Thursday, February 25, 2010


I feel for John Furlong and the rest of the officials with the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee (VANOC), I really do. Logistical headaches are inevitable at any event on this scale; throw in the warmest weather in ages, and you’ve got a communications nightmare. For his part, CEO Furlong has gamely followed good crisis (and we use the term loosely in this case) communications fundamentals by being available to reporters regularly and frequently. He has also answered the key questions as to what happened and what is being done to correct the various problems, i.e. course conditions, lineups, transportation, etc. But for me, what tips this call to a Turnover – I think VANOC’s defence has been too strong to call it a Fumble – is the fracas around the massive Olympic cauldron. The public had been kept far, far away from the iconic structure, with an ugly chain-link security fence blocking all camera angles. VANOC did the right thing by moving the fence line such that people can now get much closer, and facilitating photos with an eye-level cut in the fence and access to an adjacent rooftop vantage point offering a clean shot. The big communications problems here have been two-fold: first, although they moved the fence, VANOC never once admitted it was a bad idea to have it where it was in the first place. A suitable acceptance of responsibility – and, in this case, an overt apology would have been in order – is essential in crisis communications response. And, more than that, the best solution to a potential PR disaster is to not have one in the first place. Unlike most (if not all) of the other problems giving VANOC bad press, somebody should have seen this one coming and fixed it at the outset.

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