Fyre Festival Fiasco: What Went Wrong and Key PR Takeaways

Fyre Festival was supposed to be a music festival for the elite. The festival, organized by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, was created to promote the Fyre music booking app, an app used to book celebrity appearances. The luxurious two-weekend event was set to take place in the Exumas district of the Bahamas with top performers, such as Blink-182 and Major Lazer. What actually took place, however, is a completely different story.

Guests arrived that Thursday evening to find an empty gravel lot, subpar food, absent staff, and disaster relief tents scattered on the festival grounds. The event was marketed to have Starr catering, celebrities, yachts, villas, and pristine beaches, but what guests arrived to was an unfinished disaster.

I know what you are thinking: How did festival creators manage to pull off this incredible scam? Easy: through a talented public relations team. Fyre’s priorities were in its marketing- and that was the problem.  

Long before the planning took place, Fyre Festival was already releasing flashy advertisements, including a commercial featuring supermodels Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, and Alessandra Ambrosio. Influencers were also contacted to promote the event on social media.

As the event steadily approached, musical acts began to drop out, after festival organizers failed to pay them. Starr Catering Group’s steep price for high quality food was too high for Fyre’s budget. And when nothing was ready in time, Fyre Festival’s organizers said nothing.

With all of the backlash unfolding after this fiasco, there are a few things that we can take away from this horrible PR crisis:

  1. Always under promise and over deliver

Perhaps Fyre’s biggest mistake was that it failed to live up to the buzz it created. Fyre Festival’s marketing set expectations too high. Marketing is important, but if there isn’t an amazing product to back it up, there isn’t going to be a good reaction from customers, which will result in a not so good ending for a company.  

  1. Planning is all in the details

One of Fyre Festival’s biggest issues is that it spent far too much of its budget on marketing and not enough on the things that really mattered. Organizers knew what they wanted their event to be but didn’t think of all the little things that go into planning a music festival. Performers dropped out because no one had contacted them in regards to payment. Little details, like payment, caused big problems for Fyre Festival.

  1. Communication matters

One of the biggest problems with Fyre’s team was the lack of communication they had with festival-goers. Organizers not only failed to tell guests about changes in catering, but also failed to reveal the performers. Even days before the festival, acts weren’t announced because most of them were in the midst of pulling out from the festival. Blink-182 released a statement on Twitter, revealing why they weren’t performing. Fyre’s team also should have made moves to reschedule the festival. Instead, they let it go on, knowing that things weren’t complete or up to par with what had been marketed.

  1. Apologies must be sincere

While Fyre Festival was very quick to apologize on social media, it should have been done long before. And the apology was very long, saying things like, “We’re sorry, we’ll double-down next time.” They shouldn’t even be thinking of a next time. It makes the apology seem ingenuous, and as if they don’t realize the repercussions of their actions. Apologies that are made need to be done in a timely manner, but also should be short and to the point.

This blog post was written by PRowl Account Associate Nicole Pedrick.

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