While social distancing is a critical component of slowing the spread of coronavirus, it has led to countless event cancellations and impacted businesses, venues, and caterers. In particular, the entertainment and sports industries, which typically rely on gatherings like concerts, movie showings, and games, have been heavily hit. Naturally, these sudden yet mandatory changes have hurt both consumers and brand health. Without a sensitive strategy, companies are at risk of a potential PR crisis. Synthesio examined the impact of event cancellations in the word of sports, including the National Basketball Association (NBA), The French Open, and the Boston Marathon, and the world of cultural events, including Broadway, South By Southwest (SXSW), and the Louvre Museum. 

Note: These events were selected from the New York Timeslist of canceled events.

PR Crisis in Cultural Events and Entertainment

The negative sentiment associated with the shutdown of cultural events (SXSW, Broadway, and the Louvre Museum) was significantly higher than that related to the cancellation of sporting events (NBA, French Open, and Boston Marathon).

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When we take a more in-depth look, we see that most of the negative sentiment associated with cultural events actually comes from SXSW.

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Before we jump to conclusions, let’s first look at the evolution of sentiment around the cancellations. 

Attitudes in a PR Crisis Can Change Over Time

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There are two significant spikes in negative sentiment, the first of which occurred on March 6th and was seemingly caused by the cancellation of SXSW.

However, most of it was not directed at the organizers of the festival at all. Rather, much of the news coverage pointed to the economic impact of that the move would have on Austin, Texas, home of SXSW, as well as ramifications on the rest of the music and entertainment business.

More recently, there is also a decrease in negative sentiment as more share feelings of approval toward the cancellation.

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Negative Sentiment Clustered Around Actions That Endanger Public Safety

The suspension of the NBA season led to the second sharp spike in negative sentiment. On March 11th, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert, who had previously joked about the situation, tested positive for coronavirus. Subsequently, the NBA suspended the season.

In addition to upset over the suspension of the season, digital audiences expressed frustration about the actions of player Rudy Gobert. Many urged others to take precautions seriously.

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This past month, #rudygobert was the 7th most popular hashtag related to coronavirus event cancellations.

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Gobert soon issued a public apology for being “careless.”

Next Steps To Relieve Unease and Restore Confidence

Companies can rest assured that consumers generally understand the circumstances surrounding event cancellations. However, they should still make a proactive effort to stay top-of-mind in anticipation of when policymakers lift travel bans and other limitations.

Although social media can be a breeding ground for what the WHO calls an “infodemic,” it allows companies to remain connected with audiences in a safe, virtual way.

Share Throwback Photos and Videos

Official accounts, such as those of sports leagues, philharmonics, and even Broadway musicals, can share old photos and clips. This is a lighthearted yet straightforward way to boost general morale and keep your company top-of-mind.

Begin a Photo-Sharing Challenge

Although the Louvre Museum has closed, it’s continued an ongoing Instagram challenge where users can submit their favorite pictures of the museum using the #Louvre hashtag. Once a week, the team chooses one to share onto the official Instagram account. This pushes those who are limiting outdoors time, to share pictures of the Louvre with their followers, which boosts visibility. Furthermore, it encourages digital audiences to regularly check the official Louvre account for winners.

These photo challenges are especially suitable for visually attractive venues or spaces, such as botanical gardens or even wedding venues.

Virtual Tours and Showings

Those in the arts, many of whom have been impacted by quarantine orders, can share their work online. Many museums, opera houses, parks, aquariums, and theme parks have promoted virtual tours of their facilities. Furthermore, musicians and artists have also begun live-streaming music or art online. Films or short films are turning to online-only releases during this time. For example, a short film about Sigmund Freud that was supposed to premiere at SXSW is now available online through the New York Times.

Boost Brand Image By Encouraging Social Support

Many feel the burden of coronavirus, especially in financial terms. As foot traffic comes to a halt, large organizations, like the Metropolitan Opera House, and small businesses alike have set up online funds for patrons to give financial support. Companies can boost their brand image by encouraging their followers to support local businesses and providing links to do so. For example, an Austin-based student publication shared ways that people could help local restaurants.

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Lessening the Impact of a Coronavirus-Related PR Crisis Through Proactive Monitoring

Things are changing every day. Markets are volatile. More than ever before, companies need to pay attention to how audiences are perceiving their brand. Although many consumers and citizens are supportive of decisions in line with social distancing, the attitude may change any day. Companies need to understand what their audiences are thinking and stay top-of-mind in a sensitive way. For further PR crisis management tactics, see our newest case study on managing the ramifications of a data breach here.