Many of you, like me, will have attended work meetings where higher-ups pontificate on the “key work objectives”, “performance indicators” and whatever other corporate buzzwords are being throttled to death at that time.
One of the things that universally seems to apply, regardless of the industry, is that communications is one of the most difficult things to manage and keep on top of.
Any number of good ideas or initiatives have failed to make it past infancy because they have simply not been explained very well, or have confused the recipients.
A football club is no different. Good communication from a club is simple, open, and, most of all, inclusive. It takes everybody on the same journey. It allows them to see the milestones they are trying to reach together.
Good communication was when Stuart Webber announced that the goal was for the team to be in the top 26 in the country. And that we were building a lasting culture based around developing young talent for profit and creating a style that would be synonymous with Norwich City Football Club.
What a statement of intent that was. We still refer to it now, coming up to seven years later.
It was our blueprint. We all bought in. And for over four years, it was virtually unquestioned. This was how it was. We were all clear.
And those principles held firm while we had the continued cohesive messaging provided by Webber and Daniel Farke.
Once Farke went, however, Webber started to withdraw as the mouthpiece. For the first time, he received sustained criticism as his efforts to change the squad in order to accommodate a more pragmatic Premier League-resistant playing style led to a lack of cohesion that was ruthlessly punished as it always is.
A lot of the criticism of Webber was justified, some wasn’t, but from that point forward, communication from the club has been dismal – pre-packaged in-house propaganda only for the most part.
Fast forward to today and only David Wagner faces the media, and fair play to him for doing so in what are often unpleasant circumstances.
I feel for him as in the void of any clear messaging from anyone else, his words are picked over ad infinitum. One slip of the tongue in what is not his first language and the social media hares are set running in potentially the wrong direction. And there’s nobody to correct them.
If we look at the AGM, we were given soundbites around Ben Knapper looking to reduce the age of the squad, and potential investment in that direction from Mark Attanasio.
That raised anticipation levels among supporters.
You then had Wagner state that he expected the squad to look very different by the end of the window. Again, the appetite was whetted. Some significant change was expected.
But as we drift into the latter half of the month it remains very quiet, at least on the rumour front. There is still plenty of time for that to change, obviously, and it may be that Knapper is a Deadline Day kind of guy that Sky Sports are going to love.
However, the best method of taking the temperature at Colney these days is not via club messaging, unfortunately.
Instead, it is via Messrs Davitt, Southwell, and Seaman. They are the ones who appear to be managing expectations around transfer reality rather than the club. The expectations they have consistently provided are for loans out, and maybe, if we are lucky, a loan or two in, possibly including a defensive midfielder.
This is probably what most fans would have expected from the window before the AGM. We know we are pretty much without a proverbial pot to piddle in (although I still question whether we should still have some of the Omobamidele money available… but I digress).
The problem is that what little the club has said has led to expectations. And I have a feeling if we hit February and there are no new exciting faces at Colney, this poor messaging is going to result in more unhappiness among supporters. A situation entirely of their own making.
This level of communication is not just bad practice, it is damaging in its ineptitude. They cannot just use Paddy, Connor, and Sam to put the supporters’ brakes on when they have let a lack of cohesive media strategy run away with them and over-promise and under-deliver.
This is not how successful businesses run. It is half-arsed. And it is potentially another stick for supporters to beat them with in a couple of weeks if the club has not produced investment in the squad as suggested.
The old platitudes of ‘difficult to do business in January’ won’t cut it anymore. The goodwill has worn thin a long time ago.
No football club succeeds without everyone pulling in the same direction, but we have to start by being clear about what that direction is. And also be honest about what will or won’t happen along the way.
The supporters desperately want to be part of the journey but to do so we need clear, transparent communication.
To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, “Help Us Help You”.
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