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Lessons to Take From Netflix’s Fyre Festival Doco if You’re a PR Professional

Our Senior AD shares some key learnings from Fyre Festival that all PR professionals should know…

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Lessons to Take From Netflix’s Fyre Festival Doco if You’re a PR Professional

Written by Natalie Arnull, Senior Account Director, Bastion Effect

When the now infamous Fyre Festival storm went down in 2017 it made headlines (and hilarious memes) the world over as the fallout from a young entrepreneur’s megalomaniac dreams of putting on a music festival in the Bahamas for rich kids imploded into a fraudulent nightmare. Seriously the stuff of issues management nightmares.

This month Netflix served up an in-depth documentary, Fyre, telling the tale of the festival’s epic spiral and apart from the gobsmacked reaction you’re guaranteed to have on your face as you watch the doco, there’s also a lot of life lessons you can take out of it as a PR professional too.

1.    The ‘fake it ’til you make it’ mentality never really ends well

For Billy McFarland, the entrepreneur/criminal behind Fyre Festival, this hubris-fuelled mentality was what he clung on to until the bitter end, sweeping everyone around him along for the ride. We’ve all been told at one point in our careers to just run with it, pretend you know what you’re doing and eventually you’ll catch up, with no one being any the wiser. How much better is it though when you thoroughly know what you’re doing, you have the right skills, know the plan, have the budget locked down, have the support you need and feel 100 per cent confident you’ll deliver? It should be the only way we do business really. The old ‘over promise and under deliver’ is a hard pill to swallow for anyone. And for the record Ja Rule, false advertising is fraud…just saying.

2.    Remember to thoroughly brief your influencers

The world’s biggest model influencers posting up a storm across their Insta about Fyre Festival was what ultimately fuelled the virility of the festival to begin with. Turns out though that Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and their friends were just being paid a tonne of money without knowing anything about what they’d gotten themselves into. Sure, it’s not their direct fault the festival was such a momentous disaster but these influencers are being held to account in terms of backlash from their fans and the public (something which is still ongoing). Which is why authentic, transparent alignment…where everyone knows and is satisfied that the relationship is understood and mutually beneficial…between brand and influencer is SO important for both sides of the table. The message is a million times more powerful.

3.    If you’re seeing red flags with your client, know when to swiftly exit

There were a lot of people and partners associated with Fyre Festival that have said they had the wool pulled over their eyes. Jerry Media, the social company behind Instagram account Fuck Jerry, were brought on board to manage the festival’s social accounts and while the doco has painted them as very separate to what was going on in the Bahamas, they surely MUST have had an inkling that this was not going to go down well. The lesson here is that your reputation as an agency is only as good as the work you put out there, so while you may be bamboozled by a big shiny brand name attached to your portfolio remember to know where to draw the line. If that means parting ways with a client mid implementation, so be it. Just remain professional and say goodbye.

4.    Good PR is always worth the $

If you’re a brand unsure about whether you need a PR strategy in place, just watch Fyre. Fyre Festival hands down proves the old saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’ is simply not the case, whereas a well-timed, intelligent marketing and comms strategy that delivers on exactly what the brand promises is worth the investment every time. Whether you’re aiming to build reputation, sell a product, prepare for a crisis (ah hem…) or help achieve a myriad of business objectives it always pays to have a PR plan in place. Because if you don’t…well just watch Fyre to find out. Know your worth as a PR professional and the clients will come. 


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