More than volunteering
By Laura Oliphant
Along with thousands of other Games Makers I recently finished my spell volunteering for the London 2012 Olympics. Well before we received our public thanks at the closing ceremony and the personal thanks through emails from the likes of Lord Coe and the First Lady, pin badges and a special edition relay baton, I completed nine long shifts whilst still juggling the day (and home!) job.
You’ll be relieved to know I have no plans to use this blog to gather sympathy for my long hours or get more thanks for being a Games Maker. Instead I wanted to share my view on how I think London2012 recruited and throughout the Games energised 70,000 volunteers to be the positive face of the Olympics, and how we can apply some of this Games Maker magic in our day job as communicators. Whilst most of our clients won’t be asking people to get involved in the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, engaging big groups of people is part of our everyday challenge.
I became a Games Maker to use my professional skills and experience to help ensure the world’s media got a professional and efficient service, hopefully resulting in positive headlines for London2012. However as I got into the role it became less about me and more about feeling part of a powerful movement. It gave me a new confidence – I talked to strangers and they talked to me. I felt proud to wear a (far from flattering) uniform and flash my accreditation (and pin badge collection) in public. I think I showed a different me and after hearing another volunteer sing Happy and You Know It over a tannoy at the Olympic Park to keep the crowd entertained, I think others did too. When I hung up my uniform for the last time, something was missing, I’d lost a bit of the purpose in my step and all too soon I started to look down when I passed people on the street rather than greeting them with a smile.
So back to the point of this blog… What can we learn from the Games Maker programme when developing campaigns focused on engaging big groups of people? The obvious thing is to try and make your target audience (whether volunteers or groups of professionals) feel part of united group, a collective. Give that collective a name or identifiable brand and develop ways of ensuring they recognise and identify with each other (thankfully I’m not recommending a purple and red uniform here). We know it is vital to communicate with audiences regularly, but vary the way you position and deliver that message. As a Games Maker I was thanked every day but how, when and by whom was always different. It got my attention and made me feel valued. Finally, remind your target audience of the difference they’re making. Whether it’s through a smile, a song or waving a pink hand like many did at the Olympics, or through the more traditional ways we can volunteer or provide our support to causes.
Now back to my post Olympic therapy – watching all 16 days of action I missed on catch-up whilst wearing my Games Maker uniform.
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