If you’re not feeling the pinch, or indeed the punch, of a sudden economic downturn, then you should probably count your business as one of the fortunate ones, any event industry suppliers that aren’t feeling it yet have probably already hit the buffers and gone out of business.
This lockdown won’t last forever, even if it seems like it sometimes, and when the restraints are finally lifted on mass gatherings and live events there is going to be an unholy rush on event suppliers and services. Of course, no-one knows exactly when that will be, which means you have the unenviable task of keeping your business running without events to sustain it.
When you’re managing your cash flow in a situation like this, you’re clearly going to want to cut all unnecessary expenditure, but the difficulty is what counts as necessary? Traditionally, when businesses are looking to cut costs during a downturn or recession, the marketing budget can take a real hammering. In some way, this makes sense - especially if you’re looking at an extended recession with a slow recovery, but in these circumstances, it could be disastrous.
This is not going to be a long, drawn-out recession. Buying power, at the moment, is still there amongst the consumers and other businesses, it's the opportunity to spend that is limited. Once the brakes are released, there’s a well-capitalised economy that’s raring to go - and it’s going to need the event industry to be in a fit state to bring those customers back.
Which means that the winners in this roll of the global economic dice will be the ones still in business when the gates to the UK’s exhibition halls, event centres and conference venues reopen. Which might seem obvious, but without enough marketing, promotion and PR activity, no-one will know. And if no-one knows you’re still in business then you might as well have closed up shop at the start of this crisis.
The wonderful thing about marketing, promotion and PR is that its impact shoots up, and your ROI with it, when competitors cut their marketing budgets and ‘go dark’. It might seem crass and insensitive to embark on a campaign of relentless self-promotion when we are in the grip of a national public health emergency, but when the health emergency ends, we will be in the grip of an economic crisis - and it’s the event industry will be needed to kick-start sectors of the economy back into action. The show must go on.
Now is the moment to look at your marketing, promotion and PR activity, and decide how best to direct it for the weeks and months ahead. Trade news outlets and magazines will be desperate to feature good news from the event industry, alongside the litany of Covid-19 business casualties. Advertising space will be a buyers market - websites and magazines should be offering great rates for block bookings, whilst a lot of “mind share” is going begging as actual news about the virus and the lockdown goes stale. Audience engagement on social media is going through the roof as people find themselves spending more time than ever in front of their screens during the lockdown.
This is an opportunity to be seen, heard and understood more clearly than ever.
Going dark, sliding from public view, and hunkering down to wait the crisis out is simply not an option.