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Anniversary Planning and Pandemics: Not Great Bedfellows

August 5, 2020 • Paul Woolf

Suffice to say, the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated ambiguity does not make planning a company milestone anniversary especially fun, particularly for companies with anniversaries in 2021 or 2022. Planning an anniversary may seem laborious or panicked, or both. Whereas pre-COVID-19 planning often involved copious brainstorming, in-person interviews and insight tools, organizations that are kicking off an anniversary in the next six to 18 months are probably less focused on the art of the possible and more focused on what they can’t do.

Should you mark your anniversary at all? For many companies, waving the white flag may be an appealing option. However, doing so could signal panic to your employees, customers and other stakeholders, and even a lack of confidence in your own future. Our advice? Don’t ignore the milestone. Just be mindful of how you celebrate it.

Even using the word “celebrate” feels odd at the moment. “Commemorate” is a more appropriate term, given that most company gatherings and parties are likely to be virtual, if they occur at all. In looking back at presentations at The Anniversary Marketing Summit in 2019, it’s amazing how many presenters—from Intel to the NFL to Jack Daniel’s—would have had to significantly change their anniversary plans if COVID-19 had arrived a year earlier.

Because of COVID, we’ve canceled the in-person Anniversary Marketing Summit this year and replaced it with a safer and lower-cost virtual event on October 6 and 7, 2020. Our lineup includes speakers from a few brands that are marking their anniversary this year, so you can hear what they’ve had to do to adjust in a COVID-19 world.

With challenges come opportunities. We find that significant hurdles in the planning process energize our planning team. Budget cuts, time crunches and COVID-19 all mean that we need even more imagination and innovation to make an anniversary program compelling and successful. We are forced to dismiss the normal in search of the exceptional, to forgo some tried-and-true answers in favor of new solutions, often involving technology. Sometimes, the best ideas occur when you’re boxed in. Now is no exception. Additionally, this isn’t our first time dealing with companies facing challenges when planning an anniversary. For example, we adapted our approach and recommendations during the recession of 2008-09, especially for companies that had accepted TARP funds.

It is with these challenges in mind, especially the need to do more with less, that we’ve created a new offering: The Fast Anniversary Plan. Designed for organizations with milestone anniversaries in 2021 or 2022, the Fast Anniversary Plan quickly and efficiently delivers a comprehensive and creative yet very practical program. We’ve upended our normal anniversary planning process and found shortcuts that help deliver what you need faster.

We’ve also worked out ways to develop the Fast Anniversary Plan without the normal face-to-face kickoff or planning sessions, relying more heavily on remote collaboration to get what we need. We’ll forgo tactics that we know take many months to complete and focus on the doable tactics that companies can execute in time for their 2021 or 2022 milestone. And we’ll have plenty of Plan B options, in case budgets decrease or the course of the pandemic changes. You’ll end up with an effective blueprint for your anniversary, complete with creative themes and practical, executable ideas. It will help you get your anniversary under way quickly and deliver results.

If your anniversary is next year or the year after, fear not. We’ve something designed with your challenges and needs in mind. Check it out.

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