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The 2008 Beijing Olympics: Public Relations Issues

Analyze the reasons why the Chinese government hired a Western public relations firm to work on the 2008 Beijing Olympics

There are several reasons as to why the Chinese government decided to hire a western public relations firm during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. One of the reasons stems from the challenges the Chinese government had undergone at the period just before the Olympics. For starters, China had experienced negative publicity because of the wide protests that had occurred throughout the major cities of the world. To compound the issue further, the protest images had widely been publicized in various mainstream media.

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There was one particular event that occurred during the Olympic torch relay; there was this protestor who courageously went ahead to disrupt the event in Paris. The event was supposed to be a peaceful majestic procession in the French capital. However, it turned out chaotic when thousands of protestors appeared in the scene with many of them bearing Tibetan flags. The protests were staged mainly because of the policies that the Chinese government had embraced about Tibet. During the protest, the torch went off several times but was protected by the police who hurriedly took it into a nearby bus. For this reason, the Chinese government had to cancel the last leg.

There were also many other protests staged across the world that resulted in several Chinese consulates being destroyed. China, therefore, had to devise a way in which it would tackle this issue. To ensure that there was a softer and a more stylish tone in her quest for hosting the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the organizing committee decided to hire a western firm to do the public relations. They then engaged the services of Hill and Knowlton, a public relations company, to address publicity issues. One of the reasons why they landed on this company was because the company was well known for helping its clients employ communication strategies. The company was also well known for building and protecting brand images.

China also had to look into particular issues when selecting the advertising company. Some of the issues include the organization of the company whereby the companies that are decentralized may want to leave the choice to the local subsidiary. National responsiveness was also an issue to consider. Thus, the country considered whether the global agency was familiar with the local culture. Area coverage was also an issue that China had to consider; because the company had to cover all the entire audience holistically. Last but not least, the country had to consider the kind of brand awareness that the company wanted to project to the entire world (Anonymous, 2008).

Determine the reasons why protesters and activists target events such as the Olympics

One of the most important things to consider during a protest is that it is most effectively done in the presence of the target. If people stage a protest against a public office during the weekend, chances are that their petitions will not be heard. Also, the group that does this appears disorganized and less serious. This means that the target audience will not take the protests seriously.

The above points, therefore, give reasons as to why protesters target big events such as the Olympics. Thus, the protestors want to reach a large audience to drive home their point. During such events, there is easy publicity. The point that the protestors would want to put across would be easily communicated. In a protest match such as the one staged against the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the protestors knew that the whole world was watching them. Those protests were also the most effective ways that would be used to inform the world about the misgivings of the Chinese government against the Tibetan people.

Determine if the opportunity to reach a global audience by advertising during the Olympics offset the potential for bad publicity

It offsets the potential. One very obvious reason is because the Olympics draw a large audience. This includes those in physical attendance and viewers from all over the world. It is worth noting that the Olympics are also well known for having the potential of appealing to many viewers. Olympics appeal viewers across the demographic divide including women, children, and the minority. The viewers may also include CEOs and top managers from big and small companies. One thing worth noting is that although CEOs and top executives in large organizations may not necessarily spend enough time in front of their television sets they are likely to do so during the seventeen days of the Olympics period (DeLisle, 2008).

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Because of the big number of viewers, the advertisement done by the various organizations can, therefore, reach a large audience. Depending on the message that the advert wants to put forward, a country can regain people’s confidence. For sure, the kind of advertisement China did during and at the close of the Olympics was a life-changing advertisement that was able to convince the entire world that things were not as earlier thought. It can be attested that China showcased a lot of things at the end of the Olympics that left the whole world amazed and wanting to see more from that wonderful country (International Olympics committee, 2008).

It is important to note that one of the main functions of a PR company is to generate favorable publicity. Thus, the PR companies use image advertising to enhance public perception of the country and create goodwill; doing this enables the country involved to regain the glory it needs to host an event such as the Olympic.

Assess how well of a job the companies identified in this case did in anticipating and responding to the protests

First of all, it has to be noted that the protests that occurred the world over (during the period before the 2008 Olympics) drew a bad publicity for observers. The observers saw this as a confirmation of Beijing’s stubbornness. Thus, Beijing was refusing to part from its old ways. Also, the observers saw this as a sign of insincerity on China’s part. However, the involvement of the western public relations company such as Hill & Knowlton was pretty important. This was especially evident when Steven Spielberg decided to boycott the games.

Thus, the public relations company was able to handle the situation professionally and was able to prevent large scale shunning of the Olympics. Such situations like the ones China was facing are likely to be managed upon with due effect and respect (Stewart, 2008). The decision of China to choose a western-based Public Relations Company, therefore, served as a turning point for the country. Thus, the country was able to make things far better. It is important to note that the adverse situations that were faced due to protests were unpromising and painted a gloomy picture of how things would be in China.

The activists targeted large multinational companies that had spent millions of dollars to advertise their products to have a stake in the Olympic Games. Such companies include the Coca Cola Company, McDonald’s, Levono and other global companies. The chief executives of these companies made futile attempts to respond to the protesters. However, the only alternative that was fruitful was the PR approach.

Thus, Coca Cola Company set its foot forth to become one of the leaders for change that promised to take actions, such as, committing resources to ensure that relief supplies reach Darfur and addressing the pressing need for freshwater and sanitation for residents who had been displaced by the fighting. Other companies included Adidas and Carrefour. Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer from France, was caught in a fuss when the Chinese people raised issues because of its stand in the Tibet – China cold war. The executives of the retail were forced to apologize to bring calm in Chinese soil.

The companies mentioned in this case did a wonderful job anticipating and responding to the protests. Coca Cola Company did lead the initiative to show the world that it cared for the people and the environment. The company has reiterated its quest for acting as a catalyst for change through action that is appropriate to a business. Thus instead of considering China as just a market for its products, the company has also shown that it can give back to the society.

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Reference List

Anonymous, (2008). And Now … Not a Word from Our Sponsors. Web.

DeLisle, J. (2008). After the Gold Rush: The Beijing Olympics and China’s Evolving. Web.

International Olympics committee. (2008). Olympic Marketing Fact File. Web.

Stewart, A. (2008). Olympic Print Advertising. Web.

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