U.S. Olympics PR chief shares lessons from knitting controversy

Patrick Sandusky, the chief communications officer at the U.S. Olympic Committee, spoke to PR Daily about the recent PR crisis that gripped the organization.

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But when the USOC asked the knitting enthusiasts at the social network Ravelry to stop using the term Ravelympics, the group took to social media to decry what it saw as insensitive language. The Streisand Effect took hold, and the story went viral.

It took two official apologies and literally hundreds of personally tweeted responses from USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky to assuage the angry knitters.

[Read more about the PR controversy here.]

I had a pun-free conversation with Sandusky, who made it his personal mission to communicate his organization’s stance to as many critics as it took.

Why do you think the cease and desist letter struck such a chord with the knitting community?

First and foremost, I think it struck a chord because there was some insensitive language that was too pointed to this group that was probably a bit stronger than needed to be at this stage of trying to protect our trademark.

Speaking of that trademark, Congress gave the USOC exclusive rights to use any language around “Olympics” in 1978. What’s the background of that trademark?

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