Thursday, August 23, 2012

Look at all the social medias NYRR gives

Early this morning, the New York Road Runners announced that due to overwhelmingly negative reviews of the post-marathon park exit that it was instituting "a new No-Baggage Policy designed to ease finish-line congestion and provide a better and safer post-race experience [and] as a result, you will no longer be able to check baggage at the start of the race and there will be no baggage retrieval after the finish."

Needless to say this did not go over well.  NYRR was trending on Twitter in New York.  The Wall Street Journal,* New York Times, Runner's World and countless blog post reported on or fueled the controversy.  I know the New York Daily News is also planning a significant story on the topic.  The NYRR Facebook page exploded with negative comments, many of them very funny and some just down right mean. 

My thoughts exactly Fred. (Via Kevin Beganics)
Now my views on this are simple: This is a bad idea. But that is not what I am taking away from today's events.  What I see is the power of social media to create a ground swell and still have no impact.  Hear me out on this one, considering I am blogging about it.

Thousands of posts, tweets, and snarky remarks were made today about this change, how it was made, how it was announced, and what it really means.  A vast majority of it was done via social outlets. Most of the news reporting about this story relied directly on quotes from or Facebook posts.

However, I would be shocked to learn that anything will be done to reverse this decision.  And if NYRR does change their decision, I will be the one eating humble pie.  This is not like the NYC Half lottery issue. This was a policy choice to create more supply to sate the demand for entrees to this race.

Social media can cause change and it has been a force for good but it has to be used in conjunction with some sort of real world movement for change.  There are 45,000 runners who will invade Staten Island and then pound out 26.2 miles through New York City and a vast majority of them would have checked a bag.  I will go so far to say that a vast majority of them, myself included, will still run this race.

We have already committed to pay our fees and these fees are not going to be reimbursed even if the lack of bag check is a game changer.  And this is where much of the legitimate anger is from: we were told we were getting access to a service and we paid for it but now they are taking it away.

But I have a funny feeling in the coming weeks many of the most vocal social critics will go back to posting about their long runs and ice baths over complaining about this issue.  NBC most likely will not broadcast any of the discontent due to its rights to the event and the Journal, Times, and Daily News will go on to discuss how great this event is for the city (which it is) and forget about this flub.

While today was a bad day for NYRR on social outlets, it won't matter in 10 weeks when the accolades are showered upon the organization for another successful race through the entire city. And it is clear Mary Wittenberg knows this to be true. 

My NYC Running Chum and fellow PR pro, Kai (a.k.a. The Idiot Runner) has on a number of occasions offered to help Wittenberg and NYRR figure out the social problem. And while there is a ton that NYRR could do to foster a much better community, in the real world and online, it doesn't need to spend resources on such a project.

The NYRR brand, like Coke or Apple, is beyond scandal.  Eventually it might fall victim, but if it can pull off one great thing for ever 10 social media fire storms it has to deal with it, the organization will keep on doing exactly what it wants to do, exactly how they want to do it.  Remember the iPad being put together by child labor? Yeah? Also remember when Apple became the largest company in the world by market cap this week?  Coke makes you fat but helped every Olympian since the beginning of time represent America! USA USA USA! What part seems to matter more?

The nature of social media has diluted the attention span of even the most engaged individual.  There will be something else to pull the attention of the masses who were complaining today and then this will be over.  Not to mention, thousands of people want to run this race, are willing to pay north of $250 to do so and don't care if they can't check a bag.  Without diminished demand nothing is going to change.

I am not one who believes Wittenberg and NYRR are only in it for the money but this event is what pays for that nice Brownstone on 89th Street and the salary of every one of the people who work really hard to put on races in the largest city in the United States 12 months a year.  If there is a notable drop off in applications for the Marathon, then maybe they will change, but not until then and I am positive they won't have to worry about that.

*I am quoted in this story.

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