Knitting & #Ravelympics Case Study: Responses ignited into crisis situation for US Olympic Committee
In the news, we are seeing various reports on crisis situations around the country as well as around the world. We have had a lot so far this year in 2012 – starting off with the Costa Concordia and then the continuation of the Jerry Sandusky trial. What we have also found in this year even more so than ever before is the power of social media in a crisis situation. Spreading comments, information, updates, videos and links around the world in a matter of seconds has become a top priority for some organizations to take notice.
Even in public relations, we are seeing the focus on establishing social media command centers to monitor, listen, and respond to comments and mentions appearing online. Dell with the American Red Cross, Edelman Digital, and Golin Harris are just a few leading companies implementing high tech social media command centers.
One of the things you learn in crisis communications is the fact that there will always be something going on. Whether it is in sports or even corporations, or it could be events that no one has control over. However, there are moments where some situations could have been avoided if we just took a moment and thought – okay, what do we need to do to handle this situation?
Well, I am talking about a crisis that involved knitting. Yes, I did say knitting. Actually, it involves a knitting social media group called Raverly, and they wanted to initiate a knitting competition similar to the marathon event to celebrate the upcoming Olympics titled “Ravelympics.” However, the US Olympic Committee sent over a cease and desist letter for the copyright name of the Olympics. Twitter has been discussing this via the hashtag #Ravelympics in case you want to see what others are sharing (link here to Topsy search results). There were several excepts of the letter that caused some emotions to rise and made this knitting community to go directly to the US Olympic Committee website with their comments, but this was one that was reported by Yahoo! Sports from the US Olympic Committee:
“We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”
Yikes! There are several lessons we can take away from this crisis. First, don’t try to disrespect other members of the community who are inspired by the event. The Olympic Games is a global and universal sporting event – the US Olympic Committee should be flattered that a knitting group would be inspired to host their own version of an event from the games. Second, make sure you strategize and consider what messages you want to send out to the right platform and medium. Statements are used when appropriate – but where is the conversation and interaction for these audiences? What about taking the time to reach out to them personally and talk about this? That could have been one way to go about it – but the fact is, social media is different than traditional media – so you have to respond to the issues and concerns being raised in a different manner.
In addition, this case could have easily been avoided by the US Olympic Committee, and as a result has shifted from being discussed on social media to be a headline story in some major news outlets. Last point, never underestimate the power of social media communities – they are dedicated individuals who have a voice and passion for a particular topic or issue – and it is key to be respectful and have proper etiquette. This is not only a lesson for the US Olympic Committee, but something all crisis communication and public relations professionals should be aware of as well.
Hope you all are having a great day!
P.S. UPDATE: I have been very impressed to see know the knitting community has mobilized and been sharing their insights about this issue with the US Olympic Committee, and this case has been one that has not only used Twitter, Facebook, and social communities to get active, but there is even a Pinterest board dedicated to Ravelympics. Definitely a very strategic move to get information out about this case to various audiences on social media.