The BHA is to introduce a ‘Rapid Response Unit’ for this years Grand National. The aim of the unit will be to monitor TV output and press coverage so that the BHA can response quickly to unfolding events.
The 2011 Grand National was seen by many within horse racing as PR disaster. Images of horses being cooled down after the race were perceived by the public as ‘horses in distress’. Neither the BHA nor Aintree racecourse had the facilities to monitor TV output and respond with a press statement in a timely manner, had this been in place in 2011 the BHA or Aintree could have notified the press and public that the ‘cool down’ was pre planned and only a precautionary measure.
BHA spokesman John Maxse went on the explain “There will be an on-site facility, a dedicated room, staffed by existing members of the BHA with staff back in High Holborn also listening and watching,”. adding “We’ll be putting in whatever resources it requires. Aintree was as good an example as you can get. Communication failure, by both the BHA and racecourse, was one thing to come out in the review and it was evident that officials were not aware of how the outside world was seeing events”.
John Maxse also announced that the BHA will be monitoring social networks like Twitter and Facebook, a trending Twitter hashtag is often the first sign of a PR success or failure. Interestingly the racing world is well support on twitter. Numerous jockeys, trainers & owners have massive followings on the micro blogging platform, the BBC horse racing presenter Clare Balding and top jockey AP McCoy have nearly 230,000 followers between them. John Maxse noted “We are aware of the need to be careful not to give knee-jerk reactions. Often social media reacts before the full facts are known and it is our responsibility to get those facts across” with such a big network of horse racing fans on twitter it shouldn’t be that hard to get the message across.