Should the Secretary General of the United Nations take PR lessons from the world of celebrity publicists? The head of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon (BKM), arguably the figurehead for the global community, made a puzzling appearance at the Olympic opening. Was it good for the UN brand?
First up, BKM carried the Olympic flame through central London, wearing a white tracksuit, smiling and waving pleasantly to the crowds. He then surfaced again on Friday with a small cadre of team members carrying the Olympic flag to mark the end of the ceremony. News reports said he was participating to promote an Olympic truce between warring countries during the games.
He stood second in line, carrying the flag and sharing the limelight with the founder of UK civil liberties group Liberty, Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and Brazilian environmentalist Marina Silva. Impressive company, to be sure, but shouldn’t the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations be afforded higher status?
The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Ban Ki Moon. Let’s face it the rules of the maitre d’ apply: Where you sit and who you sit next to are key. It shows how important–or not–you are.
The PR Takeaway: Visuals really matter when that’s all you have. Editors of major fashion magazines are notorious for insisting on front row seating for the runway shows. If not, it’s a no-show from them, on the basis that any other placement devalues the magazine’s brand. Tough talk, but an effective policy that invariably gets them the right positioning. For the sake of the UN brand and its global influence, why not insist that Ban Ki Moon be placed, at the very least, next to the UK Prime Minister and the Mayor of London? Or how about with the head of the Olympic federation–two organizations with shared ideals? With the world watching, BKM’s rightful place was up on the podium, not in the trenches. BKM might want to speed dial Vogue front-row-center editor Anna Wintour before accepting the next invitation.