Playing with Fyre?
What the Fyre Festival has to teach businesses today.
In the name of cultural awareness (okay because I couldn’t.look.away), I just binged both Netlfix and Hulu’s documentaries on the massively fraudulent Fyre Festival.
What makes them both compelling is just the sheer, blatant hubris of it all. At every point you’re asking “How could this happen?” and “Why did no one stop it?”
But you can also sort of see how. For anyone who’s worked in or with a business that sells things to people, especially in the age of the internet and social media, it’s scarily not that impossible to understand.
This is an age of anything-is-possible optimism. And one in which people are longing to be inspired. Charismatic employers in businesses of all sizes should think about self regulating. It’s a much better route than waiting for disgruntled employees or consumers to do it for you. So … :
- Listen to the experts you hire. All over the landscape of the Fyre crisis are points at which employees tried to get Billy McFarland to listen to their concerns about putting on the show. Even in businesses with very intense hiring processes, too often a leader can’t help replacing the opinion of the person they’ve hired with their own.
- Positivity is a good thing. Blind positivity is a bad thing. Speaking of refusing to acknowledge a point of view … leaders obviously want to encourage positivity. But that can’t be reality-blind. Just as McFarland insisted “it can be done” and fired naysayers, too often workplaces don’t create a way to provide constructive feedback to leaders without repercussions.
- So hear the bad stuff, too. Not only should employers have a channel in place for hearing employee and partner feedback, but then they should actually hear it. That means listening without getting defensive. If people lay themselves on the line to give you honest feedback and you get defensive, you won’t get honest feedback again.
- Have a crisis plan. Before the first planes landed on Exuma, Fyre leaders knew without question that they wouldn’t be able to accomodate people who’d paid. You don’t need to be putting on a massive event to need a crisis plan. All you need is a holiday party with alcohol, an image someone forgets to credit … you get the idea. Have a plan.
- Don’t ignore your gut when it comes to clients or partners. As a small business, sometimes I meet a prospect who says they’ve fired a few previous partners. I used to think that was a challenge. I can do it! But now I see it’s a red flag. If no one will touch it — ask why. If everyone says it can’t be done, consider that maybe it shouldn’t be.
- In an age of storytelling, be careful selling a dream. Storytelling is in high demand right now. Content is king, and astute businesses have learned that the the ability to effectively tell a story consumers connect with can separate the meh brands from the compelling ones. Storytelling, yes. Fantasy peddling, no. Once you lead consumers astray, you never get them back. Tell the truth. It’s how loyalty is built.
- Never muzzle the customer. You have to let customers tell the truth too. Both films show us that as word of Fyre being a fraud started to spread, social media team F*** Jerry began pulling the negative comments off social. It’s one of their most complicit moments. The best businesses keep negative comments up on social media and address them effectively. Consumers can forgive many mistakes when you tell them the truth, take some responsibility, and show what you’re doing about it.
- Be good to employees you let go. Much of both Fyre documentaries is relayed by members of the Fyre app team, who had nothing to do with the whole festival-stravaganza, initally billed as a tool to bring attention tot he music-booking app they worked on. By all accounts they were kept in the dark or woefully mistreated, and ultimately Billy fired them without firing them, so they couldn’t collect unemployment. It’s no surprise that they recorded conversations with him and spoke up in both films. Social media, and hubs like Glassdoor make every town a small town, where word gets around. It’s a sellers’ market in the workplace today. Do the right things, even when you have to do hard things.
Clap to help spread the word. And we’d love to hear your take on Fyre and whether you related.