Four Lessons from the #FyreFestival Fiasco

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Lauren Macalalad, PR Intern

The much-anticipated Fyre Festival created by hip-hop artist Ja Rule and business entrepreneur Billy McFarland is arguably the worst event planning flunk that has come out of social media organizing. While the event failed to transpire, it taught the PR/marketing/event planning world four valuable lessons to prevent future mishaps.

1) Set a reasonable timeline and consider the current state of the event site and accessibility of site’s resources. The timeline serves as an easier way to track planning progress and can help with deciding next steps in the process. In hindsight, Ja Rule and McFarland, alongside other event organizers, admitted they were “in over their heads” when estimating the time and effort it would actually take to set the general foundation for the festival. In addition, timelines should consider any setbacks that might occur which would help organizers decide on postponing certain steps in the planning process.

2) The event should live up to how it is marketed online. Social media allows for widespread and fast marketing and promoting, but what is presented digitally should transfer over to the actual experience. In the case of Fyre Festival, the promotional video which hyped up the event to a great extent, ranging from paradise-like weather conditions to fancy food worthy of five stars, is under a lot of scrutiny for not delivering on the promises that were originally presented.

3) There should be clear and frequent communication between event organizers and influencers. Event organizers have a responsibility to make sure that influencers are aware of the development of the event so that there is strong and transparent communication on both sides. Each party is a direct extension of the event/brand and its success, so clear communication between the two ensures no one is out of the loop. Once celebrities became aware of the reality in the Bahamas last week, they apologized via social media and decided not to show up. In an apology statement, supermodel Bella Hadid emphasized that (as an influencer) she was not informed of the “production or process of the festival,” resulting in her promoting the Fyre Festival and what would become an equally disastrous event for organizers, influencers and attendees. For any event, communication is key between all groups involved.

4) Know when and how to address the situation in an effective manner. In the case of any crisis, the event organizer(s) should make face at the event site to personally address those who were affected and make a genuine and thorough apology. I learned in my crisis communications class at UW that an apology should be made online if the crisis started online. The Fyre Festival is a peculiar case in the sense that it technically started as an idea online and was thoroughly marketed via social media, but as the day of the event arrived, attendees were already onsite in the Bahamas and it was no longer something confined to the digital world. For that reason, it would have been in the best interest of Ja Rule and Billy McFarland to travel to the Bahamas and address everyone in person.

Since the Fyre Festival occurred, organizers have converted the event’s website (initially used to promote and sell tickets) into a one-page site with an apology that addresses the various groups affected, the Festival's next steps to provide refunds to attendees and how people can keep up with further updates via the Festival’s Twitter. A prime example of how online ideas fail to manifest in real life, Fyre Festival reminds us of key event planning and social media practices that should never be overlooked so that the next event we put on doesn’t go up in flames.

This blog was written as a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Lauren Macalalad, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication, Spanish and diversity. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.