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Q&A: PR, social media & the Olympics

It’s no secret that social media played a significant part in the 2012 Olympics. Multichannel.com reported that social media research company Bluefin Labs found NBC’s coverage of the Summer Games to be more social than this year’s Super Bowl, Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes and last year’s World Series combined. With that in mind, we asked Heather Whaling, president of Geben Communication, how social media impacted the PR pitch during the 2012 Olympics.

Q: What sorts of products/clients have you pitched and what kind of coverage have you garnered?

Heather Whaling (HW): Our client, VenueSeen, is a social media monitoring/management platform that pulls in geotaggged photos from Instagram, Facebook and Foursquare. These Olympics have been dubbed the social Olympics – part of which revolves around the massive amount of photos being shared on Instagram, Twitter and other networks. VenueSeen can track photos by hashtag and location, so we’ve been able to pull together photos from the Olympics and turn that into media coverage. For example, Mashable highlighted 12 “medal-worthy” Instagram photos using data pulled from VenueSeen. Additionally, my client was on the local news talking about this year being the socialympics. We have an infographic going live this weekend on some pretty major national sites as well.

Q: How do you think social media has colored the PR pro’s job this year differently than in past years?

HW: There are lots of people pitching stories about social media and the Olympics, so we had to get creative to make sure our story resonated and attracted reporters’ attention. While reporters are inundated with pitches, they also have to create more content than perhaps in years past (content for the Web, multi-media, print, television, etc). VenueSeen was able to tap into that need for more compelling content by giving reporters easy access to fantastic photos, as well as interesting data about the massive number of photos being posted online from Olympic venues.

Q: How do you cut through the noise when pitching a news organization during a world event like this?

HW: You have to have something valuable to offer reporters. They’re inundated with pitches. VenueSeen’s technology gives us access to photos and data that you can’t get anywhere else. That piqued reporters’ attention and helped us secure high-profile, valuable coverage.

Q: Can you offer any tips on pitching around the Olympics to other PR practitioners?

HW: Be smart about what you’re pitching and who you’re reaching out to. As with any pitch, success requires a solid foundation of research. Know which reporter would be most interested in the content you’re offering. Send a smart, succinct pitch with a clear ask or offer. Make it easy for the reporter to decide if this is worth sharing with their audience or not.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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