Crisis Communications - what we can learn from All Together Now 2019
By Katie Boyle
Having been an enthusiastic attendee to last year’s inaugural music and arts festival All
Together Now, I came away from the three-day weekend waxing lyrical about the
utopian break that I had enjoyed in the grounds of Curraghmore Estate, Co. Waterford. I
was not alone in this perspective, with everyone that I had known to attend
encouraging others to travel to the 2019 instalment for what promised to be another
I had major FOMO (Fear-Of-Missing-Out) for this year’s event, as the line-up of acts and
activities along with some really innovative brand activations looked to cement this
year as an unmissable weekend; and to ultimately position the festival as ‘the’ event of
the August Bank Holiday on an annual scale. So, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes as I saw
chatter online from excited ticket-holders and artists quickly bubble into something
very sour indeed on the opening Friday.
Despite best intentions, unforeseen circumstances can and do appear when organising a
large public event. In these moments, it is crucial to adopt a flexible communications
approach to manage stakeholder expectations as invariably circumstances will change
at a heightened pace.
I could empathise with the press office team that were tasked with managing ticket-
holder queries and negative commentary on social media, especially as references were
luxe festival which amassed failings of an incredulous level which Netflix captured on film
earlier this year).
So, what can we as communicators learn from this scenario?
1. Regular updates – Even if no new information has been gathered, the
acknowledgement that a matter is being looked into and is in the process of
being resolved is important to provide reassurance.
2. Transparency in messaging – Concise, accurate statements which include all
pertinent items of discourse should be collated to dissuade any suspicion,
mistrust and miscommunication. These feelings are easily heightened through
the advent of social media channels where it is difficult to fact-check and trace
3. Display empathy – It is important to really understand how your stakeholders
are perceiving the issue; what information they require and how best to deliver
this to them to manage the relationship and to resolve the crisis. Might they be
feeling deflated? Exhausted? Thirsty? Tired? Ignored? Put yourself in their shoes
and try to directly address these matters in order to resolve the crisis on a
4. Taking Responsibility - It is essential that attendees are aware that a situation
is being addressed, and this is achieved through addressing the issues at hand,
not laying blame on specific parties; and emphasising that key measures are
being taken to rectify the crisis.
With some calls for the festival to be disbanded, remunerations sought by disgruntled
attendees and other stakeholders reported being left in the dark; it is undoubtable that
the event has faced significant reputation damage. I would like to think that the event
can recover from this and to pledge to deliver a festival on par with its first year – of
which all attendees were happy to provide third-party endorsements and encourage
friends and family to go.