On May 6, more than 100 family members and friends isolated by the pandemic finally experienced the in-person reunion they’d been waiting for at a “Day of Families” event produced by secure identity platform Clear. The brand leveraged its Health Pass service to ensure a COVID-safe experience at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium that encompassed photo activations, performances by Broadway stars, shared meals, installations, partner experiences delivered by Marriott Bonvoy and United Airlines—and countless hugs (Superfly, New York City, handled).
The affair was a success by all accounts, but hosting in-person experiences amid the uncertainty the pandemic continues to present is no easy task. To find out more about the brand’s approach, we caught up with Laura Brounstein, vp-content and storytelling at Clear.
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Event Marketer: How does Clear’s Health Pass work to ensure event safety?
Laura Brounstein: We work with different events or venues, and they set requirements for entry. So let’s say that the organizers of the event say everybody needs to have had a clean COVID test within 72 hours [of the event]. There are myriad places where you can get that COVID test either at home or in person that we integrate with directly. That’s the only facet that will give you the green Health Pass light and it’s based on the organizer’s specifications; we just have the technology to make it happen.
EM: What was the goal behind the Day of Families event?
LB: I always think about it in terms of the kind of narrative arc and what story we’re telling. The story we were telling is, we can come back together and there’s nothing better, and to kind of walk people along that. It had to remind everybody what’s so great about coming together.
EM: Who attended the event?
LB: We worked with various partners to get people who are active in their communities in myriad ways. We got to see up close and personal, all of these families hugging each other and coming together for the first time in months. Everybody had a different moving story. It was grandparents and grandchildren. It was friend groups. It was found family. It wasn’t any one thing, which was, for me, part of what was beautiful about it.
EM: What are the challenges of planning in-person experiences of this size?
LB: The CDC guidance changed every day or every week about what was safe. And we had to start building this before the guidance showed that it would be safe. It caught up with us, but we had to start doing the work ahead of time. If we had started planning this as soon as they gave the guidance to say, you can be with people, you can travel, this couldn’t have happened. We had to plan it, believe in the administration’s ability to roll out the vaccine and people’s willingness to get it, and that it would all work—and it did.
EM: How did you create meaningful touchpoints for the experience?
LB: I think some of them were things that you’ve seen at events for years, but some things that weren’t as meaningful in the before now felt really meaningful. Having family-style platters felt meaningful because for a year we’ve been having individually-wrapped, disinfected food… And we leaned into photo activations. We’ve all missed out on a year of pictures with the people we love. I have more screenshots saved on my phone of group Zooms [than real photos]. We would take a screenshot and be like, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ But, it’s not as nice as hugging somebody and being silly and fun together while you’re taking a picture.
EM: Were there any particular moments during the event that stood out for you?
LB: We worked with The Actors Fund and we had [Broadway stars] Seth Rudetsky and Mandy Gonzalez of “Hamilton” and Kerry Butler. And just hearing the voices together—being at a live event, hearing them singing “Defying Gravity”—you forget how much you miss hearing live music.