Recently, our summer intern Carly had the chance to visit London to observe media relations in action. A graduate from Auburn University, Carly joined the Cookerly team in May. She enjoys the fast pace of public relations, and she is excited to learn something new every day. In her spare time, Carly enjoys travelling and finding new places to explore in Atlanta. Carly is also an avid fan of Auburn Tigers football.
A few weeks ago, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to London, and – as a recent college grad – I jumped at this chance to observe as the city prepared to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. As I strolled through the streets of London, I wondered, how is England preparing for this kind of pressure? The eyes of the world will be on their nation, and the risk of a PR crisis is ever present.
Just about every news station and paper in the world wants to cover the Olympics. But while the ease of pitching is a gift for the Olympic media relations team, if something were to go wrong, the high-profile coverage could seriously backfire.
For example, early issues with the G4S security tested the crisis management team’s expertise before the Games began. In the weeks before, many of the contracted Olympic security employees did not show up to work, and several of the ones that did were found sleeping on the job. G4S admitted that they would not be able to provide the full amount of contracted security. Needless to say, in a city where terrorism is a real concern, the last thing you want is for your security to fall off the map two weeks before the Olympics. It’s really the stuff of nightmares for PR pros.
Will loyalties and royalties hold back the public relations potential? The Olympic Delivery Authority is only allowing companies that sponsor the Olympics to associate officially with the Games. From a public relations perspective, why would you not want a positive endorsement from anyone, regardless of sponsorship? The extent of the corporate backing rule is so strict that key audiences could be missed. Those firms that could provide a lot of proactive PR activity are holding back for fear of breaking a rule and accidentally mentioning “London,” “gold,” or “silver.”
Last week, an offensive tweet cost one young Olympian her chance at gold when she was dropped from her team. Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from her team after she published a racist comment. Social media may give a greater chance for fans to get to know the athletes representing their countries, but it may also provide the athletes a greater chances for major flubs.
But in just over a year, England has hosted the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Riots – not to mention years prior filled with royal happenings and tragedy. I think it is safe to say they know how to handle worldwide attention, good and bad.
Despite some rocky beginnings, London 2012 will likely be great from start to finish. For such a prestigious event to take place in a very well-respected city, it would be hard for the final review of the Games to be negative. After all, for anyone to bash the Olympics would leave them with their own PR crisis on their hands.
Image Credit: Sanfora