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Dueling Documentaries Highlight Public Relations Missteps

Last week, Hulu and Netflix released documentaries about the infamous Fyre Festival and the man behind one of the biggest cons in entertainment history – Billy McFarland. The documentaries have been widely praised for shining a light on the negative impact influencer marketing can have on consumers.   

To tell you the truth, after watching both documentaries this past weekend something really irked me. The fact that these documentaries were even made was – in itself – a continuation of the influencer marketing campaign that created the fraud. Hulu paid Billy McFarland an undisclosed sum (which I can guess was large) to be interviewed for their documentary. Jerry Media, the social media company that had been hired by Fyre Festival, produced the Netflix documentary. These are major conflicts and ones that obviously taint the objectivity of both movies.

Since the release of the documentaries, Netflix and Hulu have been engaging in a tit-for-tat PR blitz against one another highlighting these conflicts. These back-and-forth exchanges are stirring up all sorts attention securing thousands of earned media impressions in the first week alone. Sound familiar? Sometimes the biggest “influencers” are the organizations themselves trying to drum up attention so that consumers will pay for their services. That is okay when you are not trying to pitch a documentary about the casualties of influencer marketing.

There is reason to question whether or not the social media firm involved in Fyre Festival should have taken on the project. In fact, there is a great segment in the Hulu documentary when one of the team members in the first pitch meeting commented on how they thought this could be a con job. They took the engagement anyway.

Watch both documentaries and let us know what you think.

A co-founder and partner, Mike has over a decade of experience working with clients on media relations, crisis communications, messaging, and more. His work has been honored in Virginia and nationally.