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4 takeaways for marketers looking to score big time publicity without negative side effects.  
By way of an ongoing case study, we note that The  2012 London Olympic Games start Friday July 27th at 7:30pm and the US Olympic Committee is still engaged in a no-win firefight with an online social community of knitters.
Remember the “forever factor” in the persistent memory of the internet.  Remember too, that while there are many ways to handle online publicity, the least effective is bullying.
The 2012 Olympics marks the third time since 2008 that Ravelry hosts its simultaneous knitting event, currently known as the Ravelympics.  For those unfamiliar with this activity, there are exciting and apparently easily confused non sanctioned events such as the afghan marathon and scarf hockey. 
This is the first time that the USOC has noticed. They found no humor, failed to recognize flattery and support, and sent a cease and desist letter citing “denigration of the name Olympics” along with trademark infringement.  Oops, they should have stuck to just trademark issues but didn’t. The rather heavy handed C&D letter put USOC head, Patrick Sandusky, into a worsening spiral of comments, retractions, and clarifications/triage  after trying to explain away the situation but then instead, digging an even deeper hole .
Welcome to the world of real time internet and online marketing.
Who cares? More than just trademark lawyers as you’ll soon see. Ravelry is an online social community of 2.2 million knitters. 2200 of whom are online at 7:30 am as I write this post. One out of Three Americans are knitters. Huffington Post has taken notice.  Seth Godin  has taken notice, commenting last week that “brand marketing is a set of expectations”   And most recently even mainstream media like Newsweek has taken notice.
Sadly, much of this notice reflects poorly on the US Olympic Committee, a non-profit organization that needs community goodwill and funds from a wide cross section of America.
By contrast, the same time these needles in a haystack were poking out, Disney Pixar released the movie, BRAVE, AND the government of Scotland announced a $10M investment in tourism advertising to coordinate with its release.
Scotland believes it can generate as much as $200M in tourism dollars, as folks see animated and real images of Scotland in the film.  Even Facebook pages reflect the close working relationship. Apparently they have no concern that furry animated critters with Scottish accents will “denigrate” the world’s view of Scotland. On the contrary, they are pulling out all stops to encourage the connection.
  • 1.   Recognize when your brand is being complimented or teased and respond accordingly.
  • 2.   Treat others as you would like to be treated because compliments and Cease and Desistletters don’t occur in vacuums.
  • 3.   Recognize the Long Tail of Search and the persistence value of internet content before you respond.
  • 4.   You can’t control what is said about your brand online, so think about how you want to be associated with any online conversation about your brand.
USOC – an online search this morning of the US Olympic Committee finds the knitting incident well above the fold. Even if you weren’t aware of the issues, a search of USOC today will put it right in your face.
Olympics and Knitting search here and you’ll see a whole array of knitting stories, knitting “bombers” decorating places with Olympic symbols and you will also find the USOC forever served up with hundreds of nasty and sarcastic comments from knitters who were once happy to contribute to the Olympic spirit and knit but now will be riled up every time the connection is made.
Want to bet on who has seen membership ranks increase and who may have trouble raising funds while being needled by knitters?
Compare that to a similar online search for Brave & Scotland and see how many trips offers and positive comments and travel advertising comes up. Look up Brave or Scotland and see how powerfully positive the result from the standpoint of both parties.
You, too, can score big time publicity by means of collaboration, not intimidation.
What do you think?
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Filed Under: marketing, strategy
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