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World Youth Day

Context

From July 2012 to August 2013, FSB Comunicações was responsible for the communication office of World Youth Day Rio 2013 (WYD Rio 2013), one of the biggest events in the world and which promotes the Pope meeting with young people. The 28th edition of WYD was held from July 23 to 28, in Rio de Janeiro, and drew 6,500 journalists (Brazilian and foreign), in addition to 3.7 million people in Copacabana and 60,000 volunteers from around the country.

There was a pre-Youth Day stage, which functioned as a “launch” for the event. One year before WYD, there was already an extensive calendar of activities, which served to introduce the “spirit of Youth Day” and show the public and journalists what WYD actually was, since the event had never been held in the country.

From July 20 to 28, a team of over 30 professionals took turns serving the press in the Media Center; in the press pit set up on Copacabana Beach for journalists, photographers and cameramen; and during the official special events attended by Pope Francis.

FSB’s main duties during this period were: coordination of more than 20 press conferences; examination, writing and/or updating of all the promotional materials; training of spokespersons; monitoring of interviews; crisis management; holding contact meetings with opinion leaders; alignment of narratives with the press offices of the other bodies involved in the organization.

Challenges

  • Present and give visibility to World Youth Day, attracting the public to the event, especially young people, host families and partners;
  • Reinforce the positive attributes of World Youth Day to help strengthen the Catholic Church throughout Brazil;
  • Emphasize the social, cultural, economic and sustainability legacy that the event would leave the city and country;
  • Attract the interest of national and international media months before the event;
  • Align the narratives between all the bodies and entities involved in the organization of World Youth Day;
  • Attract a non-religious audience to the event;
  • Break the resistance to the religious theme and engage opinion leaders in issues related to the event;
  • Tailor the religious narrative to the secular (non-Catholic) media;
  • Contain possible information leaks by the various institutions involved in WYD, which could jeopardize the communication strategy and credibility of the event;
  • Lift up the positive side of World Youth Day and, consequently, minimize the impact that would be caused in the city by hosting an event of this size.

Strategies and actions

FSB Comunicações developed a strategy focused on the institutional dissemination of World Youth Day and its activities, with a breakdown for the different segments of the event. In addition to the day-to-day demands, the team sought to highlight the main aspects of WYD: registration, hosting of pilgrims, volunteering, social and economic legacy, advertising and motivational campaigns, infrastructure and cultural activities, among others.

  • Position the event as one of the largest in the world;
  • Show the success of previous editions, reinforcing the success of World Youth Day, and its acceptance by the public;
  • Suggest figures who embody the social, cultural and religious nature of WYD;
  • Publish statements and articles which generate excitement about WYD;
  • Organize and mobilize the press for the different activities/press conferences held before and during WYD Rio 2013;
  • Build closer ties with media outlets through visits and meetings in newsrooms, making suggestions for articles and promoting special coverage;
  • Draw close to key journalists and editors through monthly meetings and lunches;
  • Send out press releases focusing on the main issues of WYD such as hosting and registration. The goal was to attract the attention of the press to everything that was happening prior to the event;
  • Approach the press offices of the partners of the event, seeking to work together for better communication results.

During the work, there were the following occurrences and actions:

  • Resignation of Benedict XVI and Election of Pope Francis
  • Lunch in Sumaré to build closer ties and meeting with journalists

Crisis Management

FSB was also present during the management of crises that arose during WYD. The main negative issues involved security, transportation, financial matters and infrastructure. The team aligned its statements with the other bodies involved in the holding of World Youth Day, such as city hall and the army, and always strove to present the official position of the organization. In addition, FSB organized several training classes with spokespersons in order to prepare them for difficult occasions and tough questions. Being familiar with controversial points gave them assurance that they would be able to face difficult moments with firmness and transparency.

Another strategy used to minimize the impact of possible negative news was to submit suggestions for articles on aspects depicting the value and excitement of the event. This was the case when there was a change of location for the Vigil and Closing Mass. Due to rain, the event was moved from Guaratiba to Copacabana.

Although this situation had a negative impact on the image of WYD, the enthusiasm of the pilgrims to participate in the event, despite this unexpected turn of events, and the fact that the organization transferred part of the Guaratiba structure to the beach in just two days were featured in many articles. At the time, there was an emergency meeting to decide what approach everyone would use: WYD, city hall and companies from the organization. As a result of everyone’s efforts to demonstrate that the change was the best option for the pilgrims, the peace, willingness and faith of all the young people shone through, even in articles that showed the downsides of the change. In the end, the image of Copacabana Beach packed out with young people circulated around the world.

Results

During the work period, around 200 texts were produced, including a press kit, position papers, statements and releases.

The clipping company responsible for monitoring the news about World Youth Day registered 11,504 articles, only for the period from January to July 2013. There were 3,834 on the web, 3,313 in the print media, 2,391 on TV and 1,966 on radio. It’s important to note that the clipping service did not count international media outlets. In all, there were 550 articles in the newspaper O Globo, 107 excepts in the column by Ancelmo Gois (O Globo), 42 articles in Veja magazine, two covers of Veja Rio magazine, 20 articles in the magazine Época, 24 stories on the TV program Fantástico and 98 stories on the news program Jornal Nacional.

In addition, a survey conducted by Embratur showed that the evaluation of tourists in relation to Brazil and the event was positive. According to the survey, 90% of foreigners who came to WYD intend to return to the country and said they were satisfied or very satisfied by what they saw.

In turn, a study by the Ministry of Tourism indicated that the image of the city of Rio de Janeiro improved for both Brazilians (52%) and foreigners (59.2%) after the visit for World Youth Day. The survey done by the Ministry also noted that most of the visitors from abroad (92.1%) as well as Brazilian tourists (96.1%) plan to return to Rio soon. According to the study, the impact of WYD on the economy of Rio de Janeiro was BRL 1.285 billion.