Chicago’s Olympic loss offers PR lessons

Chicago’s failure to win the 2016 Olympic games was a blow to the city and to those residents who supported the bid.  The loss also offers a few PR best practices that can translate to nearly any organization.

  1. Bring your “A” team.  Always use your “A” team throughout an engagement.  In the case of the Olympic bid, Chicago carried the bid  until the last moment when national leaders came on the scene.  The outcome might have been different if it had been positioned as an American Olympic bid that was hosted in Chicago. 
  2. Identify and meet the customer’s needs.  President Obama personalized pitch to the International Olympic Committee did little to address the key concerns of the IOC: “…there is nothing I would like more than to step just a few blocks from my family's home, with Michelle and our two girls, and welcome the world back into our neighborhood.”  That comment explains the needs and wants of the president, but he did not identify the need for finances, housing, security, etc.  Likewise, don’t take your eye off the needs of your customers.
  3. Manage communications aggressively.  Less than a week before the IOC voted, Chicago’s newspapers were covered with stories about a high school honors student who was beaten to death by his peers.  This was only one in a series of teen deaths this year.  With the Internet, it is easy to find out about previous misdeeds or news you would rather not showcase.  The best way to avoid an unfortunate, ill-timed disclosure is to manage communications aggressively.
  4. Create messaging and stick to it. Chicago spent three years raising money and preparing for the Olympic bid, but recently the city fathers started introducing new talking points about how this event might impact the tax structure.  Create messaging early on and stick with it so your story is told in a consistent and compelling way.


–Linda Muskin

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