Data, stories, videos and technology - were the key themes emphasized by the guest speakers at the Sports Media and Qatar's Future forum hosted by Northwestern University in Qatar on February 27th.
The speakers were Nasser Al-khater, Assistant Secretary General at 2022, Jackie Broke-Doyle, IAAF Communications Director and Nigel Rushman - founder, Rushmans Consultancy.
Qatar is bound to host two major world championships in 2019 and 2022, for IAAF and FIFA respectively. The discussion drew parallels to London Olympics in terms of how to handle accredited and non-accredited media, managing social media and efforts to differentiate sport from news to counter critical and negative stories.
Negative news will continue as long as there is news media, however the organizers in Qatar should adopt a customized Communications Strategy to address its unique situation, constituency and stakeholders needs locally and internationally.
Followings are key takeaways addressed during the one-and-a-half hour interactive session moderated by Craig LaMay, journalism professor at Northwestern.
1. Organizers should control the media agenda by telling the story of Qatar in a compelling fashion without being dragged by the negative coverage at international news media.
2. Stakeholders communications is the most critical aspect. Organizers should try to strike a balance by talking to negative criticism and equally talk to supporters and fans who are mostly the silent majority.
3. Public messages should be streamlined in preparation for 2019 IAAF World Championships which will be the yardstick for measuring 2022 success.
4. Presence in social media is important and growing very fast, however the organizers should identify the right platforms to convey their messages consistently and systematically. And should always have a strategy for social media with clear discipline in implementation particularly in dealing with Twitter.
5. Non-accredited media should be given similar attention to accredited media as they play a key role in covering cultural and local activities that can turn into headline news if not managed or addressed properly. During the events, daily briefing and schedules of key activities and important personalities should be available to non-accredited media as well.
6. The organizers should view World Athletics Championships and the World Cup as sports events. Hence, their focus should be on separating sports media from news media by dedicating most of the reporting to stories related to the players, championships, games, matches and so forth.
7. People go to events mainly "to be there", "to share the experience with friends" or "for the atmosphere". In today's social media world, instant gratification is realized by engaging through social platforms and the organizers will need to make the fans experience immersive by using VR/AR technologies.
"The world will look at Qatar in 2022 to learn about the sport and will look at the reporters and PR agencies to know what's happening. Learn how to tell the stories to tell the world. A key skill set to master!"
8. Reporters and PR agencies in Qatar carry dual responsibility to report on the events and educate the world by telling Qatar's story. Sports today is not covered by text and lengthy articles but pictures, videos and virtual reality have become an integral part of the narrative.
9. Organizers can brand the nation more effectively by involving the youth, local expatriates and international supporters to be part of the dialogue and speak favorably about the events by showing the positive impact on the people of Qatar and the region combined.
10. Young people are a powerhouse. This potential should be leveraged to engage their peers online, counter the negative criticism by explaining the role of championships in their own language and style of communication. In this regard, youth should be data and research savvy to use data analytics to refute and measure sentiments, tell compelling stories in text or videos and identify the right online platforms.
Understandably organizers will be very busy over the next two years on building stadiums and rolling infrastructure, but sufficient attention should be given to drafting the narrative on Qatar's success story since the winning of the bid in 2010, and the story should be told in a factual and compelling way by leveraging all tools at disposal - data, media, technology and most of all the fans!