Mis-Communicator of the Week: The ECB

Dealing with a crisis well becomes tougher the larger the organisation. (In my experience it is also far harder when lawyers are involved.)

Unless an experienced communications professional has the ear of the chief executive then decisions fail to be made; if decisions are made the presentation of them is ignored; and some people believe ignoring the crisis will somehow make it go away. Meanwhile the rest of the world has a perception that the organisation in crisis is incompetent or simply doesn’t care - maybe even both.

Which brings me to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Even those without a slightest interest in cricket will have noticed that the England cricket team was soundly thrashed by Australia this winter. As a result of the loss of The Ashes the coach, Andy Flower, left his job and then last week it was announced that the team’s most talented player, Kevin Pietersen, would not play for England again.

Then silence.

No justification, explanation or illustration as to this decision. No press conference, doorstep interview, op-ed or Tweet. Pietersen was out. That was that.

The problem is: that is never that. In the modern age we can all express opinions, rumours and speculation fizz around social media, and the hungry 24 hour news media has to be fed. And so, after the ECB announced the end of the career of England’s highest ever run-scorer, a vacuum was formed which had to be filled. As former players, journalists and fans (including Piers Morgan) stepped into the void, the ECB lost control of their own reputation.

The speculation as to why the decision was made was bad enough but it was fed by leaks and unattributed briefings of the kind more akin to Westminster than Lords. Someone had a personal agenda which shouldn’t have been allowed precedence over the ECB.

Finally, five days after Pietersen was dropped, the ECB issued a statement saying "a lack of trust” had ended his career. The statement was one of a bureaucrat not a fan. It was carefully worded and left a lot unsaid, too much really after the days of speculation that had gone before. The words tried to be positive but were guarded and were seen by many to lack the courage of their original convictions.

The whole debacle has made what had been a terrible winter for England even worse. An announcement that should have been a drawing of a line to enable the team to move on has made building a new team an even harder job. This is a case study in how not to handle a crisis which is why the ECB is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.

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