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

magical event.

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

made by users likening All Together Now to the controversial Fyre Festival (the faux-

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

message sources.

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

personable level.

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.

EventsGemma Smyth