Working in major events attracts a special breed; a person who enjoys complexity, high stakes work with nail-biting moments.
Even so, Major events provide an excellent training ground. They expose professionals to a wide range of disciplines from event operations, media relations, marketing, crisis, risk and issues management.
Events are also a rich reflection of where society stands at any point in time. For example the current pill testing debate at music festivals spilling over into politics and risking being a state election issue. Then there is whether Australia Day should be moved from January 26 out of respect to Indigenous Australians.
Developed correctly, major events have enormous heart and provide a powerful platform for brands to connect with audiences on a large scale. They allow cities and countries to showcase what they have to offer. They provide destinations with a reason for tourists to book a ticket.
However, positive or negative impacts of major events have enormous reputational effects which can imprint on the memory of a generation like the Woodstock music festival did for the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
Trending right now is the chatter about a ‘doomed’ 2017 Festival in the Caribbean that ended in fraud charges and jail time for the promoter. Marketed as a ‘once in a lifetime premium experience’, the festival was in fact an inescapable nightmare for anyone who caught a plane there as well as the locals who have only now been paid for the work they did almost 2 years ago.
Listening to key Festival staff explain it all away, it is clear they hadn’t done the planning, the preparation and I suspect even knew they were heading towards the inevitable disaster that followed.
Being a proud Sydneysider and a huge summer events advocate, our recent Sydney New Year’s Eve mishap broke my heart when I read on my Facebook feed, “World’ Biggest Typo”.
One of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylons was illuminated with Happy New Year 2018 not 2019. The organisers had gotten it badly wrong. Social media spread like wildfire and the event organisers took cover trying to understand how it happened and what they were going to say about the rookie blunder.
Instances like these are all too frequent. They provide a good lesson in the importance of crisis and issues preparedness. A critical part of the process of putting a major event together is anticipating what could go wrong and what to do when it does. Having done this analysis, as well as scenario planning, you will be in a much better place if you need to activate your crisis communications plan.
Never underestimate the value of these critical steps in event planning: it can make or break the reputation of an event, and the absence of being prepared will certainly land you in hot water. Our team at Powell Tate is on hand to help event organisers anticipate, prepare and manage to stop your event becoming a firestorm.
Kate Pembroke is a corporate and public affairs specialist with a long history of managing major events across all levels of government in Australia and the private sector.