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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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Persimmon – A Reminder that Media Training is More than a Nice to Have



When talking to businesses they can sometimes be reluctant to invest in regular media training, after all “it’s just a conversation with a microphone isn’t it?” However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, handling the pressure of journalistic scrutiny, the camera and the microphone while also managing to make it look like ‘just a conversation’ requires a combination of skill and training.

 

Still unconvinced? Then just ask Jeff Fairburn, CEO of Persimmon Homes, who has not only come in for criticism but also become a minor internet celeb, after a media interview went wrong with BBC Look North.

 

If you haven’t already seen it you can see the clip here but as a quick summary Fairburn walked off camera mid-interview after being asked about the £75m bonus he had received from the PLC last year. The interview had been going well as Fairburn discussed Persimmon’s performance but turned sour when the journalist, Spencer Stokes, asked Fairburn about the payment.

 

Caught off-guard Fairburn, stuttered before a PR professional could be heard instructing Fairburn not to answer. As Stokes pressed on with the line of questioning Fairburn stood in silence before walking off to be heard describing the situation as ‘unfortunate’ off-camera.     

 

Neglecting media training 101

In a mere 45 seconds Fairburn provided a crash course in basic media relations errors. He was caught off-guard suggesting a lack of preparation (especially considering the furore over the bonus only 12 months ago which made the question entirely predictable); failed to respond to the change in tact; didn’t regain control of the conversation and let emotion take-over.

 

For good measure Fairburn also criticised the journalist – a definite no-no - for asking a fairly reasonable question of a CEO of a PLC. The end result was presenting a negative image of both himself and the company. This catalogue of errors would all have been coached against in any media training session. 

 

Mistakes happen to the best of us

Of course, when viewing the clip, you may still feel that you simply wouldn’t make those mistakes – and maybe you wouldn’t. But let’s not forget that this is the CEO of a publicly listed company who will be well versed in handling the media – it’s not like he will be inexperienced in handling pressure situations. Yet he still managed to fall foul of a media relations disaster.

 

If that doesn’t convince you that media training and regular Refresh-er sessions are a worthy investment nothing will. And let that be at your own peril. 

 

 

Tagged with: crisis management, Manchester, media interviews, North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR campaign essential, Public Relations, Public Relations North West