Public relations and the ‘inclusive’ World Cup

Public relations is all about targeting. Sometimes PR professionals chose online media for their campaigns, other times broadcast is a better channel to get a communications message across.

In a recent PR post about online media and the world cup, it was suggested that FIFA has missed a trick with social media for this year’s World Cup.

My take in this public relations conundrum is that while FIFA has ‘dropped the ball’ with online media, it might have decided to:

1. ignore social media on inclusivity grounds
2. avoid the complex task of running a pan-global social media campaign

Firstly let’s look at point 1. Why would FIFA ignore social platforms on inclusivity grounds? Social media is the most inclusive form of media ever created, right?

My answer is simple. While I can afford a smart phone, a laptop, broadband and other modern luxuries, fans in North Korea or even in parts of host nation South Africa probably can’t.

Would moving parts of the World Cup experience into social media be excluding large numbers of people, perhaps the majority of football fans, from enjoying the tournament on an equal level to the rest of us?

I think it is very easy to argue “yes”. Just look at this map as an example, and look how many missing countries there are with no social platforjms at all.

Fig. 1.1. Click on the image to make it large enough to read on screen

Some might say that a true pan-global campaign should be tailored per country, allowing for use of social sites in some countries and not so in others, but I am not sure that this would be the right thing to do in this instance.

Football is a unifying force, so why exclude people from the experience? We are already seeing poor South Africans being priced out of tickets to matches, and this exclusion doesn’t need to be made any more prominent.

TV is still the number one medium globally, so let’s not forget that. I have been to rural villages in Asia and Africa and found families with TVs. It might be that during the tournament an entire village is crowded around one TV, but at least most villages can access a TV. Therefore a broadcast campaign should be the favoured platform.

Now let’s consider point 2, i.e. that a pan-Global campaign is just too difficult for FIFA. It is a slightly depressing consideration, but probably quite likely.

This presentation below starts to illustrate how difficult FIFA’s task would be. The presentation looks at which online media is popular in different countries, but even this very comprehensive study has lots of gaps, where there is no data, or possibly internet usage, i.e. Africa, parts of South America etc. Again, making a social media campaign is difficult to say the least.

Even in the ‘developed’ world some social platforms are more important than others. In Holland, for example, Facebook is not the number one platform and Twitter is even less popular. The Differences between platforms in other countries is a huge barrier and a complex problem.

Difficulty is no excuse of course for not giving social media a go. To the contrary, but while there are still organisations in the UK, US and elsewhere who are still baulking at trying social media because of a lack of understanding, one can imagine that perhaps FIFA found the task just too challenging.

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