Understanding diverse media – and how to successfully pitch to them – is an extremely important aspect of our job as PR professionals. And with all eyes turning towards Russia in anticipation of the start of the Olympic Winter Games, I thought it would interesting to turn the table on someone who covers the Games for the leading sports business publication, to provide some insight into what a reporter's life is like on the ground at the Olympics.
A 10-time Olympic veteran myself, I asked another Olympics regular, Sports Business Journal's Tripp Mickle, to discuss his experiences as he prepares to cover his fourth Olympic Games in Sochi.
What's a typical day like for an Olympics beat reporter?
The first three to four days before [an Olympic] Games are filled with sponsor press conferences and the International Olympic Committee's meetings. Once the Games begin, I try and schedule meetings with sponsors and sports leaders at events or hotels or hospitality locations. I gather information for a few stories, usually in the morning, and then spend a portion of the day writing at the press center or an event. Then I close the day meeting with people at USA House or other events.
What are you planning to focus on and off the field of play?
One of the things I'll be watching is the spectator-pass system that Sochi is implementing. In order to get access to the Olympic Park, spectators have to have passes that go along with their tickets. It's never been done before, and there's fear it could result in long security lines and logistical issues for guests.
On average, how many pitches do you get a day during the Games?
Wow. That's so hard to answer. I'm going to guess that I get four to six a day. Over 17-plus days, that adds up to a lot.
What was your best Games experience so far and why?
It's hard to beat my first Olympic moment in Beijing. Like so many others, I was seated in the Bird's Nest wondering what all of the boxes spread across the floor of the stadium were. Then, 2,000 drummers rose simultaneously and began pounding in unison. It was jaw dropping and captured everything that makes the Olympics different from any other sports event in the world. It was so much more than an Opening Ceremony. It was China displaying its culture to the world, and that's part of the magic of the Olympics. It's really the only place in sports where you see global politics, economics, issues and sports collide.
What should PR people keep in mind when pitching you during the Games?
I have a crash cycle during the Games. It's a long period of travel; the days are long, hectic, and logistically challenging. You're scurrying from place to place and meeting to meeting. It's taxing, and usually, about five to seven days in, I'll have a day where I'm just dragging. I know when that day hits, it's time to get some rest and regroup because I've still got another week or two to go. It's a marathon of sorts and you have to pace yourself.
Like Tripp said, the Olympics are a taxing – but an incredibly rewarding – experience for media, as well as for marketers. It is an opportunity for brands to make a splash on the world stage while supporting athletes who have accomplished major feats in order to compete. Reporters on the ground likely will be more pressed for time than at any other time of the year, so make your pitches count. There are more than 10,000 journalists slated to attend Sochi next month. Be relevant, be concise and be practical with your outreach, and know that a successful media hit at the Olympics is well worth the extra effort.
Ann Wool is a Ketchum partner and MD of Ketchum Sports & Entertainment.