Boris and the London PR agency dream

It’s nearly a year since our socks were almost literally blown off by Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony in the Docklands Olympic stadium. The full impact of the London 2012 Olympics will take years to be fully appreciated, according to Sebastian Coe, but in the lead up to the anniversary, it is worth wondering about the city of London itself and the PR bonanza it was given last year.

Boris Johnson is the man who, in his role as Elected Mayor, embodies much of the organisational dynamism behind the capital. In 2009 he asked businesses what the most important thing was that he could do for them to boost the economy. Their answer was simple: promote London.

As a client brief, it’s frustratingly unspecific. If Boris were actually a director at a strategic London PR agency he would have had to delve deeper so that he could challenge the brief, identify the USPs of the city and the real needs of its business community; he would have worked with the client to develop clear core messages and objectives, devised an innovative strategy and a strategic plan of activity. Boris being Boris, however, the year 2012 rolled out like a dream with the PR nuggets produced by the Royal Family, the British Olympic team and the millions of spectators worldwide appearing to fall into his lap.

Even the very best London PR agency might have struggled in a normal year to mastermind events of sufficient international interest to raise and then keep the profile of London at the forefront of the world’s minds. For Boris and London 2012 was an ‘annus mirabilis’: after the warm up of the 2011 Royal Wedding, which was a visual celebration of London landmarks, mounted cavalry processions and a happy couple, there was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, epitomised by quintessentially British tea parties and a pageant down the Thames. Across the world these images played out on TV and computer screens, newspapers and tablets, mobile phones and magazines. But for Boris, in his role as London PR agency director, the best was yet to come.

The London 2012 Olympics screamed the capital’s brand messages: efficient, stylish, upmarket, historic and photogenic while the Docklands stadium and extensive new facilities shouted regeneration and enterprise.

We at Admiral PR know that rolling out a campaign is only half the story. The real benefit is in rigorously assessing the value of the work done, evaluating targets (which were established at the outset) and the impact of key messages. In this scenario, the actual boost to London’s economy is the real acid test and there will be much written about that over the coming weeks; any number of shiny gold medals, beguiling though they are, should not distract us from that.


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