Is there anyone on the planet who has not heard about the vuvuzela? In a little over a week, this stadium horn has become a worldwide phenomenon – but what has it got to do with PR and conversations? Well, apart from the fact that it’s a little hard to have a conversation in the midst of a cacophony of vuvuzela playing – this maddening instrument is a magnificent example of the power of word of mouth communications – and highlights how the need for issues management can arise from even the smallest thing. [If you’ve not heard it, check this cute YouTube vuvuzela video]
Dozens of Smartphone apps have been created – with over 1,000,000 downloads of the most popular Vuvuzela 2010 already, and with a blog at Time Magazine speculating about the money-making potential of this craze. The media in the UK have gone mad about it – and they’re not alone. We are all talking about the vuvuzela (proud that we know its name) – there’s even a Twitter account (@the_vuvuzela) tweeting in B flat Bzzzzzzz to over 2,500 followers.
And where there’s a fad, the PR folk won’t be far behind. We adore a bit of popular word of mouth – and mark my word, the vuvuzela linked press releases will be equally irritating in their volume.
Which brings me to issues management. Apparently calls to ban the “damnable droning vuvuzela” can be traced back to 2005 – when columnist Jon Qwelane expressed his hatred of the “instrument from hell”. Yet, it appears that neither FIFA nor the world’s broadcasters anticipated the impact of thousands of these tuneless trumpets. The viewing public at least was not prepared for the onslaught on our eardrums and nervous systems.
But it’s not all bad news for the organisers as others seem to love “Satan’s instrument” – with a great article in favour of such noisemaking in football dating back to last Summer’s Confederations Cup. It adds to the atmosphere, the argument goes – and who cares if it is affecting the performance of the French football team? Just one more opportunity for public relations and issues management lessons.