Diary of an Olympic media manager…

The bunting is down but the memories of the London 2012 Olympics are still strong. What was it like to play a key role? Today I’m proud to introduce Eden Black, media manager for the Olympic Delivery Authority – the organisation responsible for the delivery of the London 2012 venues and infrastructure. Here he writes for Diary of an internal communicator to share his views on what the Olympics were like from his perspective both before, during and after, and how his team are now focusing on the future. Over to you Eden…

Diary of an Olympic media manager
Almost as quickly as it came, it went. But we had a blast. We hugged and cheered, booed and cried, bought flags and sang the national anthem 63 times. The London 2012 Games were everything they were billed to be – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And like the athletes competing, I have felt truly privileged to be part of something that has further defined Great Britain.

Working as the media manager for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) shares some similarities with the Games. The highs, the lows; the anticipation and sometimes frustration felt while watching our sportsmen and women pursue their goals. These emotions were often mirrored in my working day. Intense media interest and scrutiny ensured my team has been kept busy handling enquiries, proactively working on messaging or planning events, with every day presenting fresh and unique challenges.

With a project as large as London 2012, you are going to attract significant attention – and not all of it positive. We were under the microscope of the national, regional and trade media, while, for international journalists, interest quickly grew as writers and broadcasters from around the globe locked onto London.

Success of a small team
Our ability to handle the media with a relatively small team has undoubtedly been aided by the fact that this was an extremely successful construction programme. Irrespective of that, a number of issues surfaced before, during and afterwards, while probing questions about where and why public money was being spent were naturally raised. Our stance has always been to be open and transparent, while letting our results do the talking regarding providing value for money.

A regular flow of information was vital to keeping media up-to-date with our progress. We developed a strategy whereby we announced milestones, such as when the stadium roof was completed or the foundations were laid for the Velodrome. Regular media updates were interspersed with media and stakeholder events marking out significant milestones, such as two years to go until the Games, then a year to go.

Others included the handing over of the Olympic Park and the completion of the Olympic Village. Each of these was as significant as the other as they all concluded part of the narrative and ensured as many outlets as possible received our message.

Of course, in the early days the challenge was in selling the notion of progress to journalists before the first hole had been dug or brick laid. That said, the job of pitching grew less tricky as the structures began to emerge from the ground, to the point that journalists were haranguing us on quiet news days for the latest images or updates.

Once the construction was completed – on time, on budget and a year ahead of the Games – we then focused on our other responsibilities, including getting spectators to book their travel tickets in advance, advertising and street trading regulations and surface transport, such as buses, coaches, and park-and-ride sites.

And where do we go from here? For me, the end of the Games hasn’t marked the end of my involvement, as my team works on creating a communications strategy for the retrofitting on the Olympic Village, which is being transformed into London’s newest community, East Village. The show may be over, but for us there is plenty more to be done.

Thank you for such an interesting article Eden. What do you think of what he’s written? You can comment below or via Twitter @AllthingsIC. If you would like to see your name here and have an idea of an article you’d like to write, do read my guest guidelines and get in touch, Rachel

Photo credit: London 2012

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