Julie McLauchlan: Don’t get burned like Fyre organisers

Revellers at the Fyre Festival got less than they bargained for. Picture: Hallie Wilson/PA
Revellers at the Fyre Festival got less than they bargained for. Picture: Hallie Wilson/PA
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The now-infamous Fyre Festival, held in the Bahamas last month, proved to be a big letdown for these who shelled out up to $12,000 (£9,300) for VIP packages.

The unfortunate festival-goers reported a lack of basic facilities and primitive conditions. So much, so festival, you may think.

Integrity matters when you want to build relationships

• READ MORE: Fyre Festival ‘heartbroken’ to have let guests down

But as PR practitioners who understand the value of building relationships, what concerns us the most is the creeping, and often hidden, practice of paying people – celebrities or not – to be “influencers” across social channels.

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Leaked documents have revealed that Fyre organisers paid high-profile celebrities to tweet, chat and post about the festival to raise the glam stakes and sell more tickets to wealthy millennials. However, the organisers and celebrities failed to be upfront about the commercial arrangements, violating US trade law. Cue the resulting Twitter storm.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with targeting influencers. It happens all the time. Convincing third parties to talk about your organisation or its products in glowing terms can be a persuasive tool.

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Pay them? Savvy marketers really shouldn’t need to, but if you decide to go down this route, please make sure you’re upfront about it and make sure said influencers are too. Just because the conversations are on social channels doesn’t mean you skip this step. People notice.

Integrity matters when you want to build relationships in real life. And that’s equally true online.

That’s a lesson the Fyre Festival organisers learned the hard way.

Julie McLauchlan is founder and managing director of Perceptive Communicators

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