I’ve never had an experience like this. I’ve never been crushed up against a fence with my legs pressed between two tables. I’ve never stood in the sun for 5+ hours straight. I’m up in my hotel room just baffled. But I got this great pic when everyone shoved at once. #TanaCon pic.twitter.com/8B5oZuhCjS— Lissa Ray (@LissaRay_) June 22, 2018
Freeman, R. and McVea, J. (2001). A Stakeholder Approach to Strategic Management. SSRN Electronic Journal.
Gonzalez-Herrero and Smith (2019). Crisis Communications Management 2.0: Organizational Principles to Manage Crisis in an Online World.1. Organization Development Journal, 28(1).
Gregory, A. (2015). COMMUNICATING WITH CONSCIENCE; INFLUENCING ORGANISATIONAL LEADERS TO DO THE RIGHT THING A. [Blog] FuturePRoof.
Mongeau, T. (2018). Tanacon: The good, the bad, and the ugly.. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOR8c2z3sSk [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].
Waddington (2018). What's the purpose of public relations?. [Blog].
Since her first YouTube video in 2015, Tana Mongeau’s subscriber count has grown to 3.7 million. Along the way, she has become known as a dramatic and controversial YouTuber, as she uses her platform to share questionable experiences which often attract negative responses.
In April of this year, she posted yet another 'rant' style video. This one was about VidCon, an annual convention held in the United States for online video creators to meet their fans. It had over 30,000 attendees in 2017. In this video, Tana explains her negative experience at the event, and how she was not one of the main acts announced for the third year in a row, to her surprise. Instead, she has now been banned from VidCon altogether. At the end of the video, there is a lot of strong language and belittling of the CEO of VidCon and the convention itself.
For the first time, it seemed to Tana that the community was on her side. This growing support for her Anti-VidCon video encouraged her to host her own convention: TanaCon.
Held on June 22nd, the same day as VidCon, in Anaheim, just a few minute drive from VidCon, TanaCon offered free passes but also gave the option of VIP tickets for $65 prior to the event. As part of the paid ticket, Tana and Good Times Entertainment (an events and management company) offered attendees gift bags, private signings, personal pictures and line skipping, however the reality turned out to be completely different.
Users took to various platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to show off their goodie bags which consisted of a single condom and a set of stickers, explaining the reality of the event. The day involved being stuck in the California sun on a Summer's day, one six-hour long queue for both VIP and general pass holders, no food or water and quickly finding out that the event would be cancelled completely due to unexpected overcapacity.
Videos and images emerged, quickly taking over the Internet. People complained about their serious third degree sunburns, traumatic overcrowding experiences and the amount of money that was spent in order for them to attend TanaCon, with some sums coming up to $2,000.
In evaluating this event and its organisation, one reoccurring aspect is the spitefulness that it was based on. Tana explains in her apology video that the whole purpose behind this event was her hatred for VidCon, which is why it is unsurprising that an event planned within two months in spite of another convention failed so miserably (Mongeau, 2018).
Although it seems that Tana did not plan for it to work out this way, it was her carelessness and desire to be better than VidCon that led her to partner with Good Times Entertainment: the company which would support her in the planning of this event. Good Times Entertainment turned out to be less experienced than she realised at the time, and the alleged CEO managed to put self-interest before anything else throughout the planning period for TanaCon, leading to its downfall and also highlighting Anne Gregory's (2015) point that "once process, profits and power take over as priorities, the organisation is lost."
The answer here lies in taking the time to do sufficient research, which would have occurred as a result of setting out to achieve something with good purpose, principles and people. According to Waddington (2018), there is still a struggle in public relations between ethics and the commercial gain of a corporation, as he argues that there is still work to be done by PR professionals for organisations to become better corporate citizens. Even though this is true, the lack of any specific public relations or communications professional with relevant experience shows the need for this role to be filled in future events.
Even if a crisis like this had occurred with the help of a PR person, they would at least properly assist in online crisis management, should they be fully equipped for the role. This is another cause behind this crisis, as there was lack of any communications with key stakeholders who needed truthful information regarding the cancellation of this event and everything this entailed (Gonzalez-Herrero & Smith, 2010). As discussed with the class in the weeks that followed this discussion, it became clear that the presence of the internet has had a huge impact on PR in terms of the immediacy factor, which should have been taken into consideration during the planning of this event in order to prepare an adequate communications strategy (Gonzalez-Herrero & Smith, 2010).
Evidently, it is fair to say that stakeholders were not a priority for Good Times Entertainment, as it took too long for any communication to reach the key stakeholders of this event as tweets from attendees emerged explaining their frustrations:
- "I have a 14 yr old daughter that pushed past her fear of flying, depression and anxiety just to meet Shane Dawson! We flew from Canada! If you’re going to cancel the event just tell us now and give an automatic refund!! Don’t wait until 1:30 and waste our day!!!
#tanacon" - Twitter user @Lydiaslifeblog.
- "#AskJoshAndTana this one is specifically for Tana: are you still giving personal travel expense refunds to people who traveled from afar to attend Tanacon? pic.twitter.com/aQJ2uUQWdW" - Twitter user @AshleeMayorga.
The latter tweet was posted a month after the convention.
In summary, the main fault here lies in denying stakeholders any information during and after the convention, with many parents of young fans being left with questions unanswered. Therefore, this event is an example of why it is important to consider the purpose behind your business decisions as key thinkers like Simon Sinek (2009), Edward Freeman and Mcvea (2001) highlight the importance of the Separation Thesis which states that business cannot be examined without linking it to ethics. Moreover, in considering purpose, this would also allow for a business to contribute to stakeholder satisfaction; it is important to map out the stakeholders who will be affected by an event, state how you will be communicating with each group and carry out a risk assessment (Freeman and Mcvea, 2001) in order to insure an organisation against a communications crisis such as this one.