Speedo swimsuit publicity needs crisis management

One of the goals of PR used in support of marketing objectives will be to ensure a product, service or organisation generates lots of publicity, buzz, word of mouth and media coverage.  Undoubtedly the Speedo swim suit has done that at the current Olympics.

As well as the amazing Michael Phelps, there has been so much third party endorsement – and record breaking results – that  it is not surprising to see features everywhere from the Economist to Stuff.co.nz‘s reporter amusingly squeezing into the skin tight swimsuit. 

This is a global campaign taking full advantage of local angles – eg in the UK, the Telegraph links to gold-medal winner Rebecca Adlington as well as  the fact that it was “created by Aqualab, the research and development arm of Speedo which is owned by Britain’s Pentland Group Plc” and a close working relationship with “Dr Herve Morvan of Nottingham University on the computational fluid dynamics, as well as with ANSYS, a Sheffield-based company who provided computer software used in the design.”

But this PR story needs careful crisis management not just hype.  Jessicah Schipper’s zip problems have been blamed on “athlete error” rather than any issue with the LZR Racer suits.  That may well be the case, and currently the swimmers remain supportive of the suits. 

But Speedo needs to manage this potential blip in the reputation of their wonder suits and ensure the swimmers are not experiencing problems at this stressful, and high profile, moment in their careers.

As we’ve seen with other attention grabbing activities, such as the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the easy part of PR is often to generate publicity, especially when you’ve a genuinely newsworthy story.  The real challenge is ensure potential problems don’t equally spread under the spotlight as an initial negative connection in the public’s mind will make a lasting impression that is hard to shift.

Remember publicity is just one aspect of public relations – and like the swan gliding above the water, organisations need PR’s legs to be busy beneath the surface with issues and crisis management skills to maintain the right image.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.