Splendour in the Grass gets stuck in the PR mud (again)

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Aussie music festival, Splendour in the Grass, has been cancelled as a result of ‘unexpected events’.

The news came just two weeks after the festival announced its line-up, with Kylie Minogue headlining the event alongside Australian and international artists.

When a major change or something negative is about to happen, the key is to communicate early and often.

Instead, there was silence from the organisers, which left room for others to speculate, break the bad news, and fill the void with negative commentary.

And when the organisers did finally offer up a statement, the founders chose to bury the lede and stuff the ‘sorry’ right at the bottom, along with giving the vague and dismissive explanation of ‘unexpected events’.

This isn’t the first time Splendour in the Grass has failed to learn its lesson.

In 2022, the festival was nicknamed Splendour in the Mud after a lack of preparation, flooded camping grounds, mud-covered punters, and transport disasters resulted in a subsequent social media storm that was both swift and vicious. And then a dreadfully insincere apology of the ‘sorry, not sorry’ variety made things much worse.

When facing the media in an interview with Triple J’s Hack, event founder Jessica Ducrou deflected blame on the weather, transport companies, and anything but the festival. She came across as tone-deaf and defensive. And this ‘apology’ was delivered long after people had made their way home from the disastrous event.

I teach my children that a true apology:

  • is timely (be quick to say sorry when you have done the wrong thing)
  • says what you are sorry for – this should be focused on the ticket holders, not the reputation of your festival
  • acknowledges how your actions have impacted others, and
  • takes responsibility and ownership for what you have done – and if possible, offer some sort of restitution

Splendour failed to do this in 2022 when it experienced an event akin to the infamous Fyre Festival, and it has done so yet again in 2024.

It has been a tough time for music festivals in Australia, but when you do not communicate quickly and often, you exacerbate chaos, damage your brand, and create panic for those with their time and finances tied up in it.

It is difficult to speak up, knowing that you will be disappointing people, and you may be tempted to want to have all the answers before communicating. But the disappointment only increases as your silence grows, and the number of questions increases when you take too long to say anything.

So the lesson here is, especially with change and bad news: communicate quickly and often, and don’t be afraid of the S word.

For PR that doesn’t stay silent, get in touch with our team of PR experts today.

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