The Olympics' secret and Orbit's Big Conversation

Last month I was invited by the National Housing Federation to talk at their marketing conference. It was a great day with a turn out of 300 exploring future trends in housing and, in part, how to help explain the role of Housing Associations in the communities in which they operate and, of course, the inevitable discussions around social media that dominate so many communication meetings these days.

The standout presentation came from Greg Nugent who gave us half an hour on the marketing of the Olympics. Around 2008 (ish – may have got the date wrong) they got all the main players in a room for 2-3 days to ‘bash heads together’. Each had a different take on the Olympics. For example, the sports people saw it as a sporting festival while the tourist industry saw it as a showcase for London and an opportunity for revenue and the infrastructure people saw as a potential invaluable legacy.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall at that meeting. Greg claims they sorted the key messages, positioning and plans at this point – it was not an easy meeting and they ended with one of the walls covered with the forward plan to which all had contributed. Once they had done this the three lessons I took were:

– The importance of rigorous execution of the plan (and no deviation from it once they had decided)

– Listen to your customers – Greg described how the Olympics team conducted surveys at the end of each and every day during the Olympics to constantly update and improve what they provided

– Obsess about detail

Here’s a copy of the presentation. I gave around employee engagement using the Orbit case study for this group. Orbit co-created their plan to discuss how to bring their vision to life and invited everyone to contribute to what that looked like, then used this as the engagement tool to develop local plans that bought it to life.

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