At Detroit PRSA, we value providing programs that matter to our members. Recently, we had the pleasure of hearing from Identity Marketing & Public Relations senior account executive Lindsay Wyskowski and award-winning Detroit Free Press sports reporter Jeff Seidel.
The pair gave us the behind the scenes information about the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea. These games brought 3,000 athletes from 92 countries and was viewed by 19.8 million people per night. All of our Detroit PRSA members were on the edge of their seats to learn more.
Lindsay, who has worked behind the scenes throughout many Olympics and Paralympics, talked us through all the logistics of media relations on the ground at the Olympics. She noted that there are thousands of journalists that attend, and her primary duties included organizing the logistics of where they were to go. Think buses, scheduling, interview scrums and more. Additionally, she traveled with certain groups of athletes day in and day out to ensure their commitments to NBC interviews and appearances were fulfilled, and then coordinating other media interview gatherings.
Jeff is long-time Olympic journalist. He informed us that pre-Olympics interviews can often take place up to a year in advance. In fact, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) typically validates/gives media credentials a year ahead of time, too. Jeff’s particular focus is on athletes’ accomplishments that have Michigan roots. He undergoes intense research and personal interest investigation so that he knows which athletes to focus on, follow, etc.
Because of the NBC Olympics sponsorship, all athletes have to do NBC interviews first, before offering interviews to other reporters, publications, stations, etc. From there, many different interviews and scrums occur with other media. There are certain areas other media are permitted, including that corral area you see on TV, as well as other off-site locations.
Press officers accompany athletes/teams at all times to ensure athletes go to the correct locations and the correct time. Additionally, they’re responsible for preparing athletes – especially if there are any suspected ‘controversial’ topics that are newsworthy. For example, during the Rio Olympics/the Ryan Lochte controversy, athletes were kept apprised of the development so that they could make informed remarks.
One of Lindsay’s favorite Paralympics experiences was Brad Snyder’s August 2012 gold win at the Paralympic Games in London in the 400m Freestyle, exactly one year to the day after losing his eyesight. He lost his eyes during an IED explosion while serving in the United States Navy in Afghanistan. The win was highly emotional and impactful.
Jeff shared a great memory of flying back to Detroit from the 2018 Winter Olympics among all the Michigan athletes, toasting with champagne and passing around their medals. A true, once in a lifetime opportunity.