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Tragedy hit Houston on November 5th during the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park.

A packed crowd of 50,000 rushed towards the stage where rapper and event organizer, Travis Scott, had just started his performance. In the midst of chaos and panic, hundreds were injured, and at least nine people were killed, including a nine-year-old boy. Scott continued playing, seemingly unaware of what his fans were going through, despite seeing an ambulance entering the crowd mid-concert. Live Nation, the entertainment company that co-hosted the festival, finally stopped the performance 40 minutes after city officials declared a “mass casualty event.”

The morning after, Scott shared a statement on his personal Twitter account, expressing to be “absolutely devastated” and guaranteeing his full support and collaboration with the Houston Police Department. He also offered to cover the cost of the funerals of those who died during his performance. However, fans and social media users did not buy the apology. Multiple videos of the event went viral, including one showing two concertgoers climbing on stage, imploring staff to stop the show, and alerting of someone in the crowd “being dead.” Another viral video showed Scott stopping a previous concert after a fan stole his shoe.

Commenters Quick to Draw Comparisons

Videos from the Astroworld event were not the only ones to go viral. Social media users and news outlets started sharing videos of other artists stopping their shows to help out their fans and prevent incidents in the crowd, imploring Travis Scott to “learn” and “take notes” from these artists. Many argued that if those artists could see what was happening in the crowd and stop their performances, Travis Scott could have too.

When crises unfold, there is a tendency for the media and the court of public opinion to assess your response in the context of how others have responded to similar situations in the past. It happens with corporate business, public institutions, politicians, and celebrities alike. Knowing this, what can organizations do to ensure that comparisons in crisis paint a favorable picture? 

Action Items:

  1. Conduct a vulnerability assessment to map all potential operational and reputational threats. 
  2. Benchmark other organizations that have encountered issues or crises that align to identified vulnerabilities. Take note of how they responded and when they responded, paying close attention to public and media reactions, to establish best practices and pitfalls. 
  3. Develop crisis response protocols and materials that account for findings in step two. 
  4. Monitor peers and competitors as crises inevitably unfold, adding to your repository of case studies. Leverage this growing library to continuously educate employees on best practices and to refine crisis preparedness materials. 

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