We’d love to be able to get out the crystal ball and tell what the coming months may bring. But if we’ve learned anything in the past few months, it’s that we need to be prepared for any possibility. That includes everything from continued loosening of guidelines, operating under the same guidelines, to additional restrictions or even temporary closures. At the time of this writing, casinos are in the midst of reopening and they are finding that demand is outweighing availability. Which is great news for many in the industry, but with the lingering questions regarding “what’s next” hanging over our heads, it may be a little too soon to shift into full-on celebration mode.
One approach we have taken to support our clients is to discuss with casino operators and marketers about what challenges they foresee in the coming months. There are two topics that keep bubbling up, so they warrant addressing:
- How to approach promotions in our new COVID-19 environment?
- How to approach messaging and communication in this new environment?
Let’s first touch on the big questions surrounding promotions, such as “When is it appropriate to start having larger scale promotions?” and “What will they look like?” As with most things nowadays, this will depend on the situation in your area. If things appear to be stable, then longer-term and large-scale promotions like month-long grand prize giveaways may be okay. But if you are in an area that is still seeing cases or has a potential for increase, then designing promotions that are short-term, week-to-week or even daily, which provide a little more flexibility, probably makes more sense.
Whichever approach is right for you, designing promotions that can cause a large gathering where social distancing may not be a possibility or guests may be waiting outside in a line is probably not in the cards. If you are planning on having a drawing, consider a “need not be present to win” approach. This will mean you will need to pro-forma the promotion accordingly without as large of a spike in play that a grand prize drawing day tends to bring. Drawings can be conducted via livestream on social media announcing only the player’s first name and card number to generate excitement and keep guests engaged even if they are not present.
Messaging and Communication
No matter your situation, messaging and communication should be the cornerstone to your overall marketing plan. You may be wondering why messaging AND communication; aren’t they kind of the same thing? Well, to put it simply, messaging is WHAT you want to say and communication is HOW you share your message. It’s easy to be so focused on just the advertising piece of messaging and communication that we don’t fulfill the checkboxes on an effective communications plan. That includes PR opportunities and internal communication.
There is no-one-size-fits-all solution to messaging. Different environments call for different messaging. To determine what is right for you, you will have to evaluate the COVID-19 situation in your area and the public opinion that goes along with it. Here is a guide to situational messaging amidst COVID-19:
In terms of a COVID-19 communications plan, it should include preparation for a number of outcomes and address both the public’s and your team members’ concerns. Especially when it comes to preparing for the possibility of another closure, should the situation call for it.
Here are some possible outcomes to be prepared for:
- Additional safety measures or restrictions
- Reduction or addition of restrictions, like mask requirements
- Reopening of outlets or expansion of operations
- Another temporary closure
Following are items that can be prepared ahead of time so when these situations arise, you can act quickly and implement your communications plan for that topic:
- Draft press releases for each topic
- Prepare talking points for each topic to ensure the information that team members share with guests is accurate and reflects well on your efforts for health, safety and guest experience
For closure communication:
- Develop a plan for how information will be shared with all team members on short notice
- Select contact points for team members should they have questions. If that contact is their department manager or director, ensure that they are informed of plans for their area in the event of a closure
- Draft and design guest communication so it is ready to deploy on short notice
The first place to start with this plan may be to do an internal review of what went well or poorly with closures and reopening to determine what was missing or can be improved upon. This will help with developing policies and procedures as well as communication plans moving forward.