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14 December, 2023

Navigating Turbulence: Crisis Management at the Gay Games Hong Kong

First founded in San Francisco in 1982, the 11th Gay Games took place from 3-11 November 2023, for the first time in Asia. With events welcoming over 2,000 participants per month on average in the months leading up to Nov 2023, as well as 2500 participants and many more visitors during November 2023, the Hong Kong-hosted Games brought together 70,000 individuals to celebrate this global experience.

There are 18 sporting events planned including new events Dragon Boat Racing, Mahjong, and Trail Running; Opening & Closing Ceremonies, Festival Village, and Arts & Culture events with daily performances, a Gala Concert, LGBTQ+ art exhibitions, and a variety of events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games. Everyone is welcome to participate regardless of ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or background.

The six-year organization of the Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) is a testament to the power of resilience, resourcefulness, and strategic communication. Known for its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, GGHK has been a beacon of inspiration, uniting people of different backgrounds, cultures, and sexual identities. But the journey has been far from smooth sailing. From political tensions and diminishing government support to a global pandemic and social unrest, the GGHK team has navigated a sea of challenges. This article will delve into the crisis management strategies that have helped GGHK stay afloat amidst these stormy seas.

Rough Seas Encountered

Since winning the bid to host the 11th edition of the Gay Games in 2017, the GGHK team has sailed through turbulent waters. Major challenges included the strained relationship between US and China, dwindling support from Hong Kong government departments due to the politically sensitive nature of LGBTQ issues, and the ever-present uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, social unrest in Hong Kong and the decision to co-host the event with Guadalajara, Mexico only added to the complexity. Criticism from both pro-establishment lawmakers and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong further complicated matters.

Charting the Course: Strategic Crisis Management

Despite navigating these choppy waters, the GGHK team held steadfast to their mission. They crafted a comprehensive and multi-faceted marketing and communication strategy steeped in international and local outreach, crisis mitigation, social media engagement, and the strategic use of influencers.

International and Local Outreach

GGHK embarked on a global journey, organizing outreach events in cities like London, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Bangkok, and more. Through sports competitions, cultural performances, seminars, and workshops, GGHK reinforced its message of diversity and inclusion. For instance, GGHK’s float at the Sydney Mardi Gras and World Pride in 2023 stood out, gaining considerable support in the Australian media.

On a local level, GGHK engaged with Hong Kong’s LGBTQ organizations and youth through town halls, seminars, and the Diversity Games. The latter, held at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), aimed to familiarize university students with the spirit of the Gay Games. Over 400 students from five universities participated in the sports events.

Crisis Mitigation

In addition to outreach, GGHK ensured its team was equipped to handle challenges head-on. Media training for management team members was provided, enabling them to convey consistent, clear messages when faced with media inquiries. They also adopted a positive, non-confrontational stance, focusing on the constructive aspects of GGHK instead of engaging in arguments with critics.

Social Media

Leveraging the power of social media, GGHK maintained active accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and WeChat. They used these channels to share updates, engage with followers, and share inspiring stories from participants, volunteers, sponsors, and supporters. They also monitored social media trends and sentiments, enabling them to anticipate potential crises and devise appropriate mitigation strategies.

• Influencers

Recognizing the impact of key opinion leaders, GGHK enlisted popular celebrities and influencers such as Zander Murray, Ezekiel Vargas, Terence Siufay, and Asha to spread the message and endorse the GGHK project. This move raised awareness and visibility among their fans and followers.

The Success of Navigating the Storm

The outcomes of GGHK’s strategic crisis management were remarkable. By the end of November 2023, they had generated over 2000 pieces of media coverage and engaged over 70,000 people in person globally, with millions more reached via social media. These figures underscore the success of their communication strategy, which had to continually adapt to changing and uncertain circumstances.

The GGHK project serves as a shining example of a marketing campaign that weathered a perfect storm of difficulties and emerged stronger. It’s proof that with resilience, resourcefulness, and strategic communication, any organization can navigate through crises and promote their message with positivity and inspiration. Their journey is a testament to the power of Unity in Diversity, a beacon of hope amidst challenging times.