By Laura Oliphant
When it comes to talking about the G4S Olympic security bungle, the term “too little too late” springs to mind. Too few security staff, emerging too close to the Olympic start date. But as communications experts, there’s another “too little, too late” we’re interested in. No public comment and assurance until days after the shortfall became public.
Whilst I don’t agree with Jeremy Hunt’s view that a failure to meet commitments with an event of this size is “completely normal”, I accept that even with the best planning, things do go wrong. But, as every media training session and textbook recommends, when things do go wrong, a timely, accurate and assuring response is essential. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think G4S (who is incidentally recruiting for a PR Manager) and the Olympic team kept their media training handout.
When quizzed by PR Week, G4S’s PR team said CE Nick Buckles was “too busy getting the delivery right to talk to the press”. But we’d argue assuring the public in the UK and all those travelling to the Olympics from overseas about the state of our Olympic security is getting the delivery right. It was heading towards the weekend when Buckles, Hunt and eventually Lord Coe started to respond to media and public demand and went public with their views on the security situation. But during the previous 3-4 days the story had appeared in every paper/ news site, across the twittersphere and had been the topic of many a conversation at the work water cooler. The debate was fuelled by the families and supporters of service men and women understandably peeved that leave was being cancelled to meet the shortfall.
Whilst media interviews and public apologies wouldn’t have increased the number of security staff G4S could supply, there’s an argument that their reputation, public image and share price would have fared a bit better. I also suspect the story wouldn’t have rumbled on quite so long, risking more damage to an already fragile perception of the Olympic organisation.
That said, I am a huge Olympic supporter, and as a Games Maker I’ll be playing my part in being timely, accurate and assuring in my comments to the world’s media…