Weathering the Storm: Preparing a Social Media Plan for Emergencies

On Friday, August 26th, Hurricane Harvey touched land in Rockport, Texas. It had already wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and it was about to devastate the coastline of the U.S. By the time it spun itself out, it had caused 125 billion dollars in damage – one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.  

Time Magazine called it The U.S.’s First Social Media Storm.

During the hurricane, people took to social media by the thousands, using hashtags like #sosHarvey and #helphouston to flag citizen rescuers instead of using official emergency channels. As the towns and cities in Harvey’s path flooded with rain,  Facebook and Twitter flooded with pictures, videos, pleas for assistance and constant commentary.

Harvey showed us that, for better or worse, the online environment is just as affected by disasters and emergencies as the physical landscape.   

Of course, you hope never to face that kind of crisis. But from wildfires to floods to civic emergencies, the possibility that you might is ever-present. The last thing you want is to be caught without a plan during an emergency.  As an individual, you want to be prepared to respond to an emergency with all your supplies ready and in place. As a business owner, you want to think about how you use social media during a crisis as well: You want your online emergency response to be beneficial to you, your community and your clients.

So how do you prepare a social media plan to weather the storm?

  1. Make sure you have emergency protocols in place. Be clear on what steps you’ll take and who you’ll contact.

  2. Be informed; know where to get official, reliable information. Social media is the wild west at the best of times and, during a crisis, it’s worse. Have a list of reliable sources like your local police or fire department, the Forest Service, Red Cross, FEMA and other established emergency services and responders that you can turn to in dire times.

  3. Establish when you will respond publicly.  If your business can provide a real service during an emergency, you may want to be online and make it available as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’s best to wait and evaluate the situation.  

  4. Establish how you will respond publicly.  Have an idea of what you want to say given the situation: “if the incident is this, I’ll do that”. While it may be tempting to publish videos of your storefront window being blown out, consider the impact that information will have on your clients and community. Is it useful or adding to the sense of disaster or panic? Is it insensitive or crass? If you have a reason to reach out and offer help or service or consolation, consider who you want to reach and how that message will land. Be aware of how you and your business look and the impact you’re having.

  5. Determine ahead of time which types of incidents will affect your brand and your clients.  Not every crisis will impact you or your customers directly.  Formulate plans for those that will and those that won’t. Be prepared to respond to concerns and questions in ways that are clear and helpful.

  6. Stay on brand with your social media presence, even during an emergency. This can sound superfluous or even mercenary, but during a crisis people take comfort in being able to count on constancy and familiarity. Don’t freak out and add to the chaos. After an emergency, people need to know that their community can still function and services are still available.  A disaster can have deep economic effects. Being on brand and maintaining your brand voice and image can help offset the damage and help speed recovery.

As Hurricane Harvey showed, social media is becoming a crucial way of communicating during a crisis, from calls for help to disaster relief to rebuilding. That means it’s increasingly important to know how you want to be a part of that response during a disaster. By creating smart social media protocols, you can participate during a crisis in a way that’s thoughtful, on-brand and sets you and your local economy up for recovery.

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.


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Looking Ahead to 2019 Trends

The New Year is here! With the holiday season behind us, and engagement season well underway, it is time to turn our focus to what’s new and upcoming in our industry. 2019 promises to take personalization, especially via technology, to levels unseen at most weddings to date. Here are just some of the exciting trends to expect this year.

Client Communication – Messaging Apps

On the business side, we anticipate clients moving away from using email for communication towards messaging apps like WhatsApp. These apps not only provide numerous enhancements over email, but also allow people to stay in touch in real time with or without access to cellular service. As long as you can patch in to a wireless connection, messaging apps are your friend. They are useful for keeping whole teams in the loop and are accessible on practically any kind of device.

Instagram

It is mind-boggling how a single social media platform can have such an enormous influence on an industry, but this one is making its mark. Everyone wants an Instagram-worthy wedding! Couples are seeking personalized, unique designs, executed to perfection and photographed professionally from an irresistible perspective.

The Insta-movement has even swayed entertainment options. Static photo booths are out. Look, instead, for models with bells and whistles that are compatible with Instagram, like gifs, video, green screen and the immensely popular boomerang option, all of which make sharing more exciting and interactive.

Entertainment – Silent Discos, Variety and Video Mapping

A somewhat surprising trend for many will be the rise of silent discos in 2019. Guests can wear individual light-up headsets, choose one of three or more music streams mixed by live DJs, and dance to the beat of their favorite drummer. Multiple simultaneous music experiences offer the ultimate freedom, allowing dancers to interact with each other even when they are listening to different tunes. It is definitely something you have to see to believe, and it will be a completely new option for couples who want to do something most of their guests have never seen before.

We will also see more clients hiring combinations of entertainers to engage their guests. They might pair live musicians with a DJ, or augment music with performers like impressionists, caricature artist or acrobats. Additionally, video mapping will continue to rise in popularity thanks to more affordable and accessible technology.

Design: Neon Signage

Long associated with 1980s-era streetscapes, neon signage is making a comeback and getting a new look. As with digital video-mapping, the technology has advanced to a point that makes it a more reasonable choice for many couples, so designers are putting their spin on the look and presenting it with a 21st century feel.

The focus for 2019 is enriching the guest experience through wow-worthy technology and the growth of interactive opportunities. Look for these trends and more to shape your clients’ events in the New Year.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

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What's In and What's Out in 2019

New year, new trends — thanks to the evolving preferences of engaged couples, the wedding industry is always changing and growing. As a wedding professional, it’s up to you to meet your clients’ needs and understand what is inspiring their vision. Keeping an eye on trends will keep you abreast of what’s hot and what’s not — that way, you are well prepared to present design ideas and inspiration that is fresh, trendy, and stylish. Here’s what industry experts have to say about what is up-and-coming, what is here to stay, and what is on the decline.

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What’s on the rise

New metallics

“We are seeing more experimentation with mixed metallics, and a comeback of silver and chrome,” shares Vaishali Shah of Ananya Cards. “In particular when using darker colour palettes, silver highlights can be an effective way of lifting and elevating the look of stationery. We’re seeing a decrease in the focus on blush, rose gold, and brass, which have had a fantastic run over the last 12 months.”

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Tasting menus

“The majority of foodie restaurants are loving tasting menus, and so are we,” expresses Hannah Martin of Goose & Berry. “With anything from five to 12 courses, this style of service is a great way to show not only an insight to a chef’s brilliant mind, but how it works, engaging the consumer to go on this journey with them. Long gone are the days where dining used to be about three courses, eating and leaving — food and service is becoming a show itself and we are ready and waiting for the next act.”

What’s sticking around

Rich foliage

“The love of bringing the outside in continues,” explains Jane Riddell of Planned for Perfection. “Lots of greenery and foliage to enhance the floral arrangements to create natural and romantic displays, which can include as little or as many flowers as you would like to suit the couple’s individual requirements.”



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Lounge areas

“Living spaces are still on point,” says Amy Abbott of Amy Abbott Events. “Lounge and beautiful area rugs, ambient lighting and stylish coffee tables, where couples and their guests can sit together and enjoy the energy and all the love that is in the air.”

 

What’s on its way out

Plated dinners

“Traditional sit-down dinners are going away,” predicts Heather Jones of Wente Vineyards. “No more formally plated foods or huge passed platters. Buffet style gives guests the most variety, and food allergies are so prominent that it’s easier for guests to control what they’re being service.”

Old-school photo booths

“Simple photo booths are on their way out,” assures Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services. “Clients are now looking for Photo Booths that have more bells and whistles, whether it’s video, green screen, boomerang, GIFs — anything that is more interactive!”


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Cupcake towers

“Cupcake towers have already been on a slippery slope in the past few years and will definitely be on their way out in 2019,” tells Rosalind Miller of Rosalind Miller Cakes. “They may be practical, but they are old fashioned and don’t provide the wow effect of an extravagant wedding cake and/or dessert table.”

For more insight into the trends to look out for in 2019, sign up for the newest issue of the International Wedding Trend Report.

Kylie Carlson is the CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning. With seven locations globally, the academy boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, designers and stylists.

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Expanding Your Business in 2019

A new year can bring all new goals and aspirations. Are you hoping to increase your revenue, open up fresh business opportunities or explore uncharted markets by scaling up? Whatever your motivations may be, the following steps will help you successfully expand your business in 2019.

What’s Your Motivation?

How will you know that expansion is not only desirable, but also necessary? Are you up for a challenge? Taking a successful business to the next level is hard enough. To survive the inevitable rough days, everything in your current endeavor must be running smoothly. You need knowledge, commitment, and stability to scale up successfully, so determine early on if you are ready to take on all that is involved in expansion, and whether or not your team is willing and able to offer you support.  

Understand the Market
When we considered expansion, we chose to do it gradually without rushing any decisions. You need to do your research, evaluate new markets, and understand them intricately before moving ahead with any new plans. Analyze the trends, research your competitors, and determine if an additional location will be a good fit for your product and services. Also, be prepared and ensure that your financial situation can bear additional strain.

Beware of Pitfalls

A major pitfall that often plagues expanding businesses is insufficient staff or trouble with hiring. It takes time to identify the right new employees and provide them with adequate training. If you don’t time it well, you could be faced with vacant positions, underprepared staff and the destruction of your reputation. Allow plenty of time to seek, vet, train and evaluate your new team members before your busy season begins in full force. Expect growing pains and plan for how to survive them.

Messaging can also be a challenge for newly expanded businesses. Make sure you reach out to your current clients and colleagues and explain what is happening with your company, how it might impact them, and how you plan to ensure a seamless transition. Get ahead of the rumor mill so you can deliver your own news the way you want it to be heard. Finally, know that expansion does happen overnight. You must plan ahead. Prepare yourself for the rough moments, celebrate your victories, and dare to dream about a bright new future for you and your team! 

Work on spreading the word in your new location since they might not be familiar with your product or service. It is helpful to let your current clients and colleagues know that you are expanding. You never know who they know or work within the new area that can help to expand and build relationships.

Heather Rouffe is the Director of Sales and Partner of Atlas Event Rental, a full-service event rental industry serving the Southern Florida market for over 30 years based. Recently named one of the top 30 rental companies in the US by Special Events Magazine, Atlas provides top quality merchandise and unparalleled customer service to each and every customer.

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Successfully Automating Your Business for 2019

A new year means new goals! In coaching clients, I stress the importance of laying a good foundation to your business. Just like a house, if you don’t have a solid foundation, your house will crumble. But what should you focus on that will result in the highest return on investment (ROI)? One area that’s guaranteed to help you do more in less time is having systems in place so you can automate your business. 

Below are just a few examples of areas within your business that you can automate. 

Client Onboarding/Nurturing

If you’re not already using a client relationship manager (CRM), make 2019 the year you bite the bullet. It takes time to map out your client onboarding processes and create email scripts. But, the time invested up front will save you countless hours in the future. When you have a thoughtfully mapped out client experience, you’ll have a clear picture of the experience you want your clients to have.

You’ll want to document every touch point you have with a client based on a timeline. This becomes your workflow. Once you have this mapped out, you’ll need to create email scripts written in the language of your most ideal client.

The last step is where your CRM comes into play. Gone are the days where you need to recreate the wheel with every sent email or to-do item. Instead, use one of many CRM’s such as 17Hats, Dubsado, Aisle Planner, and HoneyBook. With a CRM, you can upload your email templates and schedule them to send automatically, as well as send contracts for e-signing and send invoices.

Social Media Posting

If you struggle with posting to your social media accounts consistently, then you’ve never heard of programs such as Planoly or Later. Both programs allow you to bulk schedule your social media posts so you don’t have to day in and day out. I dedicate a few hours once a month to plan my social media posts, then schedule them out for the next 30-days. This way, my posts are ready to go and I can put my social media posting on auto-pilot.

Client Scheduling

Gone are the days of sending back and forth emails trying to schedule a consultation or client meeting. If you’re not yet using a scheduling program such as Calendly or Acuity, you’re wasting valuable time. You can set your schedule in the app, which then syncs with your calendar. You can even create automatic email and text reminders and follow-ups, so you don’t have to. All you do is email a link to your calendar and the user selects a date and time that best fits their schedule (based on your availability). 

Project Management

I’m a huge proponent of Google Docs, but sometimes you need a little help keeping all of your projects and tasks organized. Trello and Asana are more commonly used and both help keep you on track with your to-do list. They have reminders, due dates and allow you to collaborate and share tasks or projects with other users. 

Other Ways to Automate

If you’re not yet familiar with Zapier, let me introduce you. Zapier, in a nutshell, allows different programs to “speak” to each other. Example: when someone completes your contact form and has given you permission to add them to your email list, Zapier has a “zap” that allows you to add that contact to your email database such as Mailchimp. It cuts down your administrative time allowing you to automate your work and integrates with over 1,000 apps.

As you can see, there are several ways you can automate your business. Why not start the new year off feeling organized and with a little more time to focus on what’s important: working on your business versus working in your business. 

Lane’ Richards is a multidisciplinary entrepreneur and owner of Wedding Pro Coaching, offering mastermind business coaching and educational programs to wedding industry professionals who need help building, running, and growing their businesses in the crowded wedding industry.

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