CBC Digital Labs
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CBC Digital Labs

Tokyo 2020: How do we get ready for a big event at CBC?

We’re celebrating the work of our amazing people in Digital Strategy and Product at CBC by shedding light on the fantastic work that they do. In each blog post, individuals and teams will share how we create the personal, relevant, and engaging experiences that Canadians expect. Our goal is to make sure all Canadians see themselves reflected in our digital services while connecting them to the many communities and voices that make our country great.

Q: Who are you?

  • Brittany Eldridge, Senior Project Manager, Digital Strategy and Product (currently focusing on Membership)
  • Sarah Carney, Senior Manager, Planning and Operations (Publishing), Digital Strategy and Product
  • Jayne Bingler, Project Manager Olympics, Digital Strategy and Product

Q: What do you do?

[Brittany] As a project manager, I am responsible for working closely with a variety of stakeholders to plan, execute and monitor the delivery of each project.

[Sarah] I’m the business planning and ops senior manager for digital publishing at CBC. I help to build and create digital strategies. I lead planning and the development of our feed operating model.

[Jayne] I came on board [to project manage the Olympics] in March 2019 about 16 months before the games were to have happened; however the COVID-19 pandemic lengthened that timeline by a year.

Q: What are your favourite Olympics sports?

[Brittany] I grew up competing in gymnastics and trampoline, so those are definitely my favourites! I also love watching diving and track and field events.

[Sarah] My favourite Olympic sports are downhill skiing, rowing, mountain biking and triathlon. I’m really looking forward to surfing, which will make its debut appearance in Tokyo.

Q: What does a big event mean?

[Sarah] A big event creates an opportunity for Canadians to be a part of a shared experience that extends beyond a particular moment in time.

For digital strategy around big events, we want audiences to engage with our content, spend more time with us, and come back more often. We work together in an agile way across content, product, marketing, research and revenue teams to align and figure out the highest value tactics that can be employed to reach our targets and our goals.

Q: When do you get started on working on a big event?

[Sarah] At CBC, we’re really good at rallying around big events to drive innovation and to create an incredible audience experience. We usually plan a year out for events like Tokyo 2020 because they require so much planning across both content and product teams. For other events, we plan six weeks to two months out, so that we are aligned in our efforts.

Q: What does success look like?

[Sarah] We want to give Canadians an incredibly rich and memorable experience. CBC will bring Canadians wall-to wall-coverage with 23 of 24 hours of live content on TV and a full 24 hours of content through our digital/web content plans. With a major influx of audience traffic on cbc.ca/Tokyo2020 and the CBC Olympics — Tokyo 2020 app, we want to ensure that the experience is fluid and intuitive for the audience to both find and consume content.

Q: What are the tactics used for big events e.g. editorial content, marketing, revenue generation, etc?

[Brittany] We use a big event playbook and we’ve broken out the process into three big buckets:

1. Funnel Management

  • Define the value proposition
  • Set the audience targeting
  • Identify valuable target audience behaviour
  • Outline the conversion goals (what is the desired next step?)

2. Planning

  • Develop the content offer for pre, during, post event
  • Identify the sponsorship goals
  • Create the comms plan (how do we communicate to the audience that we have what they are looking for?)
  • Digital Marketing

3. Audience Management

  • How do we connect with the audience after the event is over?

[Sarah] One of the biggest learnings from previous big event playbooks is how we can harness the power of our network through a distributed digital ecosystem, so event content can be published from anywhere to anywhere, enabling our audiences to engage through many doors.

This is called a HUB model, where we bring together a number of different teams and build a discovery plan that focuses on executing tactics to increase engagement. For Tokyo 2020, my colleague Margit Mannama is managing this plan. Tactics include metadata tagging based on each sport, Olympic content in top lineups, placement of content on the homepage of CBC.ca, paid and organic digital display and video pre-roll, and internal cross promotion of priority Olympic content.

Q: What is expected when a big event is in another time zone?

[Jayne] We’re challenged with overnight time zones for primetime. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) adjusts some events to allow North American broadcasters evening live streams and medal ceremonies. A challenge we faced was how to present day and time in schedules when it can straddle two different days because of the time difference. The UX team did lots of research to understand users’ pain points from previous games and this informed how we created the schedule presentation. Also, we’ll be offering VOD and highlights packages.

Q: What other people, teams or departments do you work with? How do they help you on the road to success?

[Brittany] Many teams across CBC participate in delivering a big event experience to the audience. Most often my project teams consist of Digital Strategy and Product, Content, Marketing, Research, and Media Solutions.

[Sarah] The great thing about big event strategy is that we can remove some of our departmental and team silos to work together in new and exciting ways. We’re able to rally around planning for big events well in advance and often, so we can use big events to build new and exciting digital experiences.

[Jayne] The teams in Digital Strategy and Product are building a robust framework, which will deliver a ton of content to a lot of Canadians. Our bones are good and the work that the content and marketing teams are doing is going to shine!

Q: What does a typical day look like for you when working on a big event?

[Brittany] Communication is a huge part of my job. I spend a lot of my time gathering and distilling information, ensuring that teams are collaborating with each other and keeping track of the work in progress.

[Sarah] In my role, it’s mostly planning and operations with a core group of people leading up to the event, during, and after the event. With COVID-19 and work from home. I try to minimize the number of meetings I schedule and the time spent in meetings but I question my success rate.

Q: What tools and technologies do you or your team use on a big event? How do you bring people together?

[Sarah] We use event planning and project management processes and practices. For technologies, we use Miro boards for brainstorming and strategy building. We are data driven and use past reports, analytics and business intelligence to make better decisions leading up to and during the event. I love a good shared spreadsheet, too.

To bring people together, my planning and operations goal for big events is to be able to view and analyze digital traffic live as audiences consume and experience the event with dashboards available to all teams. I think we can bring people together using analytics, so we have a shared understanding, shared goals in mind, and so we can make better decisions.

Q: Was there anything different in your planning for this event compared to previous events?

[Sarah] The one thing that is different is the influence and uncertainty of COVID-19 and the impact of working from home.

Q: What are some of the challenges you or your team faces?

[Jayne] It’s a big group to wrangle! There are lots of teams with different roadmaps and dependencies and processes. Also, there is a lot of communication that needs to happen not only within Digital Strategy and Product but also up and along the chain within CBC. We’ve had to act as ambassadors for agile development along the way, helping outside teams understand the way we do product work.

Q: How do you celebrate after a big event?

[Sarah] It’s an amazing experience to be a part of something bigger than yourself and to work alongside such incredible people. To celebrate, I recognize our teams and the extra effort that everyone puts into planning and executing an event of this scale and magnitude. I hope we can celebrate together in person someday soon.

Q: Was there anything else we did not ask that you would like to talk about?

[Jayne] One of the mandates for the Olympics was for CBC English Services and SRC French Services to partner and seek alignment in technology and in our offerings as much as possible.


Sarah Carney surfing with SwellWomen, Playa Amarilla, Nicaragua (Photo credit: Blair Lockhart)
Sarah Carney surfing with SwellWomen, Playa Amarilla, Nicaragua (Photo credit: Blair Lockhart)
Brittany Eldridge on aerial silks (Photo credit: Kala Lowson)
Brittany Eldridge on aerial silks (Photo credit: Kala Lowson)



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