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Lars Haue-Pedersen | Reload, don’t rebuild

As many major events are postponed due to Covid-19, BCW’s Lars Haue-Pedersen provides hints for organisers of these events on how to adapt their communication strategy.

With Covid-19 causing many major sporting events to be postponed for up to a year, organising committees and rights-holders are having to adapt their communication and their strategy.

These were issues discussed during our recent webinar, attended by some 150 representatives from event organisers, rights-holders and host cities from around the world, and I have identified eight key take-aways which may prove useful and relevant for any LOC, rights-holder or host city involved in an event now being postponed for up to a year:

  • Reload, but don’t rebuild:

This isn’t a total communication reset, but the paradigm has shifted. It’s time to adapt and ask yourself how you reposition the story you were planning to tell this year to ensure that it resonates a year from now. You must also carefully consider how you can use this time to re-imagine your event to ensure that it remains relevant. Ask yourself, how do we shape that message?

  • Maintain timely and relevant communications during postponement:

No one has all the answers right now, but you need to share proactive and transparent updates while also maintaining responsive customer service. It is very important that you communicate real information only – so don’t share speculation about potential scheduling changes or further postponements.

  • Remind people why they love your event:

Once you have established a communications framework and have provided key updates around scenarios and deadlines, you must look to create and share content that adds value and reminds people why they were attracted to your event in the first place. There is no reason why they should not still want to join the event and be very excited about it – but it’s good to remind them!

  • Address the issue:

It is clear to everyone why your event has been postponed but you still have to address this. However, the conversation you initiate through your communication does not need to (only) be about a pandemic. Instead you can bridge into related topics such as the core of sports: health. In this way your event can become part of the solution to the current crisis.

  • Focus on doing the right things, not just saying the right words

If you decide to link the communication around your event – and the postponement of the event – directly to the Covid-19 crisis, then make sure you are not just doing the talking. You must also be doing the walking and get involved in concrete activities and actions, which are viewed as helpful in the current situation.

  • Rethink your communication in a more digital world

The Covid-19 crisis has dramatically accelerated the development of digital communications in just a few months – and this will only be further reinforced. So what you had in mind in terms of specific communication channels will probably have to be rethought now, when you have an extra year available. Connect, interact, share and engage – now more than ever.

  • Reach out to a broader audience

You have now more time so take advantage of this and consider who else you can talk to and with which key messages to share. Event organisers sometimes tend to focus on a core group of fans, but you now have great opportunity to increase your communication impact.

  • Create synergies

Many stakeholders communicate together about a major event. There is the LOC, the host city and also the international federation or another rights-holder. Due to time pressure and many other activities happening in the lead up to an event, the communication between these various stakeholders is often not coordinated and thus less impactful. Now, there is more time to better align and integrate and therefore to enhance the overall communication power.

A postponement of a major event for up to one year will obviously create some challenges for everybody involved. However, if organising committees, rights-holders and host cities adapt their communication strategy in a smart way, the unusual situation can also deliver some new opportunities. Despite the difficult situation right now, let’s look for the – now maybe even bigger – light at the end of the tunnel!

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