A PR Professional’s Guide to Avoiding Spoilers During the 2012 “Social Olympics”

WARNING: Olympic Spoilers Ahead
By Caroline Nobles

As public relations professionals, so much of our job depends upon staying up on current events and news. In addition to sifting through newspapers and watching local and national TV stations, we must now regularly scan non-traditional media such as blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds for the most recent coverage.
And the current hot topic? The 2012 London Olympic Games. There is a steady barrage of news concerning shattered world records, down-to-the-wire finishes, heartbreaking losses and mind-boggling wins. And all of the event news can be heard, seen or read in real-time thanks to online video streaming and social media updates. The Games were even dubbed the first ever “Social Games” as Twitter recorded 9.66 million tweets just during the Opening Ceremony.

But the trouble with having immediate Olympic results at our fingertips is that some of us still don’t want to know the outcomes until we have the chance to watch the events on television, live or taped. Most avid Olympic fans, such as myself, don’t want to find out via Twitter that Michael Phelps won gold to become the most decorated Olympian, or read on Yahoo! News that defending beach volleyball champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings historically lost their first Olympic set, but managed to dig, set and spike their way to a win. We want to see the action for ourselves.
Here are my tips to help PR professionals avoid spoilers while still staying in the loop throughout the day:
Reset your web browser
During the Olympics, no major online news outlet is safe. It’s almost impossible to avoid the Internet while trying to work during the day, but we can minimize our exposure. Avoid casual news-surfing and use a search engine, such as Google, that doesn’t list real-time news updates. And if you must visit a news outlet like USA Today or The Wall Street Journal, navigate as quickly as possible to the section or search bar you are trying to find. (I recommend holding a hand in front of the computer screen to block scrolling news updates).
Turn the dial down on talk radio
You can tempt fate by hovering over the radio dial in your car, ready to change the station at any one moment should the broadcaster start recapping the daily sporting news, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The risk of overhearing an Olympic event spoiler is too great. Instead, use your commute time to clear your head, outline your work load for the next day, listen to your new audio book, or simply plug in your iPod to eliminate all risk of spoilers.
Limit your social media intake
Twitter may be the most difficult social media outlet to shun during the Olympics. Athletes immediately post to the site to celebrate their medals or the successes of their teammates. If you must check Twitter, you can use applications like Twitter DogHouse or TweetDeck, which allow you to stop following users for a certain amount of time, or filter out words and hashtags associated with the Games.
Even Instagram isn’t safe from Olympic spoilers. The mobile phone app, which allows users to filter and post creative photos to their followers, spoils its own share of surprises for those who follow Olympic athletes. For example, Michael Phelps posted a photo of him and training partner Allison Schmitt, with their silver and bronze medals from the 4×100 freestyle relays, immediately after winning the medals – but long before coverage aired in the U.S. I recommend temporarily un-following Olympic athletes until the Games are over, or avoid the application altogether for a few weeks.
Inform others of your plan
You may do everything correctly, from driving to work without the radio in the background, to staying off Twitter and Instagram, to avoiding all online news sites that may hint at Olympic results, but if you forget to tell your co-workers, family and friends about your mission to avoid Olympic results, all your hard work may be for naught. I know firsthand the feeling of almost making it through a work day with no new Olympic updates until hearing an unknowing co-worker casually exclaim from his office, “Michael Phelps gets the record!” So post a sign outside your office door, send an office-wide email or verbally communicate with your colleagues to let them know of your plan to avoid all real-time Olympic results.
While the Social Olympics are still heating up this week, and many are following the results in real-time via traditional and non-traditional media outlets, rest assured you don’t have to be one of them. It is indeed possible for PR professionals to maintain office productivity while staying away from the daytime Olympic results. And if you falter, it’s not the end of the world. After all, you’ll have another chance to perfect how to watch (or not watch) in 2016!
Photo courtesy of Claire Dancer’s Flickr photostream.