The Olympics are always a media extravaganza, as host cities launch public relations campaigns that dovetail with similar efforts by sponsors, teams, and various sporting associations. There are some PR secrets leveraged by Olympic organizers that can also help project teams capitalize on the media machine.
1 – Expect the unexpected. Your project team may not have to deal with a diving pool that suddenly turns green, but you could experience surprises that range from an executive unleashing a poorly-phrased remark at a conference to an accident at a jobsite that brings the project to a halt. Those managing the Project Team’s PR efforts need to be ready for just about anything, so be sure your media spokespeople are plugged into the project team’s activities and have access to the latest status information.
2 – Manage internal and external messages together. Athletes have sometimes learned key Olympics information from the news before being told by the organizers directly. In today’s world of social media and a 24-hour news cycle, your project stakeholders will almost certainly glean information not only from updates the Project Team provides but also from publicly-available sources. With multiple data feeds in play, it’s crucial that your core message be the same on every platform to avoid confusion or miscommunications. PR managers should also be careful to share news internally first, then distribute it to the public.
3 – Be ready to respond to bad press. Nearly every Olympics host city has felt the sting of negative media coverage. Visitors may want to air grievances about expensive mass transit options or athletes might encounter problems with their accommodations. Project teams will likely experience something similar at some point, even if it’s just a short news story that features outdated information or a misquoted expert. Because bad press could spring from almost anything, the Project Team should be prepared to head off negative stories before they develop a life of their own. Monitor the most commonly-used media outlets and address inaccuracies as you see them, while making fact sheets and updates available to the media so they have the latest information.
4 – Be available for inquiries. There has been a proliferation of non-traditional media outlets (blogs, video channels, etc.) in recent years, and any one of them could suddenly choose to feature your project or follow its progress. In addition, there are also newspapers and local TV stations who might be interested in the project’s impacts. It’s important that the Project Team’s media contacts make themselves available to these various media organizations. Consider posting contact information for the team’s designated spokespeople online so the press can connect with the right individuals.
5 – A focus on transparency is key. When athletes are suspended or timing equipment malfunctions, Olympic organizers that are transparent in their communications often experience less finger pointing and better media relations over time. PMP®s can adopt a similar strategy in the press by releasing facts as quickly as possible (subject to confidentiality concerns, of course) and refraining from editorializing data unless the additional perspective adds something useful to PR efforts.
6 – Generating excitement should remain a top priority. When it comes to the Olympics, the excitement of the athletes and spectators is contagious and savvy organizers know how to use this energy to build additional interest. The PR strategy of the Project Team, even as they’re responding to potentially negative press or doing damage control when problems arise, should also be focused on generating excitement for the benefits the project will produce. Messages must remain professional and fact-based, but there’s nothing wrong with being upbeat about everything the team has accomplished so far.