Blindsided by the Coronavirus – Part 2

How We’re Responding

It’s been two months since 48 hours changed everything as we knew it in the event world.  At KMC we have adjusted and continue to adjust on a daily basis.  After 15 years in business, I thought I was starting to figure out how things worked! But no one could prepare for this. There’s no Management 101 class or book on what a country-wide shelter-in-place will do to your business—other than change your course drastically.  This is unchartered waters, and I am no different than any other business owner trying to make decisions on behalf of their employees, their business, and their personal situation.  There’s no magic in what we’ve done at KMC, but perhaps just sharing our actions will generate thought and conversation.

We are in a unique situation as our company is essentially two different businesses—a marketing and public relations agency and an event management and production company.   While the event side is virtually on an extended hiatus, the marketing and PR functions continue, and actually have increased with COVID-19 responses and necessary actions.  So, we find ourselves juggling continued work and strategy for our marketing and PR clients while the event side has moved to reimagine future events and researching new trends and ideas in the industry, all while not knowing when events will return. And, as hard as it sometimes, we are still trying to take it one day at a time as things continue to change on a daily basis.

So, what have we done so far at KMC and KMC Events during this “pause”? 

Moved Home

After returning from our quick, 48-hour trip to The Special Event Conference and gathering more information about the pandemic, I made the decision to officially close the office and begin working from home on March 16, well before the shelter-in-place order.  This decision was multi-fold:  1) the health of the team was key; 2) we were committed to working toward the greater good and limiting contact where we could as a company; and 3) because Shelly and I had just traveled, I didn’t feel comfortable exposing others on the staff to us (and while we felt completely fine, I can tell you there was a huge sigh of relief from both myself and Shelly after 14 days had passed!).

Shared Inspiration

I love a great quote, verse or simple words of wisdom to put things in perspective. They tend to bring me comfort in knowing others have faced the same trials and situations as me. They provide me hope when hope can be hard to find.  And, they say what I want to say far better than I could ever say.  So, with a loss for words and complete disbelief in what was going on around us, I reached for some of my favorite resources and shared what inspiration I could in a “Quote of the Day” email.    The first quote of many was: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”  At the same time, I reminded them that Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” and “Macbeth” when he was quarantined with the plague!

I tried to throw in some humor, as well, along the way! 

Embraced New Technology

Just like millions of others around the country, we looked for ways to communicate and keep working remotely as efficiently as possible.  We were already set up to work from home on occasion as situations warranted – sick kid, quiet time, no school, etc. But, we had never all been at home at the same time for an extended period of time, which created new challenges.  For example, our server was set up for remote access – but with limited access, i.e. one person at a time.  We already used Asana for project management and Dropbox and WeTransfer for file transfer.  But, for new technologies, on our 2nd day working from home, we conducted our first Zoom staff meeting. Since that time, Zoom has been a regular part of our repertoire.  And, while email had been our chosen form of communication with each other and with clients and vendors in the past, we quickly realized just how much communication took place by virtue of just being together.  Within the first week, we also adopted Slack for internal conversations. This has been a lifesaver for sharing quick information, but has required us to re-think how and when to use email, text, Slack, and the good, old-fashion phone call! 

Communicated Often

Just as our name indicates, we are a communications company and that means internally with our team, as much as externally to our clients. I wanted to provide a level of transparency to the staff early on that would give them information, but not false hope. My number one goal was including the entire team in what our next steps would be.  How do we respond to nearly half of our work being cancelled or postponed?  What steps could we take during this pause to put us in a better position post Covid-19? With that in mind, after the first couple of weeks, I asked everyone on the team to take the next week to think about those things. 

The following week we had individual meetings with each team member and we listened.  There were no parameters on their thoughts or ideas. It was basically an open mic session.  We then compiled all our notes into one document and noted those things that were already being done, those that were in the works, and listed the myriad of other ideas that surfaced.  The list is long.  We then shared the list and brought the team together via Zoom to review and discuss.  At that point, we narrowed our focus, made assignments and scheduled due dates.  These ideas ran the gamut from researching new trends in the industry to working on some of our backlog projects to new ways to market and promote our own services.

Maintained Fiscal Responsibility

It goes without saying that one of the first things I did was review our finances and made adjustments where necessary until I could further understand what this would mean for the business.  I applied for and received the PPP Small Business Loan and deferred salaries for myself and Shelly. Prior to the pandemic crisis, we were in the process of expanding our office space.  With the uncertainty of everything, I decided to pull back on this and keep the space we have for the time being.

Market KMC

It’s always hard to find the time to market and promote ourselves during the day-to-day activity for our clients. I’ve said many times when referring to KMC, “The cobbler’s kids have no shoes!”  The same goes for our own marketing and PR! During this time, we have made a concentrated effort to develop a more definitive strategic marketing communications plan for ourselves and ways to toot our own horn—something we are not used to doing!

Final Thoughts

The one thing I’ve tried to maintain throughout all this is to take it slow.  In other words, I’m a fan of the tortoise in the fabled “Tortoise and the Hare” children’s story.  I don’t know what this means for our event business in the near future or even for the remainder of 2020.  But, I do know this—it’s not a matter of IF, but rather WHEN, events return.  This time has taught us that events are not going away.  People want and need human interaction with others. According to Event Marketer on 4/17/20, “78 percent of Americans say they plan to attend as many or more live events when the threat of Covid-19 passes.  The timing is uncertain, but we’re bracing for a comeback of epic proportions.”

KMC Events will be ready!  #CelebrateSoon