Would you want to sleep in a muddy field, share portaloos with strangers, and not wash for six days? Well me and 170,000 other people did at this year’s Glastonbury festival.
So dominant in the UK festival market for the past 40 years, how did Michael Eavis recover from last year’s ‘disastrous’ event to produce a sell out festival this time round?
Could it have been the surprise success of Jay-Z, the unlikely headline act of 2008, the impressive and varied headliners they recruited for 2009 or ground-0breaking public relations?
As a Glastonbury virgin and a PR graduate I would love to say it was the latter, but I don’t think it was. There were no huge stunts, few cleverly targeted stories, but that is the beauty of Glastonbury. They don’t need to promote it too hard, it really does speak for itself.
I don’t think there’s a PR stunt impressive enough to make me want to spend six days in a tent without a shower, but you can’t argue with good old fashioned word of mouth.
Personally I know lots of people who have been before but I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy it. The aspect of Glastonbury that makes people go back year after year and recommend it to their friends is great event management.
In terms of the more classic idea of public relations on the run up to the event there are countless stories in the media from what the weather will be like in the newspapers, the bands that will be performing in the music magazines and what people will be wearing in the fashion magazines.
As much as this promotes the festival it doesn’t drive people to buy the tickets, as in this year’s case they had already sold out by the time of the media publicity.
What I personally believe to be the main driving force encouraging festival goers to Glastonbury is the holy grail of all PR campaigns – impartial BBC coverage.
The BBC’s live coverage and highlights is a powerful promotional tool. Even those who weren’t lucky enough were able to experience the acts live could watch the performers on TV. But it’s not the same as being there.
Being able to get a taster session of the event is a great publicity trick, showing people what they are missing. I watched last year’s coverage with pure jealousy; all my friends were there and I wasn’t so the BBC coverage convinced me to go this year.
However once at Glastonbury it is a public relations and promotional minefield. From the Orange Chill and Charge tent to the Greenpeace Police patrolling the camp sites, it is awash of organisations communicating with a huge cross section of the population. From the hippies who have been to every festival since 1970 to families with their babies in oversized headphones to wannabe rock stars or just your average music lover, organisations can have their pick of these captive audiences.
PR or no PR I honestly think Glastonbury will continue to be successful, now it has become an institution. Journalists will always write about the festival, whether or not a press office issues a release for the simple fact that people are interested in it.
Photos by the author