Let me get the disclaimer out of the way in advance: the Make a Wish Foundation is not an official sponsor of the Olympics. If you had been at Wednesday’s PRSA Houston presentation you’d understand why that’s funny. For those of you who weren’t, I’ll just add that I’m not an official sponsor either. From what I understand, these are important statements to make when talking about the Olympics.
The topic for the September 2012 PRSA Houston luncheon was “Brand Storytelling at the Olympics” featuring Petri Darby, the director of marketing, communications & digital strategy for Make-A-Wish America.
I’ve been following Petri online via his blog and other social media channels. One of the perks of attending the luncheon was the chance to meek Petri in person. (I honestly cannot remember if this is actually the first time we’ve met. I keep thinking “surely we’ve met before?” but cannot remember doing so.)
Petri’s presentation was wonderful. I have that same gut reaction most people do when hearing about Make-a-Wish… “awww…” The fact is that they do wonderful work. However, getting an inside view on what it took (from a communications view) to take a record number of kids to the Olympics this year was very illuminating.
I’m sure Petri or Make-a-Wish will write a white paper on it at some point. However, I wanted to take a moment to share a few key points I took away from the presentation:
There were two areas he discussed: storytelling and media relations. Though I don’t think he called it media relations, that’s the category I would place the info into.
Storytelling — prior to going to the Olympics, started to changed the focus of marketing/communications from third-person stories to first personMake-a-Wish had several projects that attempted to get this off the ground, including redoing their website (not a complete overhaul, I think)the Olympics were a storytelling success.
Media relations — they did lots of prep; they worked to capitalize on opportunities as they were presented, and they promised and delivering good content to media. All this worked in their favor.
- it’s about “me” and not about “them” — the reality is that getting the families to tell their own stories, through photos and video, was much better than someone writing in third-person corporate-speak.
- didn’t let the technology get in the way — tools donated to allow media uploads included HTC smartphones and dropbox. They set up media with access to the photos and video worked within their limits.
- be prepared — most of the media relations successes wouldn’t have occurred if they had been playing catch-up at the last minute. They worked out the technology issues in advance, they knew which families were approved for media coverage, they had the contact information for the media they were going to need make it local. While they did work with national NBC for coverage and partnership, they also focused on getting stories in the local markets where each of the families were located. take advantage of last-minute opportunities — several families were present when the US gymnastics team won the gold, and they had photos of the win. This is something Make-a-Wish was able to pitch to their local NBC affiliates, coordinating with the NBC crews in London for interviews.
All in all, it was a great presentation.
NOTE: I wrote this on my ipad, then never published it because I kept thinking I’d come back to proof and edit. More than a month later, I published this with typos… promising to come back later and make it better… knowing I probably won’t. I decided it was better to get the content up than to never publish in expectation of perfection. It’s one of several posts I’ve published in this manner.