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Three PR lessons to take from #FyreFestival



In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks and haven’t heard about the monumental shambles that was Fyre Festival, put simply, it was the festival that promised the world but never actually happened.

 

American entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule co-founded the festival to promote a new talent booking app, FYRE. Using their connections to attract some of the world’s biggest social media stars, the duo constructed a huge influencer campaign, selling the festival as ‘Instagram in real life’, with Kendall Jenner receiving $250,000 for a single post.

 

Having spent thousands of dollars on tickets for an immersive, VIP experience like no other, excited festival-goers arrived at the Fyre site on a private island in the Bahamas to find it looked nothing like the advertisements. Luxurious villas turned out to be glorified tents, catering by celebrity chef Stephen Starr was actually overworked locals handing out dubious cheese sandwiches (more on this later), luggage was thrown out of a shipping container in the dark, Blink 182 were supposed to be headlining but pulled out at the last minute...the list goes on. The dream soon descended into a nightmare, with many left stranded at the airport with no food or water.

 

Following the Fyre Festival saga, McFarland pleaded guilty to wire-fraud charges and was sentenced to six years in prison, ordered to forfeit $26 million. Here are three things that we can learn from his shortfalls:

 

Truth will always prevail

 

McFarland knew well ahead of the festival that it wasn’t going to deliver on a fraction of what was promised, but he still let people come, resulting in a viral disaster.

 

We must first be honest with ourselves, and second the audiences we communicate with, on what brands and campaigns can deliver. This ultimately comes down to good planning through setting realistic goals and executing the strategy to achieve them.

 

Never underestimate the power of human interest

 

Millions of dollars were pumped into the influencer-dominated campaign, yet a single photo of a cheese sandwich tweeted by a hacked-off festival-goer was enough to essentially finish the whole thing off.

 

This was far more powerful than models posing in bikinis and posting orange squares on Instagram to sell a festival they knew hardly anything about.

 

Why? Because it was relatable and emotive.

 

As was the devastating story of Pamela Carter, the caterer who was forced to give $50,000 of her savings to her staff because McFarland failed to pay them. A GoFundMe campaign set up to reimburse her has since raised more than $220,000.

 

Not all hype is good hype

 

You can have the best idea, concept or vision to exist, but if you can’t make it a reality, it effectively becomes worthless and potentially very damaging.

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: crisis management

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