Crises. They are unpredictable and bound to occur. This is why it is so important to have a thorough crisis management program in place. Unfortunately for Splendour In The Grass, they spoiled a good weekend with poor crisis management.
When tens of thousands of campers tried to leave the festival grounds with only two exits, the result was 7 hours of gridlock. However, it was Splendour’s reaction that really sent people into a frenzy. Here is how they went wrong:
Obviously Splendour isn’t in control of traffic; however, they are in control of their response and a good response would have prevented the backlash.
Their response had three major errors:
- Slow – the first rule of crisis management is to act fast. This just demonstrates they were unprepared and didn’t have a proper plan in place.
- Dishonest – Splendour blamed the gridlock on a traffic accident up the highway, however people pointed out this accident had occurred hours after the gridlock started. This caused campers to lose trust in Splendour because they refused to take ownership, and instead were dishonest.
- No information – during a crisis, people want FACTS (Jin, Liu & Austin, 2011). Splendour chose to be vague with their response, likely to maintain face. However, it completely backfired as people became more and more frustrated with the lack of information.
THE FOLLOW UP
Hundreds of comments filled up Splendour’s posts on Facebook complaining about the situation. People ranted about toilets being locked up, food being closed and not receiving any information.
Instead of replying, Splendour chose to ignore them resulting in more frustration. A study demonstrated 74% of adults expect a response within an hour during a crisis. For this reason, organisations must engage with genuine complaints in order to let their publics know they are being heard. Otherwise, it appears as if the company does not care at all.
THE GLOSS OVER
Still having not addressed the full magnitude of the problem, Splendour continued to post on their social media about how great the festival was. Naturally, this was met with some anger from campers who were still stuck inside the festival grounds in gridlock.
Ultimately, pretending everything is peachy will not magically make things okay. This meant that a highlights video of the festival was flooded with complaints. It really put a damper on the whole weekend.
What can be learned from this situation is that crisis management needs to be timely and appropriate. Ignoring it, pointing fingers and being vague are surefire ways to make people pissed off. Hopefully Splendour will take on board the feedback and improve the traffic for next year, or at the very least improve their crisis management.
Jin, Y., Liu, B. F., & Austin, L. L. (2011). Examining the Role of Social Media in Effective Crisis Management: The Effects of Crisis Origin, Information Form, and Source on Publics’ Crisis Responses. Communication Research, 41(1), 74-94. doi:10.1177/0093650211423918