Amith Prabhu: How PR at a gigantic event is pulled through together…

19 Aug,2013

By Amith Prabhu

 

Taking off from last week’s column on doing Public Relations the way Pope Francis does it I would like to highlight a few thoughts and observations from being present at World Youth Day – one of the largest global events held at a different venue every three years. The observations are in the realm of delegate outreach as many of us would have had or will have the opportunity to work on huge international events and these thoughts may resonate.

 

The event held in Portugese-speaking Brazil had to cater to over two million people from five different language groups – English, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, French and Portuguese.  The advent of smartphones enabled the organisers to be in touch with delegates throughout the event conveying venue changes, weather advisories and traffic disruptions.  Mass emailers in multiple languages played a lead role. Social media channels were well deployed with Twitter and Facebook used in full force.

 

The local government put its act together as this was a rehearsal for two global events that Rio will host in 2014 (Soccer World Cup) and 2016 (Olympics). The limited public transportation (metro and buses) were running on extended hours and in higher frequency. All registered delegates got travel cards pre-loaded with eight rides per day which was sufficient for round trips including transfers. The staff at metro stations and conductors on buses were especially trained to deal with millions of visitors. I was lost on more than three occasions and lack of local language skills made matters worse but the friendly locals and bus drivers always were willing to help.

 

Registered delegates were also given pre-loaded food cards to use at Ticket restaurants with a daily limit of $R40 which is good for two sumptuous meals. Every third restaurant in Rio accepts these cards and hence filing one’s stomach was not difficult. The trick to a successful event is to have good food made available easily to delegates. And this department was a fair success.

 

The tourist attractions in the city were geared up for the additional inflow of people. The three key spots – Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer and Copacabana is where all roads were leading to and these were kept clean with instructions in more than one language that made the experience of visiting them pleasant.

 

I have written about communications, transportation, food and the local tourist attractions. One would ask how do these connect with Public Relations. The answer is simple. Visitors to a new city seek that the above four are in order to have a great experience.  I was not present in New Delhi when India hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010 but the run up to the event was murky with numerous controversies of mismanagement. Similarly Rio witnessed numerous protests against the corrupt government a few months before this event. Those were aimed at the World Cup and Olympics that the locals feel are being organized with tax payers’ money and citizens believe they are getting no benefit from them.

 

Well, some of us will be involved in organizing large events in the near future and if we can advise the organizers to focus on the external in addition to the internal that will be a good Public Relations job. I will always talk highly of the people of Rio and the city of Rio because they offered me a memorable experience without hassling me. And I will go back there someday.

 

Amith Prabhu is the founder of The PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS – the annual summit for PR & Corp Comm professionals in India. During the day he is a full time employee at a leading Public Relations firm in their Chicago office. He spent the first eight years of his post graduation career in India and is in the US for two years of which he has completed 18 months. Views expressed here are the author’s own and don’t represent those of his past, present, future employer or of MxMIndia. You can connect with him on Twitter @amithpr

 

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