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Thought leadership

#FyreFestival: Influencer Engagement Gone Wrong

Samantha Bolinski Evoke PR and InfluenceBy Samantha Bolinski
Account Supervisor, PR & Influence


At this point, you’ve likely seen headlines and social media posts about one of the biggest millennial social media marketing fails of our time—the Fyre Festival. Netflix’s recently released documentary, “Fyre Festival: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” reminded us of the 2017 disaster when the Fyre team fraudulently planned and promoted a mirage of a luxury music festival that, in reality, was a bare bones campsite.

As communicators and marketers, there were many cringe-worthy moments watching both the Hulu and Netflix documentaries, but what really stuck with us was the mismanaged influencer engagement. The Fyre team paid some of the world’s top supermodels to promote the festival leading up to the weekend on their social media channels, alluding to the opportunity to party exclusively with the influencers who, in reality, were never planning to attend in the first place. To make matters worse, they also did not disclose the monetary exchange for posting.

While we won’t be hosting a music festival in healthcare, we thought some basic principles were important to consider regardless of industry:

  • Transparency is key on both sides of the relationship. Every influencer a brand partners with should know what they are signing up for and promote the product in a realistic way that the brand can ultimately deliver on when a follower signs the dotted line
  • Every company must ensure the influencers they partner with clearly align with the brand’s values and commitment to customers
  • Consider the level of influencer and how it aligns with your goals. Celebrity-level influencers are great for buzz but may not be as engaged or invested in the specific audiences you aim to reach as a micro-influencer. It might lead to a bigger public relations nightmare when you fail to live up to their followers’ expectations after engaging with their promotion
  • Paid relationships must be disclosed per Federal Trade Commission guidelines (eg, #ad, #sponsored) to avoid legal ramifications and damaged credibility. Many of the influencers involved in Fyre not only lost major credibility but also faced lawsuits

For more on our process for engaging with micro-influencers in healthcare, please read our article, “Thought Leadership: Leveraging the Power of Micro-influencers in Healthcare.”