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Crisis communication was top of the agenda at PCMA’s inaugural Knowledge Exchange earlier this month. Events industry leaders came together over two days at ExCeL London and the Business of Events Leadership Forum.

The Knowledge Exchange series gathers small groups of local business-events professionals to share information, experience and insight. At the first programme, focus was on the vital skills of safety and communication during crisis.

The modern political climate dictates that event organisers be prepared for the unexpected, said communications experts. Creating a clear strategy for crisis management and ensuring that it plays a key role in event preparation are crucial.

Tips for crafting the right message when crisis unfolds:

  • Invest in regular media training for senior leaders and spokespeople. “Putting someone in front of the cameras for the first time during a crisis could make matters worse,’’ Ken Kelling, MPRCA, associate director at  PR firm Davies Tanner, said in an interview before the program. “You don’t want to be learning how to handle the media during a crisis.’’
  • Senior executives should own the crisis communications plan; it’s not merely the job of your public relations team.
  • Don’t allow the plan to gather dust on a shelf. It should be routinely updated and examined.
  • Rehearse. “Without rehearsals and tests, a plan is just words on a page,’’ said Kelling.  This can be done through tabletop exercises involving various scenarios.
  • You can’t begin social media outreach from scratch when crisis hits, so be fluent on at least one social media channel. Twitter is the channel journalists turn to in times of crisis. Writing for Twitter is difficult – and you don’t want to leave crucial communication in the hands of a junior staffer just because she happens to be Twitter-savvy. Senior leaders should know how to use, monitor and analyze Twitter. Keep a bank of ready-to-use Twitter statements addressing scenarios you can anticipate in advance.

Other speakers at Knowledge Exchange were Gerd De Bruycker, Head of Events Marketing EMEAR, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Ben Goedegebuure, General Manager, EMEA, Maritz Global Events Inc.; Mary Pat Heftman, Chair, PCMA, and Executive Vice President, Convention & Strategic Alliances, National Restaurant Association; and Annalisa Ponchia, Chief Executive Officer, European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT).

Luca Favetta, PCMA Regional Business Director, EMEA, said attendees left with new ideas, policies, and practices to help ensure staffs are prepared if the unforeseen happens. “So they can respond effectively to achieve the best outcome from a bad situation,’’ Favetta said.

Knowledge Exchange participants attended a reception and Parliamentary Dinner at One Great George Street in London’s Westminster, with John Glen, Minister of State for Tourism in Britain. Dinner was an opportunity to discuss strategy and growth for the global business-events industry with senior members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Events, government officials, and other senior members from across the UK events industry.

Another PCMA Knowledge Exchange on crisis communication and safety will be 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 during IBTM World in Barcelona. Please contact Edirin Davis, edavis@pcma.org, for more information.

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