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Almost a month ago Mediaverse published an article looking at the impact of the current coronavirus outbreak on three different industries. Four weeks later, with the virus officially declared a pandemic, the crisis is impacting everyone. To get an idea of just how far this goes, Mediaverse ran the numbers and found that over the last seven days, Australian social media users talked about coronavirus 896,703 times.

 

In response to the government’s initial ban on large public gatherings, we’ve seen the widespread cancellation of major events. Many organisations are facing unprecedented reputational challenges as they navigate this environment. 

In this second deep dive into the coronavirus, Mediaverse compared the proactive and reactive responses of organisations managing public events. 

Proactive management

As the coronavirus outbreak quickly ramped up some organisations took decisive action early. This was led by Tasmanian music and arts festival Dark Mofo. The event was cancelled early given the event is held in June, and the organisers were quick to provide an honest and heartfelt explanation, summing up the decision to cancel in the sentence, “I’m pouring cold water on Dark Mofo while there’s still water to pour.” 

Dark Mofo only produced two proactive social media posts linking to their official statement, but these garnered a high number of audience engagements, despite the organisation having only a small social following. While many were disappointed, members of the public applauded the organisers’ honest and clear communication and supported the early decision considering the devastating impact a last-minute cancellation could have. This proactive engagement was largely successful in minimising any blame towards the festival’s organisers. 

Reactive management

Not all organisations have had the opportunity to be so proactive. This is reflected in their engagement on social media, with some organisations producing high volumes of posts serving as real-time updates.

The most prominent of these has been the cancellation of the Melbourne Grand Prix. 

The lead up to the decision to cancel the event was defined by leaked reporting, speculation from various stakeholders (including the drivers themselves), and several social media updates from the Grand Prix itself. Audience comments on social platforms illustrate the high level of criticism from the public around the lack of clear and decisive communication.

The NRL and AFL have also been on the backfoot, with sporting seasons set to start as early as March. Both codes have maintained that the seasons will go ahead without spectators, with the AFL also shortening its season. Both have a lot at stake if they cease all playing and must weigh up the health and reputational risks of going ahead against the financial risks of cancelling. As with the Grand Prix, these organisations have produced a number of announcements and social media updates as events unfold. This has attracted strong public criticism and commentary as they make decisions on the fly. 

This is an unprecedented crisis, and organisations are working to precariously balance health, financial and reputational risks. There’s no rulebook for how to respond to such a crisis, and using social media is an effective way to speak directly with the public. However, it’s clear that organisations with the opportunity to address issues ahead of time, take decisive action early and maintain clear, succinct, and honest communication, are better able to manage audience and stakeholder expectations in this difficult time.

Image: AAP Image/[Joel Carrett]. Supplied by AAP Photos image library

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