We’re usually all fun and games around here, excited about plotting the next awesome experiential event or brand activation. But, our tone has shifted the last few weeks while monitoring the developing coronavirus, COVID-19, and having conversations with clients and influencers about how to proceed now that COVID-19 cases have spread around the world and the US.
First, we want to fully acknowledge that we aren’t medical professionals and you should talk to your doctor or trusted authority for information that relates directly to you, especially if you have a compromised immune system or are elderly. The American Red Cross and World Health Organization each have detailed plans on keeping healthy people healthy as more information becomes available about the virus.
If you’re a loyalty member of any airline you’ve probably received an email about how they’ve stepped up the cleaning process of each plane and how to travel safest, including more stringent hand washing practices, sanitizers and keeping your immune system high. I was in Portland last weekend and noticed a few more sanitizer stations around the airport, but the city itself was business as usual.
Ultimately how you travel (by air or car) and where you go is up to your comfort level and health. The Atlantic posted a great article titled “Should I avoid crowds because of coronavirus” with the heart of the message being that “Canceling major public events is wise, but most Americans need not stay away from crowds or airplanes.”
At Travel Mindset, we are continuing our spring campaigns, while monitoring new developments. We have major influencer campaigns with outdoor adventure brands, city and state DMOs, luxury hotels and P&G brands throughout the spring and summer, most launching April 1 and on. We have had a few international clients that want to pivot messaging during this time and we will be moving forward with that new direction, while planning travel for Q2 and Q3.
So how do you work with influencers right now?
- Carry on as planned, making informed decisions. We are continuing influencer campaign trips from April 1 on, but we are buying flights on airlines that will allow us to reschedule if we need to. Have conversations with influencers now, weeks before your planned trip so you know how they are feeling and where they’re traveling. Most campaigns will be just fine continuing as usual.
- If you have a large event scheduled, talk with influencers now to secure them for a date range and options for postponing later in the year. This way you don’t lose any brand on-boarding time and can easily get the campaign up and working once things are more stable.
- Build out your content library. While travel might slow down for a few weeks, start thinking about holes you have in your marketing and how influencers could help. Need more photo assets or blog content for your own site? Partner with influencers who have already been to your destination or hotel to come up with creative blog posts, packing posts, etc, so content is still going live and gaining SEO authority. Reach out to influencers who have tagged you on Instagram and inquire about photo rights and repurposing their content.
- Does your brand have a public statement on COVID-19? If so, let the influencers know or send them any medical research or brand notes you want them to know about and share. For example, Southwest Airlines sent a very detailed note about cleaning their airplanes and new technology that they’ve enlisted to make sure people are safest. Southwest can easily reach out to their ambassadors and get them to help share their message.
- Is your brand an outdoor adventure company or destination? Perhaps switching up the messaging to road trips and quiet solitude, where you’ll avoid crowds, is a way to go for now. Alaska Tourism changed their messaging when China flights were being cancelled. “Tour operators that were selling tour packages into Asia are seeing significant cancellations because of concerns about coronavirus, but people with those packages still want to travel somewhere,” said Jim Szczesniak, manager at the Anchorage airport to the NY Times. “What we’re working on is attracting the demand from those people who want to travel.” There are many places in the US that are easy to get to via car. With spring break and other holidays coming up, think about different messaging to attract staycationers, roadtrippers and drive markets.
- If you have an overseas campaign and worried about quarantines: Monitor daily and buy travel insurance for influencers. Almost all airlines are offering free cancellations and no rebooking fees if you have to cancel due to coronavirus.
- Be ready to pivot, if needed. Don’t wait for closures, have a plan in place.
- Be ready with a new campaign once COVID-19 is under control. Dragon Trail Interactive, the industry experts in Chinese outbound tourism and digital marketing said, “Although there is much about COVID-19 and its global impact that remains unknown, we do encourage tourism brands and businesses to think ahead and prepare a recovery plan for when the situation—as it is sure to—begins to improve,” Sienna Parulis-Cook, Associate Director of Communications.
- Now is the time to start vetting and thinking about influencers you’d like to partner with in Q2 and Q3. Get on their radar now before their schedules fill up.
- Get creative. How will your brand stand out from the crowd once everyone is promoting their destinations and products again?
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
– Jade Broadus