrew. While top-level mass marketing initiatives allow brands to take a stance, customized messaging enables you to adapt that stance to address different consumer mindsets. One-to-one communications are crucial. “We’re going to have those who are determined to attend events, those who are hesitant, and those who aren’t going to leave the house unless they have a very clear line of sight into exactly what we are putting in place, and exactly how we’re going about doing it.”
Capturing as much information as possible up front about interested attendees (and doing it in a very methodical way) will help brands tailor the tone, content, and frequency of their communications. “Limelight technology allows us to personalize that messaging depending on where the individual is on that spectrum,” says Andrew. Taking pre-event registration as an example, he suggests including pre-qualifying questions that gauge participants’ mindsets and then aligning the proper communications with that individual.
As Steve Randazzo of Pro Motion says: “Brands need to be careful with their tone and message early on to make sure they are not considered to be offensive or insensitive coming out of the pandemic.” Use your data to create a framework that allows you to speak to consumers the way they want to be spoken to. Some consumers will want to simply register and find out the requirements to attend. But for the ones who self-identify as hesitant, brands must adopt a tone of voice that conveys empathy and puts consumers at ease.
“You need to lead them to the water,” says Andrew. “Make them understand that their feelings of uncertainty and concern are valid—and normal!” Let them know they have options—that it’s their choice whether they attend in person or, if it’s available, virtually.
Next, be clear with how you educate the consumers—what Andrew calls the Why, the What and the How. Educate them on the processes and systems of check-and-balances that are going to be put in place—whether that’s a Covid Self-Assessment in advance of the event, showing a vaccination card, or contact tracing. But also think about how you can leverage credibility from other sources too—consumer confidence and comfort is buoyed by expertise. “Stitch third-party content into your communications for additional credibility and validation,” recommends Andrew. “It allows brands to say, ‘We’re not just thinking about what we’re trying to accomplish; this is what others are also doing successfully.’”
Brands need to ensure that consumers have an avenue for people to communicate back to them, so highlight those channels in your initiatives. Consider your demographics, too. “Some people are very technically savvy and comfortable using a chatbot,” says Andrew. “Others may prefer to pick up the phone and contact a call-centre.” Your choice should reflect your brand too: “A luxury brand like BMW is already focused on providing a white-glove experience; they’re more likely going to have a phone line where you can talk to somebody.”
According to McKinsey & Company, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.6 This is especially true in 2021, when hard selling and marketing efforts may not be received well. Clients and potential customers are going to remember the brands that were there for them during the pandemic—ensure they remember yours by optimizing your communications now.
Take a look at Limelight’s Covid Self-Assessment program to see how we are helping companies protect attendees—and their brands—as live events continue to come back.
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