London 2012 and that Hindley image

SimonGeneral

Amind the positive buzz around yesterday’s handover of the Olympic host city status to London, there was inevitably going to be a sour note somewhere.

From the rolling news coverage last night and this morning, it looks like the use of a shot of a portrait of Moors murderer Myra Hindley within a promotional video shown at London 2012 event in Beijing last night is that sour note.

BBC News is showing footage of the video being played at the party. The shot appears for a fraction of a second as part of a sequence of images of London and appeared because the portrait was being displayed in a gallery, presumably being used to represent London’s cultural scene in the video.

There’s already been denouncement of the use of the image by everyone you’d expect, including London mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Gordon Brown (although the latter not yet on his snazzy new website).

To me this is just a slip-up, pure and simple. And not a massive one at that. It won’t do any lasting damage to London 2012‘s reputation.

This does highlight the ever increasing intensity of scrutiny that London 2012 will be under. If a half second glimpse of an inappropriate image can be picked up in this way, imagine the impact of a more fundamental difficulty. This just demonstrates the importance of a planned approach to issues management, helping organisations take a wider view to their interactions with the world around them than individuals within the organisation would necessarily take.

Taking a different example, if I’d been responsible for commissioning this leaflet, I’d have been pretty disappointed with myself for not spotting the incorrect skyline image. However I’d be even more ashamed of not admitting the mistake right away rather than trying to argue against a pretty obvious problem.

At an individual level as marketing or public relations professionals commmisioning any sort of promotional material, we have to take responsibility for the content that we commission. While we sub-contract degrees of responsibility to designers, producers, cameramen and the link, we must still retain overall responsibility, and that includes maintaining a mental filter for potential slip-ups like this.

To be able to apply this mental filter effectively we must have a considered and informed understanding of the environment that we operate in, its cultural and political sensitivities, as well as good dose of common sense to boot.