Case Study: Hijacking the Olympics

Nearly 30,000 journalists have descended on London to report on the Olympics. Yet, almost a quarter of those journalists are not actually accredited to cover the Games. These non-accredited reporters are free to roam the city reporting on a whim.

Recognizing the potential danger of having thousands of reporters spending their time digging up unwanted coverage, London organizers have seized the opportunity and created the London Media Centre. The centre is strictly geared to feed positive news stories on London and the Olympics to non-accredited reporters. Pre-packaged stories about red post boxes painted gold, statues with hats, and sustainable restaurant challenges abound - a PR depository of London eccentricities with a positive spin.

Events of this magnitude capture a significant portion of precious air time and print space. For the PR cognizati, they can be both a boon and a curse for getting clients coverage. Curses fly when your client’s coverage gets consistently bumped in favour of the latest epic Olympic upset or underdog heroics.  However, it is also a unique opportunity to weave a client’s story into the larger narrative.

Last week we managed to insert our client, Avigilon, into the Olympic mix in the run-up to the Opening Ceremonies. Avigilon is a Vancouver based company that provides high-definition surveillance systems to organizations around the world, and they played an important role in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

When the London security debacle began to unfold, we were quick to jump in and offer an Avigilon spokesperson as a security expert who could decode the events on the ground. The pitch – what can London learn from Vancouver; how can surveillance cameras maintain public order by helping security forces see more; and how do they facilitate the strategic deployment of resources in an emergency – generated instant media interest. We earned prominent coverage on morning shows in multiple key markets.

News hijacking is one of a PRs more potent weapons. It requires getting the right story, to the right person, at the right time. It can easily backfire. But when it works, it is a satisfying win in our daily battle for the public’s attention.


Michael Lowry is a Senior Account Executive at Peak Communicators