This latest episode of there being direct public contradiction among the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) the team coach, Gus Logie and captain, Brian Lara on the issue of the availability of video tapes of the opposing team, spells out in sorry detail the state of the communications co-ordination of the WICB.
The board though, does seem to have recognized that both its internal and external communication activities are in a shambo-lic state. And as such it is now on the road to bringing the operations in-house, evidenced in the recent advertising of a vacancy for a Corporate Communications Officer. Currently the public relations and communications business of the WICB is handled, on a contractual basis, by the Barbadian firm Saunders/Franklyn. The quality of their work has been heavily criticized by media personnel across the region but their tasks have not been made any easier by the poor manner in which information has been relayed from the WICB itself to the PR company among other shortcomings.
In hiring a Communica-tions Manager the WICB is signaling its intention to take one of two routes. They are either desirous of having someone to simply distribute press releases and coordinate media conferences which, given the situation at hand would be a wasteful pursuit. Or, more prudently, seeking someone who will recognize that the WICB is facing both an internal and external communications crisis and who will design and implement programmes to rescue and rectify both.
The Communications Department in collaboration with the Marketing Department needs to assess the public image and perception of their organization and its products. It will not take much research to establish that while the brand `West Indies cricket' still maintains enormous goodwill, the brand `WICB' is so poorly received that its image is nothing short of a catastrophe which needs to be actively rebranded starting from scratch.
Whoever cops the post of Communications Officer must be hasty in distinguishing that there is a unique and distinct difference between the phenomenon of `West Indies cricket' as it unfolds on the field of play and the `WICB' as it manages the affairs of regional cricket. If `West Indies cricket', as the calypsonian had said, is like a tattoo on the heart of every West Indian, then the `WICB' is just the opposite.
Having recognized the status of the public image of the WICB, the Communications Officer has to then assess the resources available to them in designing a communications action plan.
Such a plan should be formulated and executed in two phases: 1. the Internal Communication Operations and 2. the External Communication Relations. Both phases will require that there be an effort to enlighten the obviously misguided officers of the WICB on the role of the media in society with a view to improving their outlook and approach to the `fourth estate' which by all yardsticks wield more power than the WICB can ever dream to behold.
Phase One - Internal Communication Operations
Phase one, the Internal Communication Operations, must be built around the Communications Department of the WICB being the hub of all of the organization's communications. Everything that is being done by all departments and officers must be promptly sent to the Communications Department so that communications personnel can ensure that all those who are likely to be affected will be informed. With over a dozen individual territories, six primary cricket boards and directors spread across the region, one chief downfall of the current communications system is that very few people are actually aware of what is being done, where, how and why and this inevitably leads to conflict when programmes, are pursued.
Often the complaint from, directors and officers is `I don't know anything about this so I can't do or say anything about it' when confronted with situations which may not necessarily require their input but needs their support. With the WICB, being as diverse as it is, individual managers do not have the time nor can they be expected to sit and inform every Tom, Dick and Harrilall of exactly what programmes they are pursuing or other activities of their department.
That is why the Communications Department must make it its primary functional responsibility on a day-to-day basis to handle this challenging yet achievable task. It must ensure that information is distributed in a timely manner to all concerned just so that everyone who needs to know is in the know.
Too often the complaint about the WICB is that `right hand does not seem to know what the left hand is doing'. In devising the Internal Communication Operations strategy the framers must ground it in what I call the Martin Carter principle - `all are involved, all are consumed'.
So when the selectors named Dave Mohammed as a standby to the West Indies team as was done recently, the Communications Department immediately sweeps into action informing the Chief Cricket Operations Officer (CCOO), the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board and others. This would then give the CCOO a quick `heads up' that he needs to organize for Mohammed to secure a South African visa so that in the event that Mohammed has to replace an injured player he would not be stuck in Trinidad for several days waiting wastefully as his passport is belatedly sent to Jamaica for visa processing. Fluent and reliable internal communications is the key to improving overall efficiency in any outfit, be it Miss Mavis Cake Shop or the WICB.
Properly coordinated Internal Communications Operations will ensure that there are no public relations spats between the WICB, the coach and the captain. If tapes of Greame Smith are in the PAL format and the WICB equipment is NTSC then those responsible for ensuring that the proper equipment is secured (WI team manager and CCOO) will be duly informed early of the difficulty and made to act.
It is often amazing to learn how the silliest of the public relations mess that the WICB has had to endure over the past several years could have been avoided if only persons were informed of what was happening on the other side. For such a seemingly simple relaying of information to be effective it requires an apposite, structured and accessible communications hub within the WICB and not the `harum scarum' activity which now exists.
Every time decisions are taken and programmes are initiated the Communications Department must be instantaneously informed of all details so that it can decipher and take on the explicit responsibility of informing the different agencies, officers and operatives of the WICB.
This will then eliminate the mis-information of the very officers of the WICB which oftentimes takes place since officials are made to rely on second hand information, the grapevine or CaribbeanCricket.com.
In effect right hand will always know what the left hand is doing and vice versa. Next week Living Cricket will complete its communication strategy for the WICB.