Contingency Planning

Reputation – it’s all in the planning, says Andrew White.

Customer showing rating with happy icon on pink background, Customer satisfaction survey concept.
Photo: Getty Images

The idea of opening a venue and attracting business through the doors is rather more complex than just being on a few website listings. Whether you are targeting corporate business, sporting events, weddings or even live concerts, the correct suppliers and partners need to be in place and the correct permits, permissions, policies and planning at the ready.

The reach of the supply chain should be wide and varied as your reputation will be measured by the those you choose to work with as well as the name that you build for your business. Reputations are now built on having a personality, impeccable service and forward planning. Preparation and planning are key to differentiating a standout venue from one that lacks lustre because things didn’t quite hit the mark.

While it is imperative to forward plan, the need for a back-up and contingency planning has never been more prevalent, as the last few months have proven. The event industry has come face to face with a major situation that has affected everyone in the supply chain, but how many of us were prepared? How many of us knew what to say to clients who were, are and potentially will hold events?

The harsh reality is that very few venues and suppliers are prepared for something that’s not in their plan.

Whether it’s a full-blown crisis or the start of some negative rumblings, we all need to think about contingency planning and how to tackle and overcome the situation with some well thought out crisis communication. Worryingly, there are a myriad of circumstances that hosts, and venues, may be faced with. Food poisoning, the death of a delegate or guest, a controversial keynote speaker, unruly guest behaviour, menu items not coming from the supplier stipulated, the weather destroying the structure of a building, employee welfare complaints – these are all real life situations that require a fast response in order to protect the reputation of the venue, organiser or supplier.

Communication plan
With the sector built on word of mouth and reputation, it’s imperative that a contingency or crisis communication plan is in place should things go awry. See below a few hard and fast rules to adhere to:

• Everyone in the senior team should be made aware of the issue and its potential implications
• Pause all social media and other automated communications
• Agree one point of contact for all communications
• Ensure that all calls are put through to the appointed contact
• Create a short statement that is empathetic and shows concern for those who may have been affected. The statement needs to highlight what is being done to stop a repeat of the circumstances and to reassure the public that it won’t occur again. The statement needs to be agreed by all stakeholders and suppliers (if required) and it must be used by all parties to ensure a consistency of message
• Detail on a spreadsheet who has contacted, when and what their query was
• Try to email the statement rather than being drawn into a conversation and blurring the message
• Make sure no venue or supplier personnel make any comments or judgment
• Regularly check social media feed and review sentiment/conversations.

Social media and newsletters should only be re-started once the issues have passed. It is imperative to continue to remain sensitive to the situation and ensure no poorly chosen words or images are used that may cause embarrassment.

While it seems unlikely that anything will happen, it is important that situations can be acted upon concisely, effectively and within a 15 minute time frame.

Successful events require planning, yet the on-going success of a reputation requires a back-up plan. How many of us have fought hard to build a reputation but haven’t prepared for something that’s not in the plan? It’s all in the planning.



Andrew White is MD of Triggerfish Communications, a specialist in helping heritage venues and leisure attractions build awareness and market share in the business of events.

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