When you run a business, promotion becomes a 24/7 job. You become a brand ambassador who is quick to tout your products or services and try to draw in new business.
Yet, when a crisis strikes, it can throw a wrench into your typical marketing formula. Suddenly, your pre-written messaging and photos of smiling people risks being seen as insensitive and tone-deaf when there are greater concerns in the world.
It’s one thing for crises that are localized and time-constrained; a natural disaster comes and goes and, while it certainly takes a toll, those who are affected can begin the recovery process sooner rather than later.
This year, however, the pandemic has left an unprecedented crisis in its wake. It’s not localized--it’s impacting people all across the world. Six months in and recovery is still months away, as there is no “quick fix.” The threat will be present until there is a vaccine widely available, so it can feel particularly uncomfortable promoting your business amidst all the uncertainty.
However, the show must go on and, in many areas, event businesses are starting to open up to accommodate clients’ celebrations (albeit on a much smaller scale). You can still promote these events and share other valuable information to demonstrate safety parameters and show prospects that their events are still possible--even if it looks a bit different.
Here are a few ways to continue promoting your events while maintaining sensitivity and compassion towards the situation.
Dig into the archives.
There’s nothing wrong with a throwback and, if anything, it’s a great way to keep your social media presence running in the absence of new content. Just be mindful of what you’re sharing and how it may be seen by your followers in the current landscape.
“We thankfully have a huge inventory of images from 2019 that we haven’t used yet, so we are using those until our 2020 images come back from photographers,” explains Kimberly Morrill, owner of Your Perfect Bridesmaid. “With that being said, we are curating which images we use to make sure they are appropriate for the new rules. For instance, we aren’t sharing beautiful place settings because, right now, we cannot pre-set the plates, napkins, silverware, water glass, etc.”
Keep people out of it.
The mask vs. no mask debate goes on and, for that reason, it’s best to keep people out of photos as much as possible. There are plenty of beautiful decor elements to share, so opt for images that don’t show people in close contact. “I do promote our events on social media,” shares Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates. “However, I’m avoiding faces, trying to showcase things they did to keep their guests safe and show examples of what a ceremony in these times looks like for others still trying to figure it out.”
Jennifer Borgh, owner of Borghinvilla Wedding Venue, adds, “We have eliminated photos of the guests. It’s too controversial if they have masks off--even if they’re eating--and we really don’t want our new bookings for 2021/2022 thinking about COVID or what a wedding with masks would be like. With old photos, we have had to post ‘throwback’ or some indication that it was taken pre-COVID.”
Act as a resource for followers.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the safety of live events and, for many, the fear of the unknown is really what’s holding them back. Use your social media presence to bust the myths floating around and showcase all of the safety measures that can be taken.
“We have been very careful to follow mandates and run events as safely as possible,” says Nora Sheils, co-founder of Rock Paper Coin and owner of Bridal Bliss. “If a one-off guest isn’t wearing a mask, we would not include that type of photo. Our social media stories mostly show how we are creatively pivoting events, so hoping to help others. Giving suggestions, tools, and advice to help others bring weddings to life is the goal!”
Respond to criticism with grace.
Of course, no brand is bulletproof from the judgment of strangers on the Internet. Even when you’re as careful as possible, you might still face some backlash about live events right now. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s important to respond with poise and professionalism.
“Handle backlash with kindness and from a place of positivity,” encourages Shannon Tarrant, founder of WeddingVenueMap.com. “Not everyone is going to agree with people gathering in any size of groups. They have a right to their opinion. I find that the other people in my circle tend to defend our company so that we don’t have to. Think before you respond in a way that is attacking or negative, as it will reflect poorly on your brand.”
There is no hard-and-fast guideline about what is and isn’t “acceptable” in such unprecedented circumstances, but the one rule to follow is simply to create your content from a place of empathy. If you operate with respect and compassion, your kindness will shine through whether you’re posting photos of real events or sticking to throwback pictures from past events.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.