How to handle winner communications during a crisis

The power of promotions without borders
20th March 2020
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6th April 2020

Our favourite part of running promotions at PromoVeritas is telling lucky entrants that they are winners. But what happens during a crisis like the one we’re currently experiencing when things don’t go to plan and are uncertain? We take a closer look at how to let winners down gently and manage their expectations.

Since the spread of the Coronavirus, all businesses have had to adapt and make significant changes. In most cases it is still possible for the brands and agencies we work with to continue running current prize draws and competitions, especially if they are administered online, but some promoters will face challenges. The cancellation of this summer’s big events – The Olympic Games, The Euros, Glastonbury and many more – means that if the prize was related to any of these events, (trips to games or finals and even merchandise) then the prize is no longer available. Other promotion prizes that might get cancelled or postponed would be any that involve a trip or holiday, regardless of the location, or an item provided by a company that might have temporarily gone into lockdown – for instance the installation of a new kitchen, or delivery of a brand new car.

Have a plan

By now you will have created an action plan for dealing with current or future campaigns. As more and more countries enter lockdown, or quarantine, it is simply not possible to fulfil certain prizes and winners must be informed as quickly as possible. The options that promoters have to deal with this are;

  1. Offer an alternative prize or even better, cash– If the prize has already been booked and paid for this may incur additional costs but it is in the promoter’s best interests to ‘be the good guy’ during bad times, and perhaps your insurance policy could cover it. Cash is what most people prefer right now.
  2. Postpone the prize delivery –discuss with the winners about pushing back the delivery to a mutually agreeable date. This might not be possible if an event is cancelled indefinitely but your team should always look to find a suitable compromise.
  3. Rely on your Terms & Conditions – many promotional T&Cs will have a clause that says something like “If circumstances occur which are beyond the reasonable control of the promoter, the promoter will not be liable for any failure to perform or delay in performing its obligations” which simply means promoters don’t have to award prizes if things get bad – however this might reflect badly on the brand once the crisis is over and we would always advise avoiding this if possible. The main option here is 1, cash as a viable alternative.

Make the call

Whatever plan you choose, bear in mind that the public are already experiencing great stress and challenges of their own. They might shrug off your news as just another casualty of the situation, or they may genuinely be upset. Our advice is, where possible and particularly for bigger value prizes, to be proactive, to call the winner by phone and explain what is happening with their prize. Where there are thousands of prizes, or the data you have is limited to email or home address only you will have no choice but to write to winners instead. Whatever you do remember it is important to be responsive to the situation, don’t wait for winners to come to you, especially when they might be disappointed.

For example

Prize: A city break to Venice and Barcelona for two in April 2020

Action: PromoVeritas offers the winners cash alternatives immediately

Result: Very happy winners and the promoter, a well-known high street chain is praised.

Tips for delivering bad news

PromoVeritas are experts in crafting winner communications that convey the spirit of a brand whilst being clear and friendly. But we also know how to deal with bad news.  In a situation like this we recommend the following:

  1. Get to the point – let the winner know that you’re contacting them about their prize as soon as possible.
  2. Be prepared – We use carefully written scripts and Q&A sheets that allow for various strands of conversation and make sure we have already considered all the possible angles.
  3. Be respectful – Don’t be tempted to make light of the situation with humour, it may be construed as insensitive
  4. Be positive – Wherever possible let the winner know that you appreciate their patience and that you are working hard to ensure they receive a suitable prize.

We’ve been running all aspects of compliant promotions for some of the world’s favourite brands since 2002 and winner management is an essential part of what we do. We don’t believe it’s simply the ‘cherry on top’ for promotions – contacting winners and delivering prizes is a key touchpoint with consumers and if you get it wrong your reputation could be at great risk. To find out more about why companies such as O2, Cadbury and Pepsi use us to contact their winners and how we could help you with yours, email

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