The Olympics have seen their fair share of bad public relations in the past. Take the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for example. Leading up to the events, the media clung to stories reporting on corruption, facilities not being prepared, and anti-gay sentiment amongst the Russian government.
Pictures of bathroom stall malfunctions and stray dogs circulated the world – and then there was the opening ceremony. Representing the union of the five continents, one Olympic ring malfunction threw the media into a frenzy highlighting an unprepared Russia and speculation of similar issues to come.
So what has Rio de Janeiro, the host country for the 2016 Summer Olympics, learned about maintaining a good public image?
Initially, it didn’t seem like they took great notes. Leading up to the games, little had been done to reassure the many athletes and visitors who have piled into the city. If you searched “Rio Olympics” on Google a week ago, you found very little about the athletes and instead reports highlighting corruption, contaminated water, the Zika virus, and increasing crime rates.
While the Opening Ceremony was deemed successful by the media given its much smaller budget, other aspects of the games aren’t going as smoothly as they’d probably like. The diving pool went from blue to murky green overnight with delayed explanation – proliferation of algae was to blame – and the rowing competitions have been plagued by polluted water.
While Rio may not win gold in the area of public relations this summer, it may be able to make it onto the podium with a few quick fixes.
Highlight the Olympic bidding process
The International Olympic Committee doesn’t just randomly draw a host city out of a hat. Seven cities submitted bids back in 2007, with Rio being seen worthy to host this renowned event. Yes, there are often stories of corruption relating to which city wins the honor, but there are still aspects of the city that led to its initial consideration. Highlighting these reasons – with a focus on the fact that it’s the first host city in South America, should help refocus the public on the positive aspects of the location.
Continue telling stories
We have heard the news reports of athletes who opted out of attending the 2016 Summer Olympics, but what about the stories of those who are competing? The media reflects what is trending with the public, so if you give viewers an athlete to connect with, the focus may change from internal problems to the games itself.
Since the start of the games, we have seen an increase in “Rio-Time Updates” on the official website, as well as segments about the athletes. Continuing with such coverage can do wonders for the host city. Who doesn’t love the United State’s Final Five team or hearing the inspiring stories of the 2016 refugee team?
Prepare for all situations
While the two previous pieces of advice may switch the focus away from negative Olympic news, preparing for all situations is a precautionary step to avoid a public relations disaster. Rather than waiting to explain a situation – such as the mysterious murky green pool – and letting speculations of all sorts rise, direct the issue immediately.
The games have definitely received more positive attention than negative since the start last week, but in order to maintain such momentum, the Olympic committee will have to address any issues that arise head on and focus on why Rio was believed worthy to hold such an important world event.