By Neal Shaffer, VP, Creative Strategy

As the breaking COVID-19 news of the day continues to exert new challenges to our personal and professional life, influencing our everyday decision making and business planning, how do we plan for the future of employee and constituency engagement, live event celebrations and trade conferences?

There is no question, this is an economic threat; after all, we still have business goals for engagement, sales and growth. But, we shouldn’t react and panic; thoughtful preparedness and a calm hand will help us discover rational, prudent and productive engagement solutions and alternatives to live gatherings. Since that can be easier said than done, AJ’s executive leadership team and our consulting practice have put together a few key strategies that we intend to follow as a creative agency. We hope our perspective might help your teams navigate a steady course through increasing uncertainty.

Community is not (just) people together in space.

Step back and consider: what are the root goals and motivations for getting people together? In the absence of an in-person meeting or event, what are some other ways we can accomplish those goals? We believe in the power of live events, but they are not the only way to build community. Step back and focus in on exactly what you hope to accomplish with your events and think about those goals holistically. In the short term this can help you navigate the disruption of a rescheduled gathering. In the long term, this kind of thinking adds another tool to your kit.

Consider what’s possible with technology.

Part of engaging communities is meeting them where they are, and odds are good that, for many members of your audience, that place is online. On a very basic level, that means it’s easy to organize and connect with simple tools like Facebook Live, video teleconfrencing and social media. From there, though, things are as interesting as they’ve ever been. We know, fully-featured virtual events are becoming more and more viable as legitimate engagement alternatives to in-person gatherings, and they offer some distinct advantages of their own (such as on-demand content and multi-level channel sharing). Now might be the perfect time to start exploring your options.

Content and communications strategy matter — now more than ever.

Whether or not people are gathering in space, the priority remains to communicate with them in ways that will spark interest, educate and deepen relationships. Having a rich library of existing content and a solid plan for generating and distributing more of it is the basic currency of keeping people interested. This can serve to support events over the long term and can be an asset of its own with heightened value in a time of disruption.

Long-term, all of your efforts depend to some extent on building and maintaining affinity and loyalty. While well-timed and purposeful gatherings can play a big part in this, think of them more as punctuation than as bedrock — important, but not the only option at your disposal. By shoring up your fundamentals and looking to build staple assets that are less dependent on external factors, you can put yourself in a strong position to navigate disruption and come out with a head start on the other side when conditions improve (which they inevitably will).

Virtual Events & Experiences

Considering a virtual event or engagement? Our team of creative strategists, content creators, and technology experts can help your brand maintain competency and credibility in times of pivot. Learn more about our virtual offerings or contact us – we’re happy to talk with you!