Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Olympics’ story. How Social Media can help to engage your audiences?

Communications challenges in ticketing, transport, tourism and security

I recently attended a CIPR event about the challenges that are facing companies such as TFL, LOCOG, Thomas Cook and G4S to effectively communicate their messages to people mainly around Britain. The event was called ‘From disengagement to engagement’ and it took place at the BPP Business School in Central London on the 28th of February.

I was pleased to see the acceptance of the event and how quickly it was nearly sold out. Paul Williamson, Director of ticketing said they moved the whole business online in order to engage people and get them to register. As a result, 99% applications were online and the high demand earlier in the sale process caused the ticket website to crash. Their main target was to get 2 million people registering online and they successfully managed to pass the initial targets.

What is more, through the online applications they realized that Britons had a variety of interests when it comes to sports. Interests varied from wrestling and beach volleyball to sailing and judo. Becoming aware of this helped them to keep people engaged by approaching them in a more personal way.

Their strategies included a fan club page that had Messi as endorsement for people to sign up and apply online for the tickets. Additionally, price range for those who were age 12 for instance were required to pay just £12 for any sport they would like to attend and also a consistent £20 entry point that was broadly purchased across Britain. However, the most interesting part of this is that unexpectedly, 1 million tickets have been sold for the Paralympics games which I believe it was an enormous achievement of the people at LOCOG. For those who have missed out on tickets there are some more coming up in April.

Thomas Cook, as the official provider of short breaks to the London 2012 games was also at the conference represented by its Manager Director Stephen Vaughan who talked about the emotional aspects of the games and the importance of the post games legacy to future games, customers, CSR and to London.

Although Thomas Cook is still offering tickets + accommodation, they are facing communications challenges as a result of the bad media coverage regarding pricing. They have been highly criticised for offering high-cost prices and they now are offering a much clearer information of what does the packages include in order to demonstrate that they are offering value for money to their customers. Additionally, they have been struggling with people outside London due to their lack of engagement with the brand that for most of them is mostly related to overseas holidays. As a result of this, they have been trying to create a greater awareness of their role during the games by using 500 pioneers internally to promote the brand and the games.

Among the most difficult challenges still to be dealt with are transport and security. TFL’s Director of Communications Vernon Everitt is running campaigns to manage UK’s travel demand and the provision of real time travel information. During the 2012 Olympics’ Games there will be not transport peak or off peak times for London, it will be all peak. Therefore, TFL is working towards maintaining confidence, transparency and a well prepared communication strategy to deliver the right messages, at the right time and with consistency before and during the games. Additionally, TFL is being proactive and creative in providing people with options to avoid hotspots; to do this they are publishing a comprehensive plan explaining what lines are going to be affected, and details about this can be searched through an interactive map available on the Get ahead of the Games website. Late night and extra services are also going to be running.

All these plans will hopefully enable businesses to plan ahead, get people to change their routes and reduce the impact of the event for all Londoners and visitors. As in the words of Everitt, let ‘sport to be the history, not transport’.

Finally, G4S’s would be the company in charge of the Games security. Its Director of Media Relations Adam Mynottt aims to position the company as ‘the smiling face’ of the games. However, the security during the games is going to be as strict and tight as one of an airport. This has brought the attention of the public as they will not even allow people to take perfumes or any other type of cosmetics in glass.

One of the most difficult communications challenges the security team is facing is the speed of communication to mitigate possible crises and the risk of ambush marketing. Positive media engagement is important for them to maintain people informed and to turn them into advocates in order to maintain the goodwill of the games.

The London Olympics 2012 is going to be the 1st Social Media Olympics in history and although these 4 organisations are having communications challenges, they have managed so far to meet the expectations and to undergo any problem by using Social Media mostly to transmit their messages nationally and internationally. Once more, it has been proved that Social Media nowadays has the power to turn around anything, from a very small project to a huge and emotional one the people will follow and love, like the Olympics.

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