Three Communication Lessons from the London 2012 Olympics

Photo courtesy of Christopher J. NolanSocial media is taking a center stage during the London 2012 Olympics.

NBC Universal, which invested a reported $1.2 billion in the Games, took considerable heat for their taped delay approach. “Spoiler alert” has become a preface to nearly every newscast as media reported on victories before the masses could watch bigger events in prime TV. Ironically, TV ratings appear to increase even when viewers know the outcomes.

Paul Kelso, chief sports reporter for The Telegraph in the United Kingdom reportedly stated earlier this year, "Twitter is going to be the de facto news delivery service for the 2012 Games."

Communication lessons from London abound for corporate communicators. Here are three:

1. Dig deep and tell the stories. Though the London Olympics will close on Sunday, the legacy of epic performances by superstars like swimmer Michael Phelps, gymnast Gabby Douglas, and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius will live on.

Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Nolan

These athletes all have gripping stories of overcoming adversity and personal challenges to fulfill an Olympic dream in the pool, on the mat or around the track. NBC Universal and other news outlets know everyone loves a great story. 

At its heart, the Olympics are all about stories. Stories of redemption. Stories of adversity. Stories of the unexpected.

Put it in action:

-Scan your organization for employees and leaders with compelling stories and feature them in Intranet articles, photos and video.

-Connect these stories back to your business, your mission and your brand.

2. Connect with your audience in new ways – To enhance the prime-time viewer experience, NBC developed a suite of apps including an interactive viewer guide during prime time. The interactive guide included bonus content, photos, quizzes and other supplemental material. In the future, look for more interactive guides for bigger sporting events, TV shows, concerts and newscasts. With a remote in one hand and an iPad in the other, viewers are now more engaged than ever thanks to the digital pioneers behind the London 2012 Games. 

Put it in action:

-Find new ways to reach your target audiences either digitally or in person.

-Don’t rely on just your traditional communication channels. Pilot new ones for a truly integrated approach.

3. Innovate – Don’t just use social media for updates. Push the channels to new heights. Look to  Visa, a worldwide Olympic Games sponsor for more than 25 years, for inspiration. The credit card giant last week introduced a new congratulatory ad honoring Phelps as the most decorated Olympian of all-time. 

For the first time, Visa used actual video and photo cheers from U.S. fans submitted via its Visa's Cheer application on Facebook to star alongside Michael Phelps. Watch as Morgan Freeman congratulates this 28-year-old swimming hero with the help of Visa customers.

Here is a video that Visa posted of Phelps before the games to reinforce that campaign.

Put it in action:

-Not all corporate communicators can afford to sign on gold medalists to endorse their brands or causes, but you can get creative by adapting and pushing social media to new limits.

-Rhudy & Co. is using a tagging campaign in Facebook for one of our clients that is netting increased online engagement for an upcoming event.

-Explore using Twitter hashtags to get your audiences to share your messages by tweeting live from your events or locations. And remember “quality” social media connections can do more for your brand than sheer “quantity.”

Jonathan Rhudy is pulling for Olympic middle-distance runner and avid Tweeter Nick Symmonds in today’s 800-meter finals as he goes for gold. Read how Symmonds is building his own social media brand.