Communication Crisis Management: Mad Cool Case Analysis

Communication Crisis Management: Mad Cool Case Analysis   


The crisis

Until four hours after the accident that took the life of the acrobat Pedro Aunión while performing his show 30 meters high from the ground, an accident that hundreds of people witnessed directly, Mad Cool festival did not confirm or deny the events occurred close to its main stage. After a delay of almost half an hour, the concert that was to take place right there, Green Day, began like all the shows of the North American group, with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody blasting through the speakers and the drummer dressed as a giant rabbit. Differentiated by the fact that, in this case, the context gave a macabre tone to the whole performance. And so Green Day came out, before a dedicated, confused and incredulous audience. Incredulous, especially, because no one had sent a release, message on social networks or had made an official statement.


Lack of foresight

Managing a crisis is a much broader question than managing its communication but, in certain cases, failures in it can maximize the impact. In the case of an accident as terrible and public as this of Pedro Aunion, the later reproaches were given, mainly, by the lack of external and internal communication of the festival in those first moments. And by the lack of foresight in said cabinet. Because an event of 45,000 people has to predict that, at some point, something can go wrong and it will be necessary to stand up for it.

Mad Cool was not ready for that moment. In fact, it was less than ready. Social networks went blank (not before publishing a post already programmed about the sponsors) and the festival adopted, for four hours, an attitude of “nothing has happened here”.

The first reactions

The first release of the festival (sent in the middle of the night) was wrong and, in addition to thin in terms, ice-cold: “Mad Cool Festival regrets the terrible accident that the air dancer has suffered during the second day of the festival. For security reasons, the festival decided to continue with its programming. We send our most sincere condolences to all his family. Tomorrow Saturday 8, during the festival, we will pay tribute to the artist “.

By then, the Madrid City Council, EFE and other media had already echoed the accident and had confirmed the artist’s death hours earlier.

Complaints to Mad Cool on the part of the press, attendees and public in general were based on three basic things:

  1. Lack of communication in the moments immediately after the accident.
  2. Lack of reaction, as a festival, throughout the night (ex: no mention if the event would be canceled).
  3. Lack of information to the band that, half an hour later, had to jump to the stage and face the crowd.

All this caused problems to spread. Information on the working conditions of those hired, the safety of workers at events, the adequacy (or lack of it) of being able to evacuate the premises (as it was hinted in their release) were brought to light in case something more sudden and urgent took place, the stability problems of the land, the City Council’s involvement in making certain things easier for the festival… On Saturday, at Mad Cool, as it’s colloquially said,  didn’t rain, it poured.

Meanwhile, festival workers sent a statement that doubted the security of the premises and exposed their working conditions.

Although early in the afternoon of Saturday 8, Mad Cool clarified, in a second statement, the communicative limitations they had had the previous night, due to orders given by the Judicial Police, their previous lack of reaction and the proactivity of the environment had achieved that, what was a tragedy that could have been coped with and mourned with integrity, became an explosion.

In addition, without having canceled the last day (something some people had asked for, although the audiences crowded the place as they had done the two previous days), waiters at the different bars of the festival stopped for 15 minutes around 7pm as a tribute and protest, before the “official” homage organized by the festival, when activity was halted in all stages at the exact time the accident occurred while Purple Rain sounded, at which beat Pedro Aunión had danced.

What had to be done

Before the crisis

It would have been necessary to have prepared a contingency plan that listed the possible risks, problems and accidents that could happen at the festival and assumed different crises, to establish how to react communicatively to them (torrential rains, for example, could have given way to many other problems). It would also have been desirable to have a strategy ready for social networks in the event of a crisis, with backgrounds prepared in black, changed fast enough to deprogram everything scheduled once there was knowledge of the fact.

In the early hours

When the festival could not have done anything other than admit that something had happened and that they were dealing with it, the communicative strategy should have been quick to simply say exactly that without being alarmist. That’s what social networks are for. It would have been nice to be warmer on how to release the first message, using something more than a “Mad Cool Festival regrets.” Similarly, if Green Day mourned the death of Pedro Aunión immediately after the concert, the festival, always after having communicated the facts to his relatives, should have given the victim’s name and surname.


The reactive statement at two in the afternoon, with more complete, correct and explanatory content, should have been sent early in the morning in order to cut off comments and speculation. All the information given in that release could have been given hours earlier, which would have minimized the impact. Equally, it would have been correct to apologize for the lack of information provided so far, both in this second statement and in the third, sent a week later. Not an apology for the facts (for which, at the moment, causes are unknown) but by the absence of reaction. An apology, when it comes to managing a communication crisis, is never excessive.

Well done

A week later, on the morning of Friday, July 14, MadCool and the family of Pedro Aunión issued a joint release stating that “the brief wording of the first statement, and the time in which it was published, respond to a direct order from the judicial police about not providing any information that could hinder an ongoing investigation”. The release was complete, detailed everything that happened, was backed by the family of the deceased and assured a later homage to the acrobat. However, Mad Cool did not apologize at any time for the mistakes made in communication, something that couldn’t have hurt them.

With that release, the Mad Cool closed a crisis that had exploded in its face and that had come, purely, from a bad communication management.

Some media have continued to publish news on the situation of workers in this type of events and the tragic death of Pedro Aunión has given visibility to work accidents that occur constantly but that the general public does not know. But the image of the festival has begun to detach itself from the tragedy and, above all, from the absence of information that exacerbated it.

By Claudia Lorenzo


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