Crisis management PR: Festival organisers create a case study in how not to manage a crisis

Festival organisers create a case study in how not to manage a crisis

Cancelling the second day of a festival and leaving thousands of music fans out of pocket was always going to be something of a crisis communications challenge.

But you would probably expect at the very least to see an apology, some form of explanation, and information about how refunds could be obtained.

Instead, the bizarre way organisers of Liverpool’s Hope & Glory Festival managed the announcement and fallout out of the decision to abandon yesterday’s event will go down as a crisis management PR case study others can learn from.

First, let’s look at the cancellation announcement itself which included a total of just three words. The tweet from the Hope & Glory account simply said ‘no festival today’ and contained no links to further information. The same three words were used on Facebook as well, but that is at least three more words than were used on the official website, where no information about the cancellation was posted.

 

Furious festival goers wanting further information were simply told a statement would be available by midday on Monday, while those who voiced their frustration were met with a range of sarcastic, agitated and bizarre responses.

 

 

And rather than apologising or showing any compassion for those upset by the cancellation, the organisers simply complained about the reaction they had received.

 

 

The cancellation came after a first day which had been marred by reports of over-crowding, lengthy queues and the cancellation of Charlotte Church from the line-up following a two hour delay.

There were hints then of the social media chaos which was to follow as those who took to Twitter to voice their frustrations with the event were simply met with a reply containing an email address. Then there was an outburst at James frontman Tim Booth, who had been vocal about his disappointment after the band’s set.

 

 

The ‘contact us’ section of the organiser’s website stresses they are a small team, but even so the handling of the cancellation should have been much better.

For a start, just three words to announce it would not be taking part is simply not enough. Those social media posts needed to express regret and empathy.

There also should have been a statement already written which explained why it had to be cancelled – organisations in this situation cannot afford to wait 24 hours to provide detailed information. Not only did this lack of information upset already disappointed punters but it meant it had no control or input into what was being reported. This statement could have been posted on the event website and then linked to on its social media accounts.

Eventually, 24 hours after the cancellation, a long rambling statement was released on Facebook.  But even if this statement had been any good  the damage had already well and truly been done – in a crisis media management situation you simply cannot afford to act so slowly.

The tweets which followed the cancellation announcement are something PR professionals will look at with their heads in their hands. Instead of concern and remorse, disappointed customers were treated with disdain and sarcasm. Rather than creating a professional air, they only served to add a further sense of farce to an already farcical situation.

And speaking of PR people, spare a thought for Hope and Glory PR who spent their weekend responding to angry people who mistook them for the festival organisers.

 

 

 

 

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our journalist-led crisis communication and media training courses.

 

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