The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are underway and, like most of America -- most of the world, really -- I'm fully engrossed in the action … and the drama. How will Michael Phelps' historic Olympic journey end? Is the current U.S. women's gymnastics team the best ever? What will the commentators say next and how will social media react? For two weeks every four years, we all stumble into work each morning groggy from staying up late the night before glued to our TV screens. We suddenly become fans of sports we hadn't even heard of the month prior, like race walking, trampolining and handball; and, in this day and age, we use patriotic Snapchat filters and share memes that highlight the Games' most humorous moments, like Aly Raisman's nervous parents and Phelps' baby boy in the stands. What is it that sucks us in to the Olympics? Is it the competition? The uniting of countries from across the globe? It's a combination of both: It's the storytelling.
While the outcome of each event remains unknown, the 2016 Summer Olympics' narrative began years earlier. It's an approach, this storytelling, that yields millions of viewers and billions of impressions every four years. It's also a strategy that, executed on a smaller scale, can help deliver a successful PR campaign. Here's how to take a page from the Olympics handbook for your own brand:
- Set the stage early. Before the Games began, everyone was already talking about them. Yes, some of that chatter was negative, but there was significant positive buzz before the torch was even lit. Getting the word out early about a product or campaign launch isn't just okay; it's necessary nowadays. By sharing embargoed news early, you can get key influencers on board as brand and product champions, pique the interest of top-tier media and even tee-up coverage to drop at launch.
- Go big out of the gate. While you might not have Gisele Bündchen walking the world's longest runway or an oiled-up flag-bearer representing your brand, it pays to have a memorable launch event to kick off your program and help establish the narrative. Creating an engaging, hands-on experience is a great way to get media and influencers talking not only about the product or campaign, but also the brand behind it.
- Get personal. From gymnastics to soccer, everyone loves a thrilling victory. But it's the people behind the success stories -- such as Syrian refugee Rami Anis, who swam to save her life, or Simone Biles, the U.S. gymnast who was adopted by her grandparents -- that gets viewers excited to watch more. By establishing an emotional connection between your brand and its customers, you're likely to secure more in-depth press coverage, establish brand loyalists and drive repetitive use or purchase.
- Spread the love. There's a reason why swimming and track and field take place during different weeks of the Games. If the most exciting events all aired on the first weekend, why would anyone continue to tune in? The same can be said for a PR campaign. Spread out the various tactics of your campaign to continue the positive momentum and keep the brand top-of-mind among both press and consumers for the duration.
- Capitalize on trends to reach new audiences. Get more bang for your buck by leveraging seasonal angles and trending topics to continue telling your brand's story. For example, aside from covering the celebrated athletes in Rio, the press is talking about hot topics like fashion (as seen in Fast Company) and cupping therapy, which has been featured in every news outlet from CNN and The New York Times to Mashable and Elle.
The keys to a successful PR campaign are the ongoing buzz about what is taking place and the excitement for what's to come. So remember this: You know the Olympics were memorable when people are still talking about those magical moments after the last medal has been awarded and everyone has headed home. You know they were a success when everyone already begins talking about the next Summer Games four years away.
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