What can business learn about crisis communications from the cancellation of the NYC Marathon?
The world watched the U.S. East Coast last week as it braced for the most significant storm of the century – perhaps in history. Everyone was particularly focused on New York City even though the eye of the storm was expected to hit New Jersey. I happened to be in Europe during the impact of the storm and everywhere I went people inquired about New York City and my family and friends.
Why? New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world. It is familiar and beloved by people from all nations. And, many global elite athletes, their friends and families know that every first Sunday in November since 1970 it has held a foot race watched by the world – the New York City Marathon. What would happen this year? With the disastrous result of Hurricane Sandy, would the race occur? And more importantly, how would it impact the millions of people suffering without food, water, electricity or even housing as a result of the storm?
Early in the week, the mayor insisted that the race would go on. He recalled the World Series after 9/11 and how it had boosted the spirits of New York City and the world. He thought about the economic impact to business people relying on the 50,000 athletes plus other visitors who would come to the city for the weekend. He thought about the runners themselves and how they had trained for months to achieve their personal goal. And, he thought of the charities that counted on the fund-raising runners. These were all good reasons to run the race.