07 February 2014

By Ken Payne

The Winter Olympics in Sochi got off to a shaky start this week with media reports of dirty water, unfinished sidewalks, and cameras watching shower stalls. The opening ceremony at the very least gave journalists something pleasant to write about, for a time. But, now that everyone is settled in and the torch is lit, how will Sochi organizers manage the day-to-day feeding and caring of the media – especially the thousands of commenters, tweeters, influencers, bloggers, and fans around the globe who will not attend the games in person?

TEKGROUP decided to take a look at the most logical point of connection for this passionate group of storytellers and the games – the Sochi 2014 online newsroom. Now, one doesn’t just drop into the Sochi 2014 online newsroom directly – there is no “media.sochi2014.com” address to follow. You have to click around a bit as it’s not entirely obvious from the Sochi 2014 homepage if a special section dedicated to the media exists. Closest thing we could find was the News link in the top global navigation – so click we did. And, here’s what we found:

Here we were greeted with the news of the day – athlete profiles, feel-good stories, the opening ceremony, and short results posts on who was the fastest or highest or trickest. Besides News there’s a section for Photos and Videos – both for viewing only, no downloads of any digital assets available. Some of the articles included links to press releases – but unfortunately the links went nowhere. And, a quick tour of the video section hours after the opening ceremony produced a single smartphone-camera video of the opening ceremony countdown clock, and subsequent fireworks taken blocks away from the Olympic stadium.

But, what was even more startling was the complete absence of social media properties – no links, no feeds, no timelines, and no hashtags. Not a single one. Go look for yourself (www.sochi2014.com)! It’s really quite amazing. I had heard Olympic athletes were banned from social media during their stay, but I had no idea the ban extended to the highest levels of news and information gathering and reporting. This is especially troubling given the results of our recent online newsroom survey indicating a clear majority of journalists expect online newsroom to provide links to social media properties

Suffice it to say the Sochi 2014 organizers have, in my opinion, missed yet another great opportunity to change the global narrative. This may not be apparent until one compares the Sochi 2014 site to another winter sport power that is set to host the Alpine World Ski Championships in 2015 – Vail Resorts and the Vail Valley Foundation. Here’s a quick look:

Sure, Vail covers all the basics in their online newsroom – news releases, news stories, fact sheets, media guides, story ideas, photos, videos, and media contacts – but, they also integrate their social media properties into the fabric of their online social media relations plan though Facebook links, Twitter feeds, blog posts, YouTube channels, and RSS feeds. And it doesn’t stop there. The Vail PR team makes extensive use of the distribution and media monitoring capabilities of their online newsroom, allowing for real time tracking and reporting of key stories, mentions, and social engagements.

The first gold medal goes to Vail Resorts! Good luck to all our Team USA athletes.

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