London 2012: sensationalism is part and parcel of journalism; public relations must be equally as bold

London 2012: sensationalism is part and parcel of journalism; public relations must be equally as bold

Austin Brailey

Austin Brailey

Ninety per cent of souvenirs for the 2012 Olympics were made abroad, according to recent headlines.   The London 2012 Organising Committee must have known the story would eventually break and outcries would follow, but how well did they do with reputation management?

The first rule of journalism is to “inform and entertain” and this story has everything: a global event, a damning statistic, and a reason people should care. It plays on the subconscious expectation that everything associated with London2012 should ultimately benefit everyday Britain, an expectation carefully crafted by the backers of the bid (and undoubtedly, PR consultants) in the first place.

Therefore my initial reaction, like many others’, was one of anger. Then I wondered how those responsible could defend themselves. I found it – starting with paragraph 10 in the Daily Telegraph’s report:

“Ninety per cent of our licensees are British companies and those which aren’t UK companies all have UK offices, employing UK staff.

"All London 2012 products have their design, development and creative work done in the UK and as a result of winning these licenses, companies are employing more staff in the UK.”

It makes sense. As Locog explained, many products supplied and sold by British companies are made overseas. For whatever reason and unconnected to the upcoming Olympics, Britain is based on a knowledge economy. This country has not been a manufacturing power for some time. If what Locog is saying is true, there is a very good defence to the Telegraph’s story. Their response was completely omitted from the Daily Mail’s report.

That is journalism folks. “90 per cent of souvenirs made abroad” is much more entertaining than “90 per cent of London 2012 licensees are British companies”.

Locog should have been much more aggressive in their response to this story and stamped out the possibility of the issue arising again. What journalist in their right mind would refuse a phone call with Sebastian Coe to hear his side of the story? As the story was covered by only a small number of publications (it didn’t cause a global uproar), his response could even have been sold in as an exclusive to guarantee a big piece.

What actually happened? A reactive ‘statement’ from a ‘Locog spokesman’ buried beneath emotive, intricate examples of souvenirs produced abroad, such as “…Union Jack-emblazoned tea cups, crystalware, tea towels and even fluffy toys on sale were produced by foreign workers.”

Stamping this out with a proactive public relations offensive would have helped educate people on the reality of the situation. Instead, nothing was done, and four days later The Independent reported London 2012 tickets printed in Arkansas.

Locog, our new business chap’s name is Fraser, if you’re interested.

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  1. Brilliant post Austin but you’ve got to remember good news
    is never newsworthy such is the case in this Olympics reporting.

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