Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chicago Marathon organizers: press send.

much of Woolard Speak is devoted to how companies can better communicate with their key constituents. to follow up on yesterday's recap of the Chicago Marathon, i want to highlight a few ways marathon organizers and those involved with the marathon could have cleaned up (heck - maybe even prevented) the pr crisis that's ensued. as of this moment, two full days after the marathon was canceled due to heat, i have not received any communication, or even a follow-up mass e-mail. the internet is booming with comments, quotes and stories told by runners, spectators and volunteers.

so, here are some thoughts...it's simple PR 101.

1) send an e-mail. the marathon organizers were diligent about sending pre-race e-mails to registrants. a simple recap of what happened, why and how it will be fixed next year should have been a) already drafted generically as part of their crisis communications planning and b) sent by now.
2) consider issuing a credit or discount for those who ran this year to be used to register for next year. the marathon is at great risk to have a major decline in participation next year, based on a bad experience this year. a little discount will go a long way in retaining runners and showing some goodwill.
3) encourage sponsors (Sprint, Mountain Valley Spring Water, Gatorade Endurance, Volkswagen, etc.) to take creative communication liberties. i know i'm thinking like a marketer here, but how powerful/relevant/meaningful would it be for Gatorade Endurance (which many are saying ran out, was warm, was not served properly) to send a coupon and a tongue-in-cheek e-mail about hydration. it would be met well by runners.
4) share the marathon's contingency/crisis plan. go public with what was in place to ensure safety and how that might be tweaked next year. that instills confident and addresses obvious questions from the runners and public.
5) bottom line, communicate. somehow. organizers are reaching the point where any e-mail will be too little too late. just do it. the database is in place. press send.

the power of talking...we preach communication and yet often overlook the simple solutions to big problems. humans are a forgiving lot. in this case, we runners get that it was unseasonably hot. but we also know that many things broke and broke severely. we want to hear from the people responsible. sometimes just hearing is all it takes.

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