Fyre went up in flames:PR Takeaways from the Fyre Festival Fiasco

The Perfect Storm

By contributer & PRSSA UMD President, Elissa Gonzalez

In case you have not seen the recent Netflix and Hulu documentaries or the articles and memes buzzing around social media, the Fyre Festival was a crisis of historic proportions.

The “vision” of Fyre was to provide access to celebrity performers to anyone who wished to book a performer. Creator Billy McFarland was the “visionary” orchestrating the company. The concept was fresh, inventive and instantly caught the interest of Ja Rule who became the celebrity wing man to McFarland and the Fyre Festival.

An immensely successful social media campaign helped sell the ultimate dream of Fyre Festival.The focal point of this campaign launched with the use of many well-known social media influencers, such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Haley Bieber. The festival was conceived as a campaign to launch the company’s groundbreaking service.

While the music festival meant to promote the Fyre brand, it led to an unprecedented scandal of mass proportions. The success of Fyre Festivals social media campaign was noteworthy and the promise of a decadent music festival on a tropical island soon went viral. 


Did anything go right?

    1. A thoughtful marketing strategy  pulled in millennials through the use of celebrities and major social media influencers.


    1. The festival sold out.


    1. Social media marketing kept a healthy buzz leading up to  the event.


  1. Decent knowledge of the target audience.

Major pitfalls

  1.    Planning a successful event takes painstaking strategy, attention to detail, timelines and a commitment to budgeting and time management. This is something the Fyre Festival did not spend a great deal of time organizing and planning. They didn’t stick to a timeline nor did they have a clear budget.
  1.    Do not set out to fool your customers by setting the stakes too high.The promise of the festival as seen through social media sent a big message that customers bought into. The reality of what was delivered to customers is what Fyre was held accountable for.
  2.    Transparency is the first step to avoiding and handling a crisis. When changes to an event or product are made, communication must be implemented. In the case of Fyre Festival, the crisis started when executives had the option to deceive customers from the truth or be upfront with them.
  3.    Social media is a massive tool, if used wisely. It can help manage expectations among audiences and put out any “fyres.” When things got out of hand, McFarland and Ja Rule should have made sincere and heartfelt apologies with plans to assuage the damage as the leaders of the company. If even half the effort was used to apologize and prepare the customers the damage would not have been as severe.
  4.    As emerging PR professionals we must never commit to a company, product, event or client we have not fully researched and can genuinely and ethically stand behind. As I watched the documentary on Netflix I was shocked to so many of the employees discussing their distrust for McFarland, yet most of these employees stayed with the company.



Boeing Tragedy leads to PR nightmare

Recently airline company Boeing as found itself embroiled in the middle of a large scandal due to two horrific crashes. The crashes, no more than six months apart are now being investigated by the Department of Justice.

In response to the crashes, China, The United States, Canada and the European Union have grounded all Boeing planes causing Boeings stock to take even more of a hit. Dropping 13% a few days after the second crash.

Stocks can eventually rebound. A companies reputation & respect can be forever shaken in how they respond to a tragedy.

For some unexplained reason, Boeing decided to outsourced their PR response and other decisions to outside groups. This paints a company as uncaring, especially after loosing 350 people in less than six months on its planes.

Ethiopian Airlines, the airport that was in the most recent crash, CEO was recently quotes saying that it “…would be difficult for Boeing o restore his trust in the safety of its planes.”

Beyond the stock diving badly after the most recent accident, Boeings reputation continues to take a beating after two high profile accidents.

In terms of PR, Boeing as dropped the bar in handling responses to both incidents, especially this one, by not speaking themselves. In the case of the most recent incident instead of sending out a statement about the tragedy, Boeing as let others, not their PR or communications, handle the mess for them. With less than effective results painting a company as not concerned for those family & friends of the victims in the most recent incident.

Instead of acknowledging the tragedy, Boeing CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg, released an email to employees stating that their planes are safe. The problem is that people, whether they fly or not, are highly skeptical and with good reason.

Most large companies have PR and comms teams, lawyers or even PR members with law experience who could help fact check their statements & the best course of action to apologize. Which is to just draft an apology for right then and there and tell the public a larger statement will be made at another time.

Other companies from drugs manufactures, automotive, electronics and toys have had products linked to accidents and tragedies over the years. Most, if not all of these companies have stepped in & issued apologies, help to those affected and similar actions.

Boeing, letting multiple outside groups & figures handle a lackluster response to this fiasco is a stunning way of not handling a tragedy in PR.

Any business, small or large can look at this as not what to do.

10 things I during my PR internships.

What I learned from my internships & what I wished I knew prior.

Most students dread taking on an internship.  I know I did because it’s a requirement for one of my majors.  The idea of working for someone for free while also paying thousands in  tuition to my school over summer did not sit well for to me.

Most majors dread having to find one, a lot of students I know in some form of communications (journalism, mass comms, public relations, broadcast) all seemed to fear going into their first internship.

In my case and the case of others I know, that fear stems to not feeling prepared for whatever is coming your way.  No matter how great your teachers are, no matter how many cases you study, things will eventually happen that you have no idea how to respond to in PR.  In any internship regardlessly, things will happen, you will internally panic and hope your boss or mentor will guide you on what to do.

I have been fortunate enough to work an internship and fellowship in PR/social media in the political scene.  Which can be a terrifying animal all on it’s own when dealing with the many things that could & can go wrong during an internship.

Here are some things I wish I knew along with some advice I think could be helpful:

  1. Ask your mentor/boss if they themselves have talked to their customer/client base.  What are the concerns of the group you’re trying to reach?
  2. What type of social media is your boss/company using?  Certain demos are obviously more responsive to certain types of social media. You aren’t going to use snapchat if your customer base & brand is geared towards older adults.
  3. If there are other interns there who have been there for a bit ask them about any issues they encountered?  It could be a situation you find yourself in.
  4. Ask your boss about things that have been issues for the brand in the recent past.  On one of my internships I had to deal with a small pocket of angry voters due to a lie against my clients brand.  It had happened months before I started & had been dealt with but some people were still hostile.
  5. If you are the only intern & was hired in for a set amount of hours, stick to those hours.  Most internships are unpaid & being forced to work beyond the agreed upon hours is actually illegal.  If you find yourself having free time & want to give more hours that week that’s great.  However don’t let yourself be bullied by your boss, mentor or other interns in to giving more than you agreed on.
  6. Everyone’s got a story & concern, treat your clients with respect, treat them like humans.  Without them you don’t have much of a brand to sell.  Yes, you’ll encounter rude clients (see #4).
  7. Bring your skills to the table, especially the ones you feel the most comfortable in but also be willing to learn new things.  If your internship as multiple departments, ask if it’s possible to spend one week or two in another one that interests you.  Maybe it’s something that your university doesn’t teach & you’ve always had an interest.  Maybe it’s something that you never knew about but it’s caught your interest.
  8. Try to network with the other interns or people you meet.  My fellowship was pretty large, we had interns who were students from my college who I had never met before.  As well as students & full-time employees from across the state working there.  Getting to know people lets you build potential support to help you all make it through the internship as well as contacts afterwards.
  9. Learn to know when you need to step back.  My second internship started with just two of us working on a large campaign pushing a client brand across two cities.  I had more experience so I often found myself doing things that I was not hired in for.  It was scary & sometimes too much with summer classes & an actual job.  If you can’t do something or your worried about messing it up, try to talk to your boss.

10.  Use this whole situation as a learning experience.  Whether the internship goes good or bad you might realize that the type of PR you were interested might not be for you.  That goes for any type of internship.  I learned that political PR is not for me but ended up liking the project I did for my main client when he reached out to an environmental group.

***Bonus*** Some internships do in fact pay. Check the job description for paid or unpaid. If that’s not listed, feel free to ask if it’s a paid position. Co-ops on the other hand do pay.

PR with a human center

Recently, the University of Michigan – Dearborn chapter of PRSSA got to have an intimate conference with marketing company Broadhead.

Based in Minneapolis, MN, the rather young marketing company and it’s PR team have their finger on the pulse of what makes PR good and what it should be used for: Serving and informing the community the client wants to engage with.

It’s that level of human touch and detail that is often mocked as being missing in PR and mass communications when it comes to the public.

Speaking to the chapter was Public Relations Manager, Lauren Baker.

Lauren and her team in the PR department work tirelessly with the other departments and the customer to ensure the highest quality work is produced. They do this by making sure whatever they are helping a client brand is received well by the potential customers they are trying to reach.

The U of M PRSSA got to look at how Lauren and her team, along with the other departments helped with the branding of California Strawberries. In mostly all steps of the branding, the human element, the customer was used as the apex of the branding design. Not just a simple customer study. Broadhead put together ads showing that strawberries can be consumed in other ways beyond sweets. From a food truck to fairs, the PR team went in & gave a quick, fun yet thorough way to handle branding.

It’s this human element that the company uses for all its clients that is sometimes missing in PR. It’s also why often times PR is not the most trusted element of a company, often viewed as damage control. Not necessarily concerned with the customers its client is trying to reach.

Everyone should have a pop socket, thanks Broadhead!

Broadhead is a great example of how to do PR with a human first focus. Something that is unfortunately missing in various forms of PR and communications.

Thank you Lauren, your team and Broadhead for taking time to speak with the University of Michigan PRSSA chapter!

So you want to podcast.

With the trend of podcasts growing over the last couple of years, internet streaming platform Spotify, has recently purchased the podcast company Gimlet.

According to Variety, it was an all cash deal, with Spotify shelling out around $230 million for the podcast channel.

Podcasting has seen a recent trend in upwards growth over the last few years.  From not just people with a mic and a macbook, to large media companies as well.  Podcasting has gone from just being a person or a group of like minded individuals wishing to get their voices and ideas out there to the ability of full on branding.

In fact, many PR teams within companies, from non profit, to certain corporate ones can benefit from podcasts.  With the right group of people recording and varied topics, relating to the company and what they do, it can help better put a human element to a brand.

Podcasting, which was invented in 2004, has seen an increasing amount of growth over the last decade.

According to the Online Marketing Institute, about 26 million Americans listen to podcast daily with about 80 percent of those listeners tuning in from start to finish.

In ways to extend your brand, some small podcasts have even been able to land deals with other companies and brands that align with their beliefs.

Being able to reach out to your consumer base or demographic targets with a voice instead of another invoice or email on the company letterhead offers a personal touch.  It’s also a rather inexpensive way for you to expand upon outreach and communications. A decent set of starting headphones can run around $70 or more, with mics at around $150.  You can record and edit on any basic audio or even video software that allows audio editing also. Things such has Garageband and Imovie are actually decent starting points to learn.

Especially for individuals or smaller businesses wishing to extend their personal brand.

This is especially important when many people question the authenticity of companies and their branding.  Seeing many has faceless entities that are only known for aesthetics or jingles.

Some of the communications and journalism classes at the University are even incorporating podcasting into their classes.  Either has a fun one of assignment or as part of a larger final project. It can be an effective to brand your voice and what you or your business stands for, outside of letter writing or email statements.

It also(if your lucky) allows for you to bring in other speakers who share similar ideas.

The podcasts do not have to be everyday or weekly but they should be in a pretty consistent format.  Work with your hosts or talent, come up with a schedule.

Do you want to do an episode every other week?  Five or six times a season?

Once you have those numbers down and some consistency you can think about possible adding more episodes in the future.

Also don’t just use it as a way to address emergencies.  That isn’t enjoyable and makes it look more like a tool used to save face.  Have fun with it, think of your brand and your audience? What’s trending, how can it affect and benefit them and the same for you in return?

If you’ve got the time, give it a try.  It can be your own personal podcast for your brand or even for your PRSA chapter!


How to attract new members to your chapter when you are a commuter school

Attracting new students to any organization, intramural or team sport can be hard at any school.  The task can be even more challenging at commuter schools, such has the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Yes, we have the Union across from campus, but with it having more vacancies that people each semester, it’s safe to say UMD is still mostly for commuters.  In cases of schools like that, student life can be hard to organize.  Most major universities, in which a majority of the populace live on or extremely close to campus, usually has a full welcome week.  That is when all clubs and orgs set up booths and have representatives out there talking to new and old students.

At UMD & most of commuter schools, there is no real welcome week.  Maybe a day or two of orgs having a recruitment table and often during morning class hours.

Not the easiest way to attract new students when most of us spend the first week actually finding and attending classes, usually even getting saddled with homework that first day.

So how does any org, especially one that deals in communications as its base get their name out there?  Especially with limited time?

The best thing to do first and foremost, is to network with another comms based org?

Got a campus paper, blog or magazine?  How about a campus radio station or film production?

If you have any or all of those, make a game plan with your PRSSA members to see which would be the easiest to create an ad for.  Also consider which is more likely to be viewed by students.

Maybe your film orgs youtube or social media gets more traffic than the campus paper. Maybe the blog is more popular source than the radio.

If a member of your chapter is also a member of one of those other orgs, maybe ask them if they could put you into contact with that orgs leader.  A task like this sounds easy but it can also be time consuming on your org and sometimes the org you hope will help you distribute your ad.

A good window to start getting this done would ideally be the week or two before the Fall semester starts.  Most org leaders and their E-board members often have to be on campus a week or two early for paper work, getting their offices ready, and other things.

If you want to do an Youtube or radio ad on your campus, see who’s available to film something heartfelt and quick(college attention spans, most memorable virals are 1-3 minutes).  This would be something you could film during that first week or two and possibly save and air at a later date.

UMD offers another day for org recruitment during the first week of the winter semester.  Often times people, even org presidents forget about that day.

Not to surprising considering students are returning from holiday break.

If that fails and you and your chapter are at a school that hits the ground fast and hard with homework and assignments during the first week, the best way to do this would be to ask E-board members ask a professor if they could pass out handouts and give a quick run down of what PRSSA does and what your chapter can do.

Handouts and a quick informative, but fun speech can often break the awkward and blah feeling that sometimes goes hand in hand with the first week back.

Remember, the best tool to get new members at a commuter school is communication.  Especially when people are running to campus and back off.

PRSSA Takes on Chi-Town: Highlights From The Loop Divergent Conference

2015-03-21 18.23.00
Having only been to Chicago once during my childhood I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience the city with my fellow peers of PRSSA. Taking the train from Dearborn to Chicago, we residing at the Blackstone Hotel with numerous PRSSA chapters from around the U.S. Saturday morning we arrived at Colombia College to greet, network, and learn about the various aspects of Public Relations.

The Loop Divergent conference focused on individual interests such as Entertainment vs Fashion PR. Having a strong interest in entertainment I was very interested in the choices of speakers to choose from. Between sports and media based PR I decided that media would best suit my interests. Sitting front row with my fellow PRSSA members we listened to the inspiring speech given by the head of Henson Consulting, Kathleen Henson. Starting the consulting company from her basement, Kathleen Henson a built her organization into a major corporation with prestigious clients such as Crystal Lite and Men’s Journal. Her speech was truly inspiring telling the group to “be authentically you”. One of the reasons I loved her speech so much was the fact that she spoke to us on an individual level rather than a professional level. Telling us like it is she stated that “relationships are the currency of our business”. I found this statement the most beneficial because sometimes the field of PR can come off as a bit intimidating. Having the opportunity to hear these words and mingle with some of the greatest PR professionals the field has to offer was a great opportunity and a perfect start in building relationships and stepping out of my comfort zone.

By: Ashley Handy- Director of Social Media

UMDearborn PRSSA: On the Road

We’re all getting anxious ( in a good way) for next weekend! Eight of our members will be traveling to Chicago for The Loop: Divergent Conference.

We will be attending the second day for opportunities to explore PR routs. Like the four factions in the book/film Divergent, we will be able attending four factions of PR.

Corporate PR vs Agency PR panel

Entertainment vs Fashion

Ad vs PR panel

Non Profit vs Political
We have some members traveling to Chicago for the first time and we’re excited to explore these career opportunities, network,and bond over a great experience.
Make sure you check in with us next week for details on our experience!

PR and the PESO Model

Written By: Shawn Collins Chapter Vice President

The head of marketing for computer company DELL recently did an article explaining the importance of the PESO model and how the field of PR is shifting to this business model.

The model breaks PR into 4 areas; owned, paid, shared, and earned. Any organization’s PR should be based on all four. Many times, PR is looked at in terms of only one of these four. For example, a new start-up might only pay attention to their social media, which is a form of shared media. However, they would be ignoring many different avenues and opportunities.

Basically the 4 areas make up the main areas an organization should concentrate on when using marketing/PR. The acronym represents these areas, the P is for Paid media, and examples are digital ads or any media paid for. The E is for earned media like newspapers. The S is for shared media, like Facebook and other social media. And the O is for owned media, like company websites.

Dell marketing president had this to say about the PESO model: “If you aren’t using the PESO model for your communications work, and measuring the meaningful metrics that help an organization grow, you will not have a job in 10 years.” The PESO model is indeed one of the best ways to maximize the efficiency, it allows you to truly utilize all aspect of PR available, not simply limit yourself to one area.



Prrrssssaa, What?

Many people hear about PRSSA and ask, “What is that and what do you do?”

PRSSA stands for the Public Relations Student Society of America. This national organization has over 300 Chapters in the U.S., Argentina, and Columbia. PRSSA seeks to advance the public relations profession by nurturing generations of future professionals.

Our Chapter here at the University of Michigan-Dearborn is 1 of 10 Chapters in Michigan. We strive to give our members PR experience, practical knowledge outside of the classroom, and provide networking opportunities to prepare students for a successful career.

5 reasons

We are not just another student organization, but a national organization with national benefits like exclusive scholarships, national and regional conferences, internship and job listings, and exclusive news and publications in the public relations field.

PRSSA’s parent organization, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), offers professional development, networking opportunities and news. PRSA Detroit has been a great support system for our Chapter in connecting us to contacts for speakers, inviting us to special events, and has sponsored us to attend the PRSSA National Conference in previous years.

what does prssa do_UMD

It’s not ALL about public relations, though that is our focus. We are a professional student organization that wants to see all students succeed and gain experience & opportunities. PRSSA offers:

  • Resume building and social media workshops.
  • Guest speakers at every meeting. They vary from our school’s Athletic Director, PR professionals, the internship office, to career services.
  • Semester campaigns. We’re currently working on rebranding our Athletic Department, seeking graphic design students.

We’re not all Communication and Public Relations majors, but also Journalism and Screen Studies, Marketing, International Relations, Business Management, Psychology, Political Science, and Women’s & Gender Studies.

In a world where everything needs to be visual and we connect online before in person, people want to connect a face with a name. PRSSA is having a Professional Headshot Photoshoot so students can create an effective online presence whether it be for a social media platform, website, blog, or portfolio. The idea started with our own board posting our bios on this blog and not having a professional headshot!

At the end of this semester, we’re voting for the next PRSSA executive board for the 2015-16 school year. For me, being on the board has taught me so much about leadership, team work, event planning, networking, and professionalism in general. I’ve made friendships and developed relationships with professional contacts for my future. This is my experience, beyond the classroom.

-Monica McCormick, Chapter President