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PR lessons you can learn from the Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster debacle

A lot of fans were left singing “I knew you were trouble” at Ticketmaster after they handled the ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” stadium tour last week. Spotty communication, no communication at all, or pushing the blame onto other parties are just a few of the many complaints Swift fans are throwing at the ticketing platform's communications people.

So, what exactly happened and why are fans so angry at Ticketmaster?

Fans did everything Ticketmaster asked of them. They pre-registered for their “Verified Fan” program which is meant to prevent bots from scalping tickets, they chose the shows they wanted to attend, and they waited for the sale. Over 3.5 million pre-registered — the highest ever for a verified fan registration — and out of that group, 1.5 million received a code to purchase tickets for one of the 52 shows.

It’s why fans are wondering why the technology failed and bots were able to get through to list thousands upon thousands of tickets ending up on resale sites like StubHub for as much as $21,600.

Like with any public relations crisis, there are always a few lessons to be learned.

Take ownership of mistakes — don’t skirt the blame

The day following the pre-sale fiasco, Live Nation’s chairman Greg Maffei didn’t apologize for their ticketing platform. Instead, he stated “It’s a function of Taylor Swift,” essentially shifting the blame to her rather than their own failings — not a good move for the hoards of already angry Swift fans.

When you try to push the blame onto someone else, it not only looks bad for the brand but also shows that you lack awareness of your own product and what your company stands behind. Even worse, you ruin your reputation with people your business needs, like how Ticketmaster needs big artists like Taylor Swift to continue using their platform.

If your business can't do what you claim to do, like sell tickets at a high-demand without the site crashing, how can your customers trust you? An effective apology during a PR crisis helps you take ownership of what happened by accepting the blame and showing your customers and stakeholders how you’re going to fix the problem in the future. But an apology isn't where it ends. This is where crisis PR starts. Let's go on to next steps.

Quickly and clearly explain the problem and what went wrong

In PR, you want to control the narrative. Giving people explanations and answers as to what happened in a clear, succinct manner prevents the crisis from completely getting out of your hands.

The 24 hour news cycle never sleeps so it's important to take control of the story as quickly as possible. Instead of immediately issuing a statement, Ticketmaster waited until November 18th to release their explanation on what happened. This left fans (and the media) without a clue on what happened, causing social media to be a firestorm of misinformation to snowball and a lot of anger directed at Ticketmaster.

By not dealing with the situation swiftly and explaining it thoroughly, speculation occurs. Every news station and outlet was reporting on the incident causing more and more people to investigate what happened. The media coverage was so large — and loud — that now Ticketmaster is being investigated by the Department of Justice.

Validate your customer's experiences and feelings

As a master of image control, when Taylor Swift released a statement she began speaking directly to the people that matter the most to her: her devoted fans. Knowing they were frustrated and upset, she immediately validated their feelings and talked about their decades-long relationship. Better yet, she touched on why she brings elements of her career in-house to ensure her fans have a positive experience instead of dealing with a third party like Ticketmaster.

Although Swift does mention her frustration with the ticketing giant (and states that they warned them about the demand), her statement focuses on empathy with her fans that didn't get tickets and thanks them for wanting to be a part of the tour. She even mentions how she can work to ensure this situation is improved for future sales.

Brand loyalty goes a long way. The way a brand responds to a crisis directly influences how loyal their customers become, with over 53% of people saying they would be loyal to a company if they responded to a crisis. It's why Taylor Swift is one of the biggest singers in the world — she's created a strong relationship with fans for over 10+ years and they stand by her. By speaking directly to her fans and validating their experiences and concerns, she shows that they aren't just a number or a ticket to her. They matter.

Ready to take control of your story? Contact our tech PR agency

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