Watch and Listen

The Boat Project's Olympic themed PR

Date: 09 May 2012 09:26

Finally, the PR finally set sail on the Cultural Olympiad, supposedly core plank of London’s Olympic dream. And well overdue it was too.

This fine concept was the much-trumpeted (and since endlessly debated, argued over and riven) programme of cultural happenings timed to coincide with the Games themselves. Since its announcement it has been widely disparaged in the media – often by those from organisations you might expect to back such an initiative.

However, its launch (in positive media terms) has much to tell us about the way that great PR can make or break success (or otherwise) in public consciousness.

And that launch was marked by the setting sail of Collective Spirit – perhaps one of the most expensive stunts that we’ll see for the Olympics, but one that I think will repay endlessly for its potential to take on iconic status in PR terms.

For those not familiar with Collective Spirit, here’s a brief, but instructive film-ette:

The boat was funded by £500,000 of Arts Council money – which makes it a rather pricey PR stunt by anyone’s reckoning. The fact that it seems to have caught the media’s attention (and affection) however, may turn out to be priceless.

Why did this float where so many others have sunk without trace?

There are many reasons why this makes a great story. The simple fact though that it shows one man’s craft in a way that is visually stunning is the key plank though.

The media – and indeed the public – will always prefer a personal story as exemplar of intangible concept (particularly one was ephemeral as a Cultural Olympiad). The tale of one man’s endeavour and artistic skill makes the concept come to life in a way that no end of briefings and “programmes” could not.

The fact that it is a vessel for so many real people’s stories means endless media opportunity – every piece of the boat has a story to tell and something to whet the media’s appetite, right down to the regional media for each and every contributor

It’s a story that keeps on giving – from the call to donate pieces for the making of the boat to its construction to its launch and beyond to maiden voyage, visits to regional coastal towns and its final destination. The story can be told time and time again.

This is a reminder to anyone in the world of PR that sometimes it takes a simple, single project with a great story behind it to cast a halo on a multi-million pound endeavour or belief. Since the dawn of time, we’ve preferred icons to concepts.

Collective Spirit is an icon that will stand for all that the Cultural Olympiad is supposed to deliver … and demonstrates the power of great PR to deliver when an abstract “objective” is made manifest with creativity and class.

James Gordon-MacIntosh is a managing partner at Hope&Glory PR and from time-to-time pens Spinning Around, a blog that he describes as “thinking out loud”

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