Memories of the Boston Marathon bombing were fresh as the Atlanta Track Club (ATC) and Hope-Beckham Inc. (HBI) prepared for the 44th running of the annual AJC Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10K in the world drawing more than 100,000 participants, volunteers and spectators. The ATC and HBI were tasked with developing a comprehensive communications and event planning strategy that conveyed safety and security to a nervous Atlanta running community just months after the Boston tragedy occurred.
Since the events in Boston were unforeseen, the team had to act extremely fast to determine the best course of action and create a plan to ensure the public that the race would be safe. HBI and ATC focused on many areas, city and government agencies (including the Atlanta mayor, the Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Fire and Rescue), the running community and media.
Immediately following the bombing, HBI crafted statements about the security of the race and provided details to inquiring media and the running community.
ATC and HBI held multiple meetings with governmental entities to discuss safety actions for the race. Three press conferences were held with the mayor of Atlanta and governmental entities.
HBI closely monitored media coverage, both national and local, and gauged its impact on public perception. This effort had to be executed successfully while:
Continuing with the day-to-day event preparation.
Organizing three press conferences, two focused solely on security.
Creating awareness of color-coded event alert system implemented on race day.
Managing an increased number of security officers stationed at the start line, finish line, at multiple points along the course and throughout the crowd.
More than 3,400 well-trained volunteers restricted participants in certain areas, making the start and finish lines more secure.
Media credentialing was more selective – each reporter was assigned to a specific zone on the course and no all-access passes were provided.
The race director was designated as the single spokesperson for the event, ensuring streamlined messaging, and was very visible and accessible to media throughout the planning and on race day.
Message integration with participating agencies was crucial, and that integration was communicated in all forms of media materials and interviews.
In measuring how the results succeeded against the original objectives, the numbers speak for themselves. The primary goal was to achieve an incident-free race – there were zero incidents on race day and zero security-related issues. The secondary goal was to ensure that participation was not impeded by safety concerns and that at least 50,000 runners participated – 55,700 runners participated in the race, even with weather forecasts of torrential downpours. An additional goal was to communicate effectively, through the news media, to make sure participants not only felt safe at the race, but that they were aware of all the changes that would be taking place this year due to increased security efforts. Coverage was increased from past years, with more than 1 billion media impressions generated.