Please forgive my imposition; I know you are very busy. But between witnessing your staff engage in some nasty exchanges with the media in the name of our beloved Bafana Bafana last week; and waking-up in a cold sweat with the ghostly voice of Pitso Misimane saying “we have seen this movie before” echoing in my head. I thought I will leave this here for you. That way, if you get the chance, you can browse over it at your leisure.
So, no rush. It’s only our country’s football future at stake. That’s all.
In my casual consumption of mass media publication content; I seem to have noticed that corporates organisations tend to have a habit of embarking on training programs, whenever they decide to launch a new product, strategy or service. Apparently they direct these to their staff, so that by the time they launch, their staff sings from the same hymn sheet (in manner of speaking).
In fact, they normally couple that with some elaborate, co-ordinated public relations campaigns so that they not only inform or educate their customers about “this exciting new direction” they are taking. These campaigns are generally designed to also convince thousands of people to stand in-line overnight, just waiting to buy this exciting new product on the first day of launch, knowing full well that some of the first units may come out with defects.
I point this out because Benjamin Franklin once said “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about”? Well in my humble opinion Vision 2022 is something worth writing about. In fact I did write about it. Last week, in a post titled – Beware of the lazy pundit, I tried to prognosticate my own understanding of the plan.
So my question to you is this. How is it possible that an organisation with people as forward thinking enough to come up with such a brilliant idea as Vision 2022, can go on to implement such the strategy without so much as a concomitant PR plan? Maybe I should phrase that differently. How can you allow that the communication aspect of Vision 2022 be driven by a man, who has on multiple occasions told us that his communications skills are not the best. Ephraim Mashaba, the most successful coach in Bafana Bafana history, has on numerous occasions confessed that eloquence is not his best traits. And that’s ok. Why should they be? He is a head coach after all.
Can you not see how the other associations go about managing their PR? Think about it, apart from press conference clips, how frequently do you hear Heyneke Meyer, Graham Hill, George Makena or Norma Plummer explaining their team selection on a live radio interviews? Or answer questions on transformation?
Now please do not get me wrong. I am not in any way saying that you should stop the coach from speaking to the press. Nor am I saying that you should limit the information released to the public. On the contrary, I am saying “by all means release more”. Release as much as you can, so you can vanquish this ubiquitous state of mass confusion the country finds itself in. But manage it, because that is not going to happen on its own.
To anchor your entire PR strategy on the off-the-cuff utterances of the coach in this age of instant communication and rightly inquisitive citizenry is quite frankly, IRRESPONSIBLE. Have you not learnt from the past? There is a reason why every South African coach who has ever dared to take on the role of head coach of Bafana Bafana long enough, has ended up in a head on collision with the members of the media fraternity.
Stanley Tshabalala snapped and physically assaulted a journalist, remember that? The war of word got so bad that in a pep-talk before a continental cup final, Jomo Sono admitted to telling his players – to go out there and play for themselves, play for their families. “Forget the country because your people never gave you a chance.” Even today, after so many years, when the topic of Bafana Bafana comes up, you can see that what happened still pains Pitso Mosimane. As for Gordon Igesund, shame man. I cannot count the number of times the man sat in a press conference or a live interview, and pulled a blank mid-sentence. He would literally forget names of players, places, even teams he was playing against. For what? All of this just because a man got up in the morning and tried to serve his country? Maybe I trust too much in my fellow countrymen, but I refuse to believe that, every South African who takes the Bafana Bafana job suddenly becomes arrogant, incompetent, unprofessional and hard headed? Just because they are South African? It cannot be.
Some of the things that were said last week were unfortunate, in fact some of the columns and articles written this weekend were unnecessary. But you have to realise that what happened last week was not “a Shakes Mashaba” issue. Nor was it an issue with the South African media, who are often described as over critical.
In over twenty years of re-admission to international football South Africa has never been through anything like Vision 2022. Some of the talking points that came up in the public discourse last week were a clear demonstration of an inadequate understanding of the finer aspects of football development. For anybody to think that they can implement a plan as generation-defining as this without a public relations game-plan, is a stupendous illustration of strategic naiveté.
In closing, let me say this.
If you are not aware, the court of public opinion does have an address. It convenes periodically between the pages, with or without your audience. Therefore, while that eerie imaginary voice that keeps saying “we have seen this movie before” whispers in the deep. I cannot help but think that if you and your team do not do something to manage this, it will only end one way; while in the process curtailing the wonderful progress that you and your team have made so far.
Anyway, like I said no rush. As the rest of us bear witness to yet another beheading of a South African coach with the stroke of a pen emblematic of our country’s “football philistinism”. Won’t you see if you can’t find some space to move this issue up your list of priorities?
Just a thought.
The tempest prognosticator
Themba A Dikgale