What It Takes to Make a Comeback
While we were obliged to give a current status on our organization and industry, we spent most of the time during that board meeting having a robust discussion about the future. Our conversation focused on:
- Social justice initiatives
- Restarting the industry
- Reputation management and next steps
- Public safety and advocacy
Social Justice Initiatives
It is important to work from the inside-out of an organization in order to develop sustainable and authentic social justice initiatives. For Meet Minneapolis, developing such initiatives is more than just doing what seems to politically correct. Our involvement has a direct connection to the passions of our Meet Minneapolis team, the livelihoods of our very diverse hospitality community workers, our highly engaged clients who expect credible destination information, and our partners (both individual and organizational) who look to us for destination marketing leadership. That was the genesis of our Meet Minneapolis Legacy Project.
Other internal social justice initiatives include training programs and updates to our diversity, equity, inclusion programs, which will dovetail nicely with an internal task force that is reviewing our mission statement, vision and organizational values.
External initiatives include developing current and compelling social justice content in our various stakeholder communications. Our most visible community socioeconomic awareness program is “We Need Us.” This local awareness building campaign is designed to inspire residents to support our small businesses that have suffered during the pandemic and periods of unrest. Click here to see how you can get involved.
Restarting the Industry
Interacting with our meeting and event customers has changed in the COVID era. Our Destination Services team has been a part of national conversations to establish standards for new, in-person, site inspection protocols. This week’s in-person site inspection for the American Veterinary Medical Association used many of these new practices.
The industry continues to evolve based on COVID and other impacts, as evidenced by the creation of the Digital Event Strategist certification by an industry organization, PCMA. The DES certification is designed to prepare event planners and those who service them for the reality of many more virtual meetings, even when in person meetings resume. Several Meet Minneapolis and Minneapolis Convention Center team members will soon receive that certification.
Reputation Management and Next Steps
To corroborate what many of us have assumed is taking place in terms of our community reputation issues, we engaged Sparkloft Media. Their work is helping us track and analyze visitor sentiment about Minneapolis from January 2019 through August 2020 and understand visitor perceptions, motivations, and opportunities.
Not surprisingly, there was a tremendous amount of conversation about Minneapolis in response to George Floyd across all social mediums. We saw subsequent impact from the unrest and wide-ranging conversations about the future of policing.
Our Meet Minneapolis board chair, who is also president and managing partner of Carmichael Lynch and Carmichael Lynch Relate, notes that the community must acknowledge where it is reputationally before any substantive repair work can be done. The Sparkloft Media social listening project is the right first step. Next, we are inviting key partner organizations to the table to collectively craft a strategy to tell our story in an authentic and compelling manner.
Advocacy and Public Safety
Meet Minneapolis executive committee member, Kathleen Lamb of McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn & Lamb, chairs our Public Affairs Committee. This committee, and the staff that supports the committee, works primarily through (virtual) face-to-face meetings with state and local elected and officials and governmental staff who develop policies that impact our ability to effectively market and sell Minneapolis. Those conversations have focused on meeting and event capacity limits, public safety and a continued push for a Tourism Improvement District (TID).
Not even the best prognosticators among us are able to predict the right time to go all-in with a multi-faceted and aggressive recovery plan. We have an opportunity to collectively use this pandemic-related pause as training for whatever comes next.
I will close with some words of wisdom from our Meet Minneapolis secretary-treasurer, Rick Bertram, whose day job is general manager of the Marriott City Center:
“We have seen unprecedented change in the hospitality industry over the past six months. Change that has been a catalyst to quickly evolve the way that we deliver experiences. Our teams have been working diligently to build confidence in the safety of travel for all our guests. What I do know in my years in this business is that those working in hospitality are the most resilient that I have ever seen. When it is safe, I am confident that people will begin to travel again, and I am optimistic that when travel does return, it will come back stronger than ever.”