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Controversy at Cannes

Planning a successful event can be extremely stressful and in my experience there are often hundreds of details to consider, from larger aspects such as the venue down to tiny details such as place cards. As part of this it is amazingly easy for problems to arise, especially when dealing with the media, which can then spiral out of control.

A great example of this that I’ve seen recently was with the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where the media and the general public were outraged following the reports that women were turned away by security at the event because they weren’t wearing high heels.

The event saw a huge amount of negative press coverage that included public statements from many high profile celebrities. Models Kendall Jenner and Laura Stone were both spotted flouting the Cannes dress code by wearing flat shoes with their gowns, actress Emily Blunt spoke out against the organisation stating that the dress code was “disappointing” and that “everyone should wear flats, to be honest”, fellow actress Rashida Jones also weighed in stating the rule was ‘sexist’ and was quoted saying that “It’s part of a larger problem, which is heels are the worst. They make your legs look better, whatever, but mainly it’s men designing them and setting these rules. If they make a rule where that I have to wear heels on the carpet, then I’m making a rule that I’m just going to wear flats any time I’m asked to wear heels”.

A spokesperson for Cannes Film Festival has since attempted to defend the event organisers claiming that “regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years. There is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s. Thus, in order to make sure that this rule is respected, the Festival’s hosts and hostesses were reminded of it.” This then sparked even more media outrage, and saw numerous comments from the public on social media channels with the phrase #cannesheels becoming a trending topic on twitter.

How can other brands ensure that they run a successful event? Outlined below are my top tips to avoid making the same mistakes:

Pay attention to detail

At any event it is more often than not, the smallest details that attendees remember. This can be both positive and negative, for example people may be talking for years about one delicious canapé served, or alternatively they could always remember the time that they were spoken to rudely by the staff at an event. This being said, it is crucial to plan all aspects of the event and pay attention to even the smallest details i.e. if you want to implement a dress code make sure it is clearly and effectively communicated to all attendees prior to the event and always allow for there to be exceptions to the rule.

 Your workforce

Plan in time to train all staff that will be working at the event, making sure they are briefed to act professionally at all times. The people working for you are a representation on your brand, and therefore can reflect positively or negatively on your company. A helpful and polite workforce will ensure that the attendees have the best time possible and will remember the event for all the right reasons.

Dealing with the media

Be sure to prepare all your press materials ahead of your event, having quotes/statements ready if needed. Also try to pre-empt any questions that the press will ask, and have the answers ready especially when you are dealing with sensitive subject matter.

Crisis Management

Ahead of your event try to avoid any potential crises at all costs, make sure to have a full ‘run through’ with all event staff and highlight anything and everything that could possibly go wrong and discuss the solutions you can put in place.

If something does go wrong then make sure you have the right team in place that is able to deal with it quickly so that you can try to avoid the news reaching the media, or to make sure it is reported in the right way by the media.

Lastly apologise if needed. Acknowledge what has gone wrong and speak directly to those affected, making amends where possible. It is often too easy to make excuses and become defensive in difficult situations, but it’s amazing how far a simple apology can go.

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