The current Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while efforts to contain the disease are showing preliminary signs of progress, Ebola remains an immense challenge as new cases continue to occur.
Hopefully the public is heeding CDC guidelines regarding frequent hand washings, avoiding contact with the blood and bodily fluids of sick people and seeking immediate medical care for fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and other symptoms associated with this dreaded disease. But what can event marketers do to assure the health and safety of their staffs and attendees until we have finally stamped out Ebola and its evils?
Mikey Hersom, president of ignition, an Atlanta-based experiential marketing agency that has traveled the globe with the Olympic Torch Relay, the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour and other activations on behalf of major brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike, Samsung and others, knows a thing or two about the hazards that can pop up in a foreign country. Every global project ignition handles includes an IMCR (Incident Management and Crisis Resolution) plan. Although infectious disease specifically has never posed a problem for event activations, there have been other instances where, working with teams in local countries, Hersom has implemented a contingency plan. Here’s how:
1. Assess the Risk
The IMCR process begins by identifying potential incidents that could occur while a massive global program is underway, then assesses the likelihood and potential impact of those incidents happening. “Let’s take a bomb threat as an example,” Hersom says. “The likelihood of a bomb threat is probably very, very low, but the impact on the tour or the program would be massive. We look at things like that.”
On the other hand, a staffer who becomes ill while traveling with a global tour could have a huge effect on the success of a project and the ability of others to do their jobs. As a result, all of ignition’s global tours travel with their own doctor 24/7. The staff doctor typically works for a company that specializes in global medical support and is able to treat staffers immediately with medicine on hand, avoiding the need to travel to a hospital or local doctor. “Staff health is something we constantly manage,” Hersom says.
3. Create a Contingency Plan
Besides an in-house doctor, the plan calls for a complete evaluation of conditions, such as security threats, political protests, riots or infectious diseases that could impact the team or the event in the country the tour will visit. “A week out, we will start looking at a contingency plan with our local teams and our local support, based on what may be happening in that country. If the incident never happens, then we stick to our normal plan, but if there are alerts from our security contact that something is happening, we start a contingency plan immediately,” Hersom says.
4. Seek Alternative Transportation
In some cases, that may mean changes in transportation. For instance, flying a domestic plane into the country or chartering a private plane so the staff isn’t exposed to the public or going through public airports.
5. Make Fact-based Decisions
It also means don’t panic. “A lot of times, we don’t really understand the needs or are ignorant to what the local situation is,” Hersom says. “You have to be very pragmatic and fact-based and make decisions based on local intelligence, then make decisions that not only affect your team and staff, but also the program and the client.”
6. Minimize, Don’t Cancel
Whenever possible, the show goes on. “We don’t just stop things,” Hersom says. “We are constantly looking at how to minimize the tour without completely canceling it.” In some cases, it is possible to take the asset or the experience to a select few people in a specific location that can be locked down and managed versus a wide open public event where anyone could enter.