How Ultra should have managed their social media crisis

We are here in Miami for the Ultra festival which has been great, however getting back home was not so much. Read on to find out about what happened and how you can manage a social media crisis.

What happened at Ultra

At 12:50am this morning we decided to leave Ultra to get home before the rush. We joined the line for the shuttle which started off with a barrier to create a queue, but later ended up becoming a huge free for all, which meant that everyone was cutting in. They had a lot of staff on the other side of the barrier directing the occasional shuttle (which was obviously going to stop in one place).

After about 45 mins of being in the queue and having no direction/management from staff I shouted over to one of the staff to let them know that this is only going to get worse and people are already starting to get a bit aggressive. Not much was done to resolve it.

2:00 am everyone else from the festival came out and joined the ‘queue’ which at this stage was even worse. One of the guys from the queue took it upon himself to direct people to the right place! Still no staff.

At about 2:15 am we decided to make a move and leave the queue as there had been no update about what’s happening and no improvement in the management of the queue. More and more people were cutting in and we couldn’t control it!

We started to walk. At this point, the remaining people at the festival were flooding out and joining a queue for a shuttle which wasn’t going. People were running across the road and there was no control of the madness. People were dehydrated and were sitting in random places etc. It was absolute mayhem!

For about an hour and a half we walked across the bridge of Virginia Key to get to mainland- which was also completely packed with people lying on the streets, waiting for Uber’s etc. Luckily we weren’t too far, but a lot of people still had another trip to make further on!

In the meantime, social media (particularly Twitter) was blowing up! And where were Ultra? Nowhere to be found. No comments, acknowledgements or updates on any situation at least. Overall, a complete lack of organisation. If you’re going to create an event like this in a new venue, all potential crisis should be covered from a health and safety perspective and from a social media perspective.

We got home at 4am dehydrated and with blisters :( Not quite ready to head back to the festival today (it’s now 16:34 EST).

(Head over to @misspunjabhI on Twitter to see videos and photos of what happened).

Social media crisis comms

I am a social media consultant and have worked in the industry now for almost a decade. Putting a crisis comms into place especially for an events company, is one of the key priorities. So, here’s 4 top tips on how to manage a situation like this.

Pre-planning and integration

The most important thing is to make sure a plan is in place to manage all potential crisis that could take place. This isn’t something that you do in one team, it MuST be integrated between PR, social media, customer services, logistics, management and any other key stakeholders. If you don’t have a plan in place before such a huge event, you’re planning to fail.

Cover all areas

In your crisis comms you should have a list of all the potential problems that could happen. Ultra have seen what happened with Fyre Festival, so this should have been an absolute number one priority.

This list of potential problems that could occur from people complaining about toilets through to big crisis like a fire, terror attack etc should be put into a word document along with the likelihood of this happening. Once we have this, you then add in the way in which you would resolve this and who needs to be involved.

Talk to your team- do a debrief

Once you have a plan in place, tell your stakeholders/team members so they know what is expected if this happens! There’s no point in creating a crisis comms if only the marketing team know about it!

Add key contact details

A crisis can happen during work hours or at night, so make sure you have the contact details of every person that needs to be involved so you can sort out the issue ASAP!

What Ultra should have done

Appreciate there’s a lot going on, but there were thousands (approx 30k- 175k, I’m not 100% sure) who were on social media trying to find out what’s going on. Ultra responded with silence but they should have al least acknowledged the issue. Burying your head at this crucial time, is not the best reaction. Even saying something like: ‘We are experiencing some problems with the shuttles as there has been an accident. Please be patient’ would have at least given everyone some sort of update on the situation. Any sort of update (didn’t have to be this) needed to be sent to at least ease the pain of 30k people walking back to mainland.

Ultra have sent out a tweet now to apologise but it’s cost people flights, $70+ for Uber’s home etc. I think you can do better than that Ultra? Back in the UK Wireless Festival (@WirelessFest) had a cancellation from Drake and gave all attendees free food and drinks vouchers to compensate. Surly a festival as big as Ultra could do something like this?

What will happen tonight, we don’t know. Follow me @misspunjabhi on twitter to get the latest updates tonight!

P.S. if you would like a copy of a crisis comms template please email


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