Thoughts on the New York City Marathon
Originally posted at 11:52 a.m.: I feel like people are arguing with me on Twitter every time I post something about this weekend’s New York City Marathon. Let me take this opportunity beyond 140 characters to explain.
As someone who has worked in the media business, PR and now social media, I know what it’s like to get screamed at from both sides of an argument. I’ve met many irrational people over the years. I’ve also met a lot of people who are passionate. Whether or not I agree with them, I respect them.
I also learned after being at an NGO (non-governmental organization, similar to a nonprofit) that changed its name, that crisis communication is important.
A year ago, a freak snowstorm pounded the Northeast. The New York City Marathon cleaned things up and moved forward without delay. I am being perfectly honest when I say I have no idea what type of communication was being put forth prior to the event. I’m sure many people had questions.
That said, the storm was also an opportunity to answer the question: What do we do if that happens again? In a city that has seen terrorist attacks, major power outages (remember the Black Out?) and an October snowstorm in the past 11 years, an organization that hosts tens of thousands of people for an even should have crisis communication in place.
The New York Road Runners have proven over the past two days since Hurricane Sandy hit that they have no crisis communications in place. Some people have said they have sent emails – I’ve seen some of those emails. They’re the same that’s also being posted on their website and Facebook – 12+ hours apart. (The consistency in the messages is a good thing, actually. The time apart, not so much.)
You also have Mayor Bloomberg stating that it’s his “understanding” that the marathon will go on. That is not a definitive answer.
The current responses on their website and Facebook page (nothing on Twitter since an automated post Tuesday morning) are legally crafted words that have left people confused. Don't take my word for it. See the comments on their Facebook page.
Whether or not the race should go on is something that many are debating. I won’t get into that too much. I’m not on the ground there to understand what it’s really like, although a friend of mine in the city told me that it felt “too soon.”
There’s also the moral argument. Should a race go on with food and water when people in the area have been forced out of their homes due to flood and fires? I’m not going to weigh in on that discussion either, but it’s a valid question.
What people want are simple responses. NYRR and ING NYC Marathon: Get a PR firm on board somewhere to manage your accounts. All of them. Right now. With some people’s various lines of communication being cut, the same messages need to go out via email, Facebook and Twitter.
Even if you honestly can’t say yes or no, you can say something.
3:16 p.m. Update, from the mayor's office:
3:31 p.m. update, from Mary Wittenberg CEO of New York Road Runners: